Exploring the Distinct Flavor Differences of Gin vs Dry Gin

Gin is a popular alcoholic beverage known for its herbal, floral taste. It also comes in several styles, with popular ones including London Dry Gin or Plymouth Gin.

You can also roughly categorize gins into two major families, regular, sweet gin, and dry gin. How do they differ from each other?

The sugar content is the main difference between regular, sweet, and dry gin. Dry gin does not have sugar. This means dry gin may be bolder in taste than regular, sweet gin, which is more mellow. Dry gin is also much more popular than regular gin.

This article explores regular gin vs dry gin. 

Looking for quick samples? Check out Hendrick’s for regular gin. If a dry gin is what you are looking for, sample some Gordon’s for yourself.

What is Regular Gin?

Regular gin may also be called sweet gin or gin. It is made by distilling traditional gin botanicals with grain alcohol. Sugar is also added to make the gin taste smoother and less intense. Hendrick’s is an example of a regular gin.

Regular gin is, well, your regular gin. They are made by distilling grain alcohol with a mixture of botanicals. Depending on the distiller, they may use a different mixture.

Common herbs and spices include juniper berries, angelica roots, and coriander. Variants of regular gins, such as Japanese or American gin, may use their own local botanicals.

For example, you may see Sakura flowers used as botanicals with Japanese gin. With American gin, you may see things such as Pinyon pine cones.

During the distillation process, makers add sugar to the liquid. This helps to produce sweeter tasting gin with a milder flavor. One of the most popular regular gins is Hendrick’s.

What is Dry Gin?

Dry gin is a type of gin. Unlike regular gin, sugar is not added to the liquid during production. This results in a bolder taste with a stronger botanical flavor. Popular examples include Gordons or Tanqueray.

Dry gin may have a different name, but generally, they are made almost the same way as regular gin. The only major difference is that distillers do not add sugar during production.

This resulted in a less smooth gin, which caused drinkers to give it the term ‘dry.’ Without sugar, the gin also tasted stronger, with a heavier flavor of juniper berries. Some drinkers even prefer a ‘drier’ version, called the Extra Dry Gin.

Despite its stronger flavor, some types of dry gin are immensely popular. In fact, most of the top-selling gins in the world are London Dry Gin, a style of dry gin. This means most people’s first experience with gin may actually be dry gin.

Some of the popular examples of dry gin include: 

How Are Gin and Dry Gin Different?

Regular gin and dry gin are different in many ways, such as in the use of sweeteners and taste. As a result, they may also be different in popularity and mixability in cocktails.

AspectsRegular/Sweet GinDry Gin
SweetenerSugar is commonly added during productionNo sugar is added. Sweetness may come from the botanicals.
TasteSweeter, mild, complex Less juniper berry heavyDrier, bold, assertive.  Heavy juniper berry flavor with a dry finish.
MixabilityVery popular with mixologists in cocktailsLess popular than regular gin A staple in classic gin cocktails
PopularityLess popularMuch more popular


Generally, regular or sweet gin may have sugar added to the liquid during the making process. Sugar may be added to assist in the fermentation process or to add flavoring to the gin to make it nice to drink. 

Sugar may also be useful to smoothen the gin and to reduce the burning effect from the alcohol, which many may associate with drier alcohol. 

With dry gin, no sugar is added. If dry gin tastes sweet, it may get its sweetness from the botanicals used, such as orange or lemon peel. This results in a bolder gin with a stronger taste. Some drinkers may prefer this, who call it the ‘dry’ taste.


As regular or sweet gin has added sugar, it tends to produce a milder, mellower gin that is smoother to the throat. Many drinkers noted the more subdued taste of juniper berries, which allows them to taste other botanicals. 

As a result, many distillers of regular or sweet gin actually try to play with the botanicals. This allows them to introduce different flavorings to their gin to replace the void left behind by the juniper berries. 

With dry gin, you get a more straightforward, no-nonsense taste. The gin tastes bold and strong. Some may describe the boldness as a ‘burning sensation’ in the throat, which could indicate dryness. 

Dry gin also has a much stronger juniper berry flavor, which may be appreciated by certain drinkers. 


In general, regular gin may be more popular with mixologists. This is because regular gin has a milder mellower flavor. This means mixologists can easily mix them with other drinks without the gin overpowering them.

As a result, you may see more regular or sweet gin being used to make cool, refreshing gin cocktails. They may be mixed with fruits, sodas, or other lighter alcohols. Popular examples include Gin Fizz or Negronis.

They have a strong taste with dry gin, which means they do not mix well with lighter-flavored mixers. However, when mixologists want to pair gin with strong flavors, they turn to dry gin. Many classic gin cocktails also require dry gin to taste well, as drinkers have gotten used to the heavy juniper berry taste.

Popular examples of classic dry gin cocktails include Martini, Gin and Tonic, and Gimlet.


Despite having a milder, more throat-friendly flavor, regular gin lags far behind dry gin in popularity. In fact, the top best-selling gins in the world are all dry, specifically London Dry Gin.

These gins are Gordons, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire. Combined, these three top dry gins sold over 17.4 million liters last year alone. Hendricks sold a respectable 1.3 million liters but are way behind in the dust compared to dry gins. 

Final Thoughts

Both gin and dry gin are popular drinks for any occasion.

Gin is known for its sweetened taste and mixability with various other ingredients, while dry gin has a sharp, distilled flavor and is often used for classic drinks.

No matter which type of gin you decide to drink, you’ll be sure to enjoy its flavor and be able to craft the perfect drink.

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