Twenty years ago, gin was easy: You had the good stuff and the not-so-good stuff, and it was not hard to tell them apart. And if you couldn't, well , it didn't matter because it all had that clean, sharp, piney taste that comes from juniper berries, the spirit's namesake (from the Dutch word genever). It all went well with tonic or vermouth and olives, which soon became the only ways most people drank it.
But something cool happened while everyone was perfecting their martinis. A generation of American micro-distillers realized that gin, in its simplest form, could be made in less than 48 hours: Just infuse a high-proof grain spirit with various botanicals to add flavor, redistill it, and bottle the finished product. So as distillers waited years for their precious bourbon to barrel-age, they began experimenting with house gins. Suddenly, instead of one style, London dry, you had a burgeoning class of new American gins, as well as a throwback category inspired by recipes of yore. Today, that variety can be overwhelming, and by no means is it all good. But the good ones are great. Here are the best bottles in each category, with a slew of proper cocktails for each.