Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dueling Gin: Plymouth vs. Sapphire

It was a long day at work. And evil birds attacked my garden. And I brought home a thousand pounds of wood flooring -- give or take a few hundred. And there are two top shelf varieties of gin in the pantry. Solution? A taste test.
Up to this point, my reigning favorite gin has been Citadelle. It's a good gin, and it makes a good martini. But it's important to try new products and see if you've been missing something, so a while back I picked up a bottle of Plymouth Gin, reputedly the favorite of Churchill, FDR, Hitchcock, Ian Fleming, and for many years the official supplier to the Royal Navy.

Plymouth is definitely a good gin. It doesn't mask its Juniper taste, but the Juniper is not overpowering, as it so often is in a bottom shelf gin. There's a very slight hint of an herbal-ish sweetness to it, but it's still quite dry. And it does indeed make a good martini. I don't think it's quite as good as Citadelle when drunk straight up, though. What, you never drink gin straight? Well, one has to do it once in a while if one wants to understand how the gin itself tastes.

The other day I stopped on the way home from vespers to pick up a new bottle of gin -- two in fact since I was out of the bottom shelf Burnett's which is used for Gin & Tonics around here. And since I can't recall that I've actually bought a bottle of Bombay Sapphire before (though I've stocked their London Dry Gin) I decided to pick a bottle of that up.

The Sapphire is fairly different from the Plymouth. Plymouth is a classic gin. It doesn't fool around. It's smooth and well made and classy, but it doesn't really attempt to be more than a gin. Sapphire is 6% stronger at 47% alcohol, but still quite smooth when sipped straight -- something of a feat, I'd say. The flavor is much more balanced and soothing. There's juniper in there, yes, but it's roughly equal with the other herbal notes.

As I think about it, it strikes me more and more that Sapphire tastes very much like a mixed martini tastes when made with a more traditional gin like Plymouth. (My martini consists of 1.5oz gin, 0.5 oz vermouth and one dash of orange bitters. With the olive, of course.) Perhaps this works ideally if you're one of those sorts who believes a good martini is the "very dry" variety where you mist the glass with vermouth, or swirl the vermouth around and then pour it out. To my mind, however, it's not right to simply drop an olive in gin and call it a martini. The vermouth is definitely a part of the drink -- as is the rounded, icy taste that comes from a good shake with ice.

I'll have to mix up a martini to see how Sapphire holds up under those conditions. Right now, I'm wondering if it will seem a little timid in martini form. But if you like to shake gin over ice and drop an olive in, Sapphire is clearly the way to go. Still, with my standard recipe, I think Plymouth would be a good addition to the cupboard, or I may simply go back to Citadelle, after my time wondering far and wide.

(And if you think a martini can be chocolate or apple flavored, my buddy Dante has a place for you...)


John Farrell said...

I like a Bombay sapphire martini at a restaurant where I know the bartender is good; otherwise it's a little expensive for my home shelf tastes.

I tried Plymouth last year and agree with you. Liked it a lot. But in the mainstay I remain a Beefeater guy, because it makes both for excellent G&Ts and a good martini.

Now, if you want to talk vodka....

John Farrell said...

PS: yes, the Cosmopolitan accepted (for my wife, who loves them), anything Chocolate or Apple is for the Underworld.

Unknown said...

Ah, how to make a Martini .... a discussion that can be as much of an occasion of raging as your typical Liturgy blog.

Have you ever tried Hendrick's Gin? Or 'Old Raj' for that matter? Might be expensive getting them over where you are (much like trying to buy Junipero over here in the UK) but they do add something to mix - Hendrick's being made from Cucumber Mash and Rose Petals and Old Raj being infused with Saffron.

Interesting that you add the Orange Bitters: very traditional! Not something that you see much over here in the UK though ...

Anonymous said...

...Plymouth Gin, reputedly the favorite of Churchill, FDR, Hitchcock, Ian Fleming

That's interesting, cause Bond seems to be a fan of Gordon's (at least in the earliest books).

(And if you think a martini can be chocolate or apple flavored, my buddy Dante has a place for you...)

And where would the straight vodka martini fit into all this? Is it permissible, or is it that seemingly innocuous little sin that ensnares you and leads you down the slippery slope to the inevitable ruin of flavored martinis (all of which are made with vodka)?

And is a dirty vodka martini (made with an extra dose of green olive juice) almost as bad as a chocolaty/fruity martini, or is it the exact opposite?

John Farrell said...

Funny you say that, Deuce. My wife tried a durty (vodka) martini at a business dinner last week. She loved it.

Me, I thought it was okay, but am willing to bet a Beefeater Dirty is more to my liking.

Not that I have anything against vodka. My current favorites are Tito's (Texan) and Boru (Irish).

Anonymous said...

This is why I love this blog. It is fine mixture of what it true, good, and beautiful in this world.

I am definitely a Sapphire fan. And I do like my Sapphire martini's quite dry. I just inherited a bottle of Hendrick's. Fine gin, but too much juniper. I bought New Amsterdam gin a while back, when I was pinching pennies. Very different from your classic dry gin, but I found it very pleasant and easy-drinking in a "dry" martini.

Anonymous said...

Indeed Bond drank Gordon's - both the gin and vodka. I make a somewhat altered version of his "Vesper" - three parts Gordon's gin, one part Gordon's vodka, and a splash of vermouth. Yum.

I haven't had Plymouth, but I do enjoy Bombay Sapphire. I'll have to give the stuff a try.

But it all pales in comparison to scotch.

Bucranium said...

Have you tried Greenall's ? One of the oldest english Gins. Better than Gordons, not comparable to Hendricks as that is almost another drink.