Friday, December 11, 2009

Plymouth Sloe Gin

The recent spate of of cold weather here in Southern California has left me searching for a nice "winter warmer". Sure there's the typical wintry standby, single malt scotch, but I was looking to broaden my horizons a bit. This led me to sloe gin.

Plymouth, maker of a fine "Plymouth Gin" which is the only of its kind, as opposed to "London Dry" recently launched its own version of sloe gin which one-ups the sweet, sticky anduninteresting sloe gins usually sitting on the shelf.

According to Plymouth's website:

The making of fruit gins is a long tradition in the British countryside and Plymouth gin keeps true to a unique 1883 recipe. Sloe berries are slowly and gently steeped in Plymouth Gin, soft pure Dartmoor water and a small amount of sugar for approximately 4 months. The sugar levels are kept low to allow the full flavour of the berries to shine and allow the dry acidity of the fruit to be an important part of the taste. The result is an entirely natural product with no added flavourings or colourings. Sloe Gin has long been enjoyed as a "winter warmer" in the countryside.

On its own, Sloe Gin is quite delicious. I took the following tasting notes:

Color: Burgundy with a brick-colored edge
Nose: Evokes cherries, tart plums, black tea, almonds
Taste: tart acidity with bright fruit flavors (cherry, plum skin) followed by a round sweetness and then a bit of alcoholic bite
Finish: Long, more black tea

While it's great on its own, I thought I'd peruse a few cocktail recipes and try a few that caught my eye (yes, even mostly icy concoctions which are far from the "winter warmer" archetype)

Plymouth's website lists a few interesting cocktails; the one that sparked my interest the most was the "Wibble", a recent creation:

The Wibble
1 oz. grapefruit juice (Ocean Spray white grapefruit)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 dash simple syrup
1 oz. Plymouth Sloe Gin
1 oz. Plymouth Gin (used Beefeater)

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Invented at the Player, London 1999 for Plymouth Gin's managing director by Dick Bradsell

Notes ****/***** Really nice cocktail, which gets better as you drink it. I love grapefruit and it works well in this. The gin is surprisingly in the background here relative to the sloe flavors, but it still asserts its presence. Also tried this without the simple syrup and it was still great, just used the slightest bit less lemon juice.

Cocktail DB had a staggering array of drinks using sloe gin. I really had to focus on culling down the list to a reasonable size. Here's what I ended up with:

Black Hawk
1.5 oz. rye whisky (WT 101)
1.5 oz. sloe gin
Stir with ice and strain. Serve in a cocktail glass with a cherry.

Notes: ***/***** This is a sort of Sloe-ey variant on a Manhattan. The Wild Turkey 101 Rye pretty much overwhelms the Sloe flavors which I was surprised to find.

1 oz sloe gin
1 oz gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
1 dash orange bitters (Regan's)

Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain. Serve in a cocktail glass with a cherry.

Notes: ***1/2/***** Nice play of sweet and bitter, but the sloe character is a little lost with the vermouth and bitters. Still, a complex and agreeable cocktail.

Diki Cocktail #2
2 oz sloe gin
1/4 oz applejack
1/4 oz grapefruit juice

Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain. Serve in a cocktail glass

Notes: ***/***** This is nice with the apple bond and grapefruit (I used closer to 1/2 oz. of each as 1/4 oz. seemed too inconsequential. A little on the sweet side for an "up" cocktail. Also tried 1.5/1/1 with even better results (at least ***1/2/*****).

Ninety Miles or Savoy Tango (same)
1 1/4 oz sloe gin
1 1/4 oz applejack

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain. Serve in a cocktail glass.

Notes: ***1/2/***** Surprisingly good given there's only two ingredients in this, but then again why should I be surprised when Laird's apple bond seems to marry so well in many cocktails. The apple flavors really come through nicely.

Rosy Deacon Cocktail
3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz sloe gin
1 oz grapefruit juice

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain. Serve in a cocktail glass.

Notes: ****/***** Whoever decided that grapefruit and Sloe gin is a good combination is a genius. This is surprisingly fruity, complex and way too easy to drink. Watch out, this one will sneak up on you...

Ruby Cocktail
1 3/4 oz sloe gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz cherry liqueur
1 dash orange bitters

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain. Serve in a cocktail glass

Notes **1/2/***** I like the flavor here but this is a dessert. Simply too sweet for a cocktail, as I might have expected looking at the ingredients. Needs some more "punch" for balance. Beautiful color though. I can see where it gets its name.

Final Notes: I've seen and heard about sloe gin for the longest time, but never really had any interest until this bottling from Plymouth arrived on the market. I really enjoy sloe gin on its own - it's tart, sweet and warming for those chilly winter nights. But it also works very well in cocktails and seems to be a natural partner with gin, grapefruit and apple brandy. My favorite of the cocktails was the Wibble, with the Rosy Deacon as runner up. Anything with 3 stars or more is definitely worth a try.

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