Perhaps more than any other spirit, it’s gin that can be credited for kicking off the initial cocktail movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Its versatility likewise allowed it to jump-start the modern cocktail revival. But it’s our current era, in particular, that has shown that gin can work in numerous cocktail categories, from light highballs to spirit-forward stirred drinks to even a few tiki cocktails. In fact, new styles of gin cocktails seem to enter the canon by the month.
Throughout all of this change, Plymouth Gin has been a constant. While it can be interchangeable in most cocktails that call for London dry gin—or, simply, “gin”— its unique flavor profile and luscious mouthfeel does differ from a classic London dry.
Compared to the original London dry gins of the 1700s and 1800s, Plymouth Gin is softer, with less juniper and a slight perception of sweetness coming from the use of sweet, rather than bitter, orange peel. It’s a citrus-led gin, but it also calls on green cardamom pods, which give it a gentle green spice aroma, hewing toward grassy. The rest of the hand-selected botanicals used in Plymouth Gin’s recipe are also commonly found in classic London dry gin recipes—such as angelica root for earthy dryness, coriander seed for balance, juniper (of course) and orris root, which helps to bind all the essential oils from the botanicals to the alcohol base, acting as a “fixative.”
“When someone tells me they don’t like gin cocktails I always recommend they try Plymouth Gin,” explains Nicholas Bennett, a New York-based bartender. “It has a subtle yet full-bodied flavor and a slightly subdued juniper that makes it more appealing to a broader amount of people.”
But bartenders aren’t just using Plymouth Gin because of its crowd-pleasing aspects. Many like it because that well-balanced, almost amorphous nature allows it to “play nice” with countless other modifiers. Different people can find different things to like in the spirit, which can lead to all sorts of inspired offerings from some of the world’s more ambitious bartenders.
Maritza Rocha-Alvarez, a bartender in San Francisco, finds Plymouth Gin to be peppery. That’s why she employs it in her Summer Lover, inspired by her boyfriend’s love of drinking copitas of mezcal backed by Modelo Micheladas. It contains the unusual combination of Plymouth Gin, Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, lemon juice and hot sauce. “I like how the Ancho Reyes plays alongside the black pepper notes I get on the nose when I sip Plymouth,” she explains. “And Tabasco helps bind the acid in the lemon and citrus notes from the gin.”
The fact, that Plymouth Gin is a citrus-forward gin is what allows it to work in all sorts of modern drinks that favor brightness. New York bartender Eryn Reece uses Plymouth Gin for her Mediterranean-influenced Crown of Castile, which bolsters the citrus notes with lime juice and passionfruit liqueur. While Brittney Olsen of Los Angeles employs it in her New Dawn. You don’t see a lot of beach-friendly gin cocktails, but this one—made with lemon and pineapple juice as well as yuzu bitters—fits the bill nicely.
“Jasmine tea and vermouth dry out the pineapple and highlight the botanicals in Plymouth Gin,” Olsen explains. “If I was on vacation, rolled out of bed, and jumped into a hammock, this is the cocktail I would want in my hand immediately.”
All gins are defined by their recipe of botanicals and how they are made. In the case of Plymouth Gin, the ratio of the seven hand-selected botanicals, wheat based NGS and water from the nearby National Park of Dartmoor are all distilled on a single copper pot still that has been used to make every drop of Plymouth Gin since at least 1906. This combination of process and recipe delivers a silky smooth gin that is sometimes even described as “milky” or “buttery.” Perfect for luscious egg white cocktails like the Ramos Gin Fizz and more full-bodied ones like Brooklyn bartender Will Elliott’s Trompe-L’œil, which is made with Mauro Vergano Americano and Kümmel, a caraway liqueur.
Plymouth Gin regularly appears today at everything from BBQ joints to Latin-inspired restaurants, like the one in Brooklyn where Shannon Ponche makes the Uncle Al, utilizing Plymouth Gin alongside pisco, fino sherry and orgeat. Orgeat might remind many of the tiki world, which is perhaps the last place drinkers expect to a find a great gin cocktail. But bartender Cory Fitzsimmons does just that with his Pan Daisy, which pairs Plymouth Gin with Cointreau and aquavit.
“It nods in the direction of the tiki world by utilizing Donn’s Mix, Donn the Beachcomber’s brilliant pairing of cinnamon and grapefruit Juice,” explains Fitzsimmons. “The aquavit pushes forward subtle spice to make this refreshing drink equal parts crushable and curious.”
In a testament to the magnitude of today’s gin boom, there are now a number of all-gin cocktails bars, from Bathtub Gin in Manhattan to The Gin Joint in Charleston, South Carolina to Gin71 in Glasgow and Origin in Hong Kong. Even the tiki legend Martin Cate decided to devote his second San Francisco bar to gin. Having lived in Britain in the 1990s, Cate wanted to tell the story of English gin via cocktails. Opened in 2015, it has one of the world’s largest gin collections, with a plethora of original cocktails, many of which highlight Plymouth Gin’s unique versatility.
“It is hard to argue that there is a more historical and relevant gin brand being made today than Plymouth Gin. I think of it as the birthplace of contemporary gins,” notes Keli Rivers, the bar’s former manager and “ginnoisseur.” “If you could only have one gin on your home bar Plymouth would be my pick hands down.”