Showing posts with label gin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gin. Show all posts

Monday, February 21, 2022

Cocktail In A Bottle

If you like cocktails but hate making them - maybe you simply don't have a good bar area in your home - you probably have already tried some of the premixed cocktails that are on the market.  They are convenient, but you do pay a price for that.  Here's one I ran across at Trader Joe's recently.

Trader Joe's Negroni is a premixed, bottled cocktail made with gin, bitter liqueur and sweet vermouth.  It is produced and bottled by Nomad Spirits of Los Angeles and a Redditt thread shows that it has been on shelves since November.  The grocer has also reportedly stocked Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour, premixed and bottled.  Alcohol hits the 22% abv mark, so it is 44 proof and costs $17 for a 750 ml bottle.

It's a decent little negroni, if somewhat off-tasting in the bitter liqueur department.  I have had better from actual bartenders, but for an easy home cocktail, this Trader Joe's Negroni isn't too bad at all.  


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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Gin Designed To Wear Many Hats

Ford's London Dry Gin has a banner on the label which reads, "It doesn’t take an empire to make a gin."  This is somewhat confusing because Ford's is distilled in England.  However, the freshly-distilled gin is shipped to the U.S. - to Mendocino County, to be precise - to be cut with local well water and bottled at 90 proof.

Ford's website declares the gin to be the product of a collaboration between eighth-generation master distiller Charles Maxwell and gin expert Simon Ford.  It is described as a juniper-forward mix of nine botanicals, "deceptively soft, aromatic, fresh and floral." 

Ford designed his gin to be a versatile "Jack-of-All-Trades" which bartenders could use as a go-to liquor for any cocktails which call for gin, no matter what other ingredients were used.

The nine botanicals of Fords Gin are sourced from Joseph Flach & Sons Ltd. That company has been importing medicinal and culinary botanicals from around the world for London gin houses and tea companies "since the days of the British Empire."

Ford's offers a complex flavor profile, with juniper joined by orange, grapefruit and spices.  It makes a great martini and I would imagine a perfectly fine Negroni, although I have yet to try out that recipe.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Tanqueray Rangpur Gin

From time to time this wine site veers into other areas of interest for imbibers, like beer and gin.  I'm a big fan of a well-made gin, and Tanqueray always delivers.  Just ask Johnnie Johnson.  Tanqueray Rangpur is their latest creation - debuting about 14 years ago. 

This aromatic gin is made with Rangpur limes, which the distillery says are actually a hybrid between lemons and mandarin oranges, looking something like tangerines.  Tanqueray distills this citrus fruit with other botanicals "including bay leaf, ginger, and a fair amount of juniper."  The Rangpur lime itself is named after the Rangpur region in northern Bangladesh. 

Tanqueray is made by Cameronbridge Distillery, owned by Diageo.  They claim it is "arguably the oldest continually operating distillery in Scotland, and could be the oldest grain distillery in the world."  Tanqueray Rangpur clocks in at 41% abv and sold for $20 at a local grocery, where it was on sale at about $12 off the list.

Tanqueray Rangpur offers the zestiness of lime and juiciness of mandarin orange, just as promised by the distillery.  The extremely aromatic nose suggests that no lime is needed for a gin and tonic.  It’s a smooth gin, you can have it on the rocks.  It also fits well with tonic or club soda.  I tried a splash of sweet vermouth in it and was pleasantly surprised.


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Monday, February 24, 2020

Hollywood's Musso And Frank Grill: Wine, Martini, Steak

In the heart of Hollywood, there is a restaurant which has remained a constant for more than 100 years.  Musso and Frank Grill hit the century mark in September 2019, while collecting an "Award of Excellence for a Hollywood Restaurant" from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

Musso and Frank has been a favorite watering hole for thousands of Hollywood stars, writers, directors, and studio executives, starting with the one and only Charlie Chaplin.  On a smaller celebrity scale, they also see my wife and I from time to time.

The celebration continues in 2020 with the unveiling of a new signature red wine now being served to diners, the 2018 Peake Ranch Syrah.  The new vintage was blended by Musso and Frank General Manager and Wine Director Andrea Scuto.

The restaurant reports that Musso's 2018 Peake Ranch vintage was marked by the Santa Ynez Valley's "cool temperatures in the late summer and early fall, which provided ideal weather to allow the fruit to have great concentration, with healthy acidity and a good depth of flavor."  The wine was vinified by star winemaker Kevin Law out of Challen Vineyard in Santa Maria.

The Peake Ranch Syrah has a powerful, if mostly fruity nose accented by cardamom and baking spices.  The palate is rich and robust and the tannins are more than able to handle one of Musso and Frank's famous steaks.

The new 2018 Musso and Frank Peake Ranch Syrah is available only at the restaurant, by the bottle ($70) or by the glass ($15) - as long as limited supplies last.  It's perfectly okay to have a glass of it in addition to their world-famous martinis.

Their martinis are possibly even more famous than their steaks.  I had one that was made with St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin.  It's an interesting and offbeat gin, made with a base spirit of unaged rye, then rested in oak barrels which had previously held Grenache, Syrah, and Tannat wines.  The lightly tinted gin comes off a little spicy, with a hint of peaches and a whiff of wine.  It would probably be more suitable for an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, according to head distiller Dave Smith.  St. George started small - as in "one guy" - in the California Bay Area in 1982.  Founder Jörg Rupf was that "one guy" and has since retired.  Master distiller Lance Winters now oversees St. George and its production.


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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

California Vermouth

Vermouth is an aromatic, fortified wine which is flavored with such things as herbs, roots, flowers, bark or practically anything that grows.  It originated in the 18th century as a medicinal aid.  Over the years, vermouth dropped from the pharmacy to the bar, where it became an aperitif and now resides as a necessary component of cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis. 

White vermouth - dry - is sometimes called French, while the red, sweet kind is called Italian.  Those two countries produce most of the vermouth that you'll find on the shelf, although it's also made in Spain and the U.S., as we will see.

T.W. Hollister and Company makes these vermouths using ingredients sourced in Santa Barbara County, whenever possible.  They say they’re perfect for sipping on their own over ice or in your favorite martini on a hot summer night.  They promise that American vermouth is about to have its moment.

Ashley Woods Hollister describes drinking Oso de Oro vermouth as sipping a bit of California history, sourcing the finest ingredients available and wild foraging select native botanicals from her family's historic ranch in Goleta, on the California Coast.

Their first round came out early this year and reportedly sold out in just one week, prompting an expanded production effort.  Both the red and the white are handcrafted in California, reach 16% abv and sell for $35.

Oso de Oro Dry Vermouth is made from white wine and infused with a dozen botanical ingredients, including orange peel, chamomile and rosehip.

Oso de Oro Red Vermouth is infused with 19 botanicals, some of which grow on the family homestead. White wine is infused with herbs, roots and flowers, then finished with caramel, enhancing the texture and imparting a sweetness to balance the wine's natural acidity.  Blood orange, chamomile and hummingbird sage lend fruit-forward and herbal notes to the complex layers.

The dry Oso de Oro dry (white) vermouth smells as herbal as it gets.  Juniper comes across as well as the rosehips, chamomile and orange.  The palate shows a bit more orange peel and is, as promised, dry as a bone.  The sweet (red) vermouth has an herbal nose with a caramel backbeat.  That treat comes through stronger in the sip.  It's negroni-ready. 

I used these vermouths in cocktails made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, which contains botanical elements like juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.


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Monday, July 1, 2019

Spanish Vermouth Deserves Larger Role

Vermouth is an aromatic, fortified wine which is flavored with such things as herbs, roots, flowers, bark or practically anything that grows.  It originated in the 18th century as a medicinal aid.  Over the years, vermouth dropped from the pharmacy to the bar, where it became an aperitif and now resides as a necessary component of cocktails like martinis, Manhattans and negronis.

White vermouth - dry - is sometimes called French, while the red, sweet kind is called Italian.  Those two countries produce most of the vermouth that you'll find on the shelf, although it's also made in Spain as we will see.

The Jerez firm of Gonzalez Byass produces a pair of fine and surprising vermouths, dry white and sweet red.  The winery claims the century-old recipes are kept under lock and key.

La Copa Vermouth Extra Seco - the white - is made from 100% Palomino grapes - Fino sherry, actually - which was aged an average of three years in American oak casks in the traditional Solera system.  In addition to the grapes, La Copa Extra Seco includes wormwood, clove, cinnamon and the herb called savory.  Red fruits were added for a "balsamic aftertaste."  Alcohol in the extra dry vermouth tips in at 17% abv and it retails for $25.

This is completely different from every other white Vermouth I've tried.  It is aromatic and flavorful to a fault.  I smelled smoke, I smelled burnt caramel, I smelled thyme, cinnamon, clove, jasmine.  I tasted a burnt caramel or maple sap note.  It was actually one of the more expressive and interesting wines in my experience.  It sure as hell livened up a martini.  Don't spend extra on the gin - let La Copa white vermouth do the work.

La Copa Vermouth Rojo is made from 75% Palomino grapes and 25% Pedro Ximénez variety.  It's produced from Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez soleras, more than eight years old.  As in the Extra Seco, wormwood, savory, clove, and cinnamon are in the mix, along with orange peel and nutmeg in the sweeter blend.  Alcohol sits at 15.5% abv and it retails for $25.

The red vermouth smells of burnt raisins and tangerine.  The palate is sweet with a savory sword cutting down the middle.  The fact that it’s made from sherry is inescapable.

I used these vermouths in cocktails made with Beefeater London Dry Gin, which contains botanical elements like juniper, coriander, orange peel, lemon peel, angelica root and seed, licorice, almond, and orris root.  In a three-to-one gin blend, the white overpowered the gin.  I used the red in a one-to-one blend, which let the gin speak for itself but still allowed the sweet vermouth to contribute amply.  Both are also fine to sip all on their own.


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Monday, October 1, 2018

Ready-To-Drink Cocktails In Little Bottles

We've all been in situations where there's no bartender and one is badly needed.  Airliners, hotel rooms, seventh-inning stretch.  A Southern California booze company has come to the rescue.

BTL SVC Cocktails - pronounced "bottle service," by the way - sells pre-mixed, ready-to-serve cocktails that have everything included but the ice and the garnish

The company operates out of West Hollywood, and I ran across their tasty bottles at The Cocktail Lab, also in Los Angeles.  BTL SVC says they make "classic cocktails taste as good as you can get at your favorite bar," and that's right on the money.  The company has their product in many good  local wine and liquor stores and a smattering of L.A.'s ritzier hotels.

BTL SVC makes such bottled delights as a Gin Martini, Negroni, Manhattan and Old Fashioned.  If you’re looking for something really different, they have a Ginger Buck, 1934 Cosmo, Matador and Spicy Maid to offer.

Nathan Oliver is the Master of Cocktails for BTL SVC, described as "a well respected artisan in the world of mixology."  His decade behind a bar produced the classic recipes used for their drinks. 

The drinks are a little smaller than I would make at home, but I find that's the case in bars, too.  Each little bottle costs $12, less than what I generally pay for a cocktail in a good Los Angeles bar.  The taste is great for the Martini and the Negroni, and I'm still working my way through the others I bought.


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Friday, April 13, 2018

New Orleans Drinking

In search of classic New Orleans cocktails on a recent trip to the Crescent City, I happened into the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel Sazerac Bar.  Expansive and done up in as much art deco as they could get their hands on, the bar is worthy of being included on a visitor's itinerary.

Having already had a Sazerac at another French Quarter watering hole, I decided to go with what the bar describes as a New Orleans classic on its own, the Ramos Gin Fizz.  Sweet and frothy with egg whites,  the making of the drink allows the bartender to put on quite a show, shaking heavily and dripping the concoction into a tall glass from on high.  The term "don't try this at home" does not apply, but you’ll likely need to bolster your bar first.

All ingredients except the soda - gin, lemon juice, lime juice, egg white, sugar, cream and orange flower water - are poured into a mixing glass and shaken with no ice for two minutes.  Then, ice is added and shaken hard for another minute.  Think of it as an aerobics session for lushes.  Then, strain it into a Collins glass and top with soda.  Easy, right?

They say it's the orange flower water and the egg whites that turn a regular gin fizz on its head and make it an entirely new beverage.  The cocktail was reportedly created by Henry C. Ramos in 1888 at his Imperial Cabinet Saloon on Gravier Street.  Back in the day it's said to have taken 12 minutes to make one, so a whole crew of 20 or more bartenders had to be on duty during peak hours just to shake it.

The Roosevelt made the drink popular, and former Governor Huey P. Long liked it so much, they say he brought one of the hotel's bartenders to New York to teach another hotel's staff how to make it.  Then the governor could enjoy it when was doing business in the Big Apple.  The Roosevelt Hotel owns the trademark to the name, Ramos Gin Fizz.

Punch offers a scaled-down two-minute version of the Ramos Gin Fizz, if you're in a hurry to get your fizz on.


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Monday, March 26, 2018

Big Sur Gin, Big Flavor Martini

Stirred, not shaken.  As so often happens in the movies, James Bond got it wrong when he directed bartenders to shake his martini.  That tends to bruise the gin, aerating it too much and giving it a more biting flavor.  There are a lot of scientific details, but I just took their word for it.

San Diego County's Calwise Spirits Company says their Big Sur Gin is distilled from grapes and wild native herbs.  The label brags that you can "taste Big Sur without licking plants," which is probably a good thing on both counts.  The spirit is crafted using juniper, sage, bay, fennel, elderberry, yerba santa, lavender, lemon, so there's a lot of good stuff in that bottle from Spring Valley.  The gin comes at 80 proof and sells at Whole Foods for around 30 bucks.  Calwise also makes two rums, spiced and blonde.

Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry is dry, not sweet, made from a wine base with plants, alpine herbs and spices included.  For a martini, they suggest equal parts Dolin Dry and gin. Yeah, right.  I make mine at a three to one ratio.

I like a dirty martini, which means a bit of olive juice tossed into the mix before stirring.  I’m currently using Dirty Sue, a twice-filtered brine.  I'm also using a dash of Peychaud's bitters.  It hails from New Orleans, so I'm all set to make a sazerac if I want.

Together, Big Sur Gin and Dolin make a distinctly aromatic martini.  Pine notes and citrus on the nose, and a bit of a kick on the palate.  The juniper comes on stronger than in most gins and the herbal element is huge with fennel.  It's an outdoorsy flavor.  Spicy may be a good word for it.  This gin does not try to hide its attributes.  It definitely makes a martini on which a wine lover can ruminate.


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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Martini Time: Boodles Gin

Boodles is a British, London Dry gin that has been around since 1845. The company was named after Boodles gentlemen's club, run by one Edward Boodles. This is the gin that was reputedly served there and is believed to have been a favorite of Winston Churchill, although other gins also make that claim. Who wouldn't? This "proper British gin" is now made at the Greenall's distillery

The Boodles crest offers "labour and patience" as two of the gin's ingredients. The company claims Boodles is a "clean spirit distilled from British wheat and then infused with a number of traditional herbs and spices, including nutmeg, sage, and rosemary." The PR department says Boodles is known for its "distinctive floral nose and lingering juniper flavor, with a clean finish," and that sounds fairly accurate. Nine botanicals make up Boodles -  it's just fun to say - and contribute to its aroma and taste. Juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and seed, cassia bark, caraway seed, nutmeg, rosemary and sage are all blended together to make Boodles. They claim they are the only gin to contain nutmeg, rosemary and sage in its recipe.

There are some piney notes on the nose, from the juniper, and a floral element, but both are quiet. The gin tastes very elegant and smooth, at 45.2% abv. No citrus botanicals are used, unlike other London dry gins. They figure you’ll put a slice of lemon or lime in your cocktail, so there's no need. Boodles also makes a Mulberry gin, which I gather is like a sloe gin, except made with mulberries.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Gin For Los Angeles

Mulholland Gin is called "The Spirit of L.A." on the label, and those who know about the history of Los Angeles are not surprised. William Mulholland built the aqueducts that allowed Southern California to siphon off Northern California's water.  There'd be no San Fernando Valley without him.

The label also says "In good times and bad, all will drink. If not water, then Mulholland." I'm for that, even though Mulholland Distilling is all the way over in Downey, not in the Valley. It's described as a new world gin made with botanicals of cucumber, lavender and lime. It's distilled from 100% GMO corn and hits Navy strength, at 48% abv, 96 proof.

Walton Goggins and Matthew Alper collaborated on this gin, as well as a vodka and a whiskey. Goggins is a familiar face, having acted in some fairly notable television series. Alper has spent time on the other end of the lens as a cameraman and photographer. His brother founded OTTIMINO Winery while his wife is in sales at Frog's Leap Winery.

The cucumbers in Mulholland Gin come across strongly, with lavender, juniper and vanilla notes right behind. It's a very aromatic gin, and has a flavor that’s refreshing on its own, although the alcohol level reaches up to about my limit. Still, it’s a great martini gin. I liked it better nice and clean instead of my usual dirty style. It may not be as thirst-quenching as water, but it's a damn sight more interesting.


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Martini Time

The martini. It's a classic cocktail. It's the classic cocktail. The martini is described as a drink made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It sounds so simple, and it's so good. It's perfect, already. No vodka martinis for me, please. I love the aromas and flavors of the herbs and botanicals found in gin, and vermouth for that matter.

As for the recipe, I don't adhere to it. I stopped using measuring devices years ago and just eyeball the amounts based on how I feel at the moment. That may not work well in baking, but it does in mixing drinks. The 2:1 ratio of dry gin to dry vermouth is fairly easy to guesstimate. I like a 3:1 mix if I'm making the martini at home, a little heavier on the gin. If I'm out of vermouth, that's okay too. Lots of people go with a much higher ratio, so make it to your taste. The less vermouth, the drier the martini. There's an old joke about drinks so dry there was dust in the urinals, although I've never noticed any evidence of that. I like Hendrick's, a Scottish gin that is infused with rose and cucumber.

As for the vermouth, it should be dry, too. The white kind. Vermouth is actually fortified wine blended with botanicals, like roots, bark, flowers, herbs, and spices. The name is an Anglicization of the German word for wormwood, which has been used in making vermouth. Without the gin, vermouth is a very nice aperitif all on its own. It was once thought to be good for what ailed one, and was used like Granny Clampett used her home-distilled concoction, for "medicinal purposes." I've had Cinzano, Martini and Rossi and Noilly Pratt, and all are fine. I 'm currently using Dolin de Chambery, and it's tasting very nice.

I like to add a dash (or twelve) of bitters to mine. I ran out of Angostura bitters recently and bought a bottle made in New Orleans, Peychaud's bitters are based on the gentian flower, and are similar to Angostura bitters. Peychaud's has a lighter body, a sweeter taste, and more floral aromatics. It's used in making that New Orleans treat, the Sazerac cocktail.

Shaken, not stirred, like James Bond? Experts say no. On TV's "The West Wing," President Bartlett said 007 was not only ordering a bad martini, he was being snooty about it. The shaking, while providing a good way for bartenders to show off, reportedly "bruises" the gin and makes the taste have more of a bite. Can't have that.

Garnish with olives, of course, or a lemon twist if you're afraid of olives. Toss in a splash of olive juice to make it a dirty martini.

Cheers!


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Friday, September 8, 2017

Two Fine New York Gins

The New York Distilling Company says their spirits are "purposefully different." The Brooklyn-based distillery is run by "cocktail people making spirits for cocktails," Allen KatzBill Potter and Tom Potter. The latter also co-founded the Brooklyn Brewery.  The distillery makes ryes and gins that are distilled in Brooklyn from grains grown in New York State. I was ent tiny sample bottles of each for review.

Gin is perhaps the best use for juniper berries that there is. Originating in Great Britain in the Middle Ages, when they called it genever. The Dutch popularized gin as a medicinal product (for my rheumatizz) and today, whenever someone offers me a tonic for my soul, I say make it a gin and tonic.

Dorothy Parker Gin

The neutral grain spirit and botanicals are distilled together in a 1000-liter pot still, as in the 18th century. The botanicals include juniper berries, coriander seed, lemon and orange peel, whole green cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, elderberries and hibiscus petals.  The process takes seven hours to distill, and it's then left for a week before being slowly proofed in a column still to 44% abv over the course of two to three weeks.

The Dorothy Parker Gin has really herbal aromas - the juniper and coriander play large - and great traces of citrus on the sip. It's fantastic straight up, even better as a dirty martini.

Perry's Tot Navy-Strength Gin

Again, the neutral grain spirit and botanicals are distilled together in a big pot still. The list of botanicals is similar, including juniper berries, coriander seed, lemon, orange and grapefruit peel, whole green cardamom pods, cinnamon bark, angeleica root, whole star anise and wildflower honey.  The distillation process is the same, but it’s proofed higher, to 57% abv.  They say Perry's Tot gin is the first Navy Strength gin produced in the U.S. in 100 years.

The aromatics are much the same as the DP, except with more citrus notes and more firepower on the palate, to be sure. Navy strength means, in this case, 114 proof. It doesn't mess around. And it's exactly what you want in your G'n'T. They call theirs are "Tot & Tonic." If you really want to get crazy at your home bar, try their recipe for the "Innocenti." Stir over ice the Perry's Tot, a dry vermouth, Lillet Blanc and Benedictine and strain into a cocktail glass.


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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Plymouth Gin

Plymouth Gin comes from the seaport town of Plymouth, England, and there is only one distillery there making it. It has changed hands a few times since its birth in the 18th century, but the recipe has remained a prize of British history.  I was invited to an interesting evening in Los Angeles in which the atmosphere of their Refectory Cocktail Bar was created at a pop-up at the Lost Property bar on Vine Street in Hollywood.  Master Distiller Sean Harrison and International Brand Ambassador Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge were on hand to give the joint an even more British flair.  The fleet of bartenders were creating and pouring all 32 drinks from the Refectory Bar menu, and I sampled a few of the more definitive ones.

Plymouth Gin is slightly less dry than the London style and has a more herbal quality to it along with a juniper flavor. I'm not an expert on gin, but on this evening I didn’t have to be. I just had to like it. Easy.

Gin is actually Dutch, not British. In fact, British soldiers discovered the spirit while in Holland and brought it back home with them. If you are ever going to use the phrase "for medicinal purposes" as an excuse to drink, it had better be with gin. British sailors used gin mixed with lime juice to prevent scurvy while on long sea voyages. Gin and bitters help settle an upset tummy. Quinine fights malaria, so have a gin and tonic.

The "Marguerite" is made from Plymouth Gin, French dry vermouth and orange bitters.  It is stirred chilled and served straight up in a gimlet glass. The lemon spray leaves a vigorous citrus aroma and the drink shows off its herbs to the fullest. Light and smooth, it's a great "anytime" cocktail.

The "Pink Gin" comes three different ways. The Modern Long is mixed in a tall glass with soda, on the rocks.  The Gin Pahit apparently originated in Britain's colonial days in India, with more Angostura Bitters. I ordered the Classic, which is like a very dry martini, served in the same type of glass. Citrus spray again makes a refreshing nose and it’s quite a bit more dry than the dirty martini I favor.

The "Gin Pennant" adds Plymouth Sloe Gin to orange and lemon juice, syrup, soda and a dash of apricot liqueur to the Plymouth Gin base.  It's built in a very unusual glass and served on the rocks. It's a sweet and easy cocktail with a straw. You get a nose full of mint when you go for the sip. It reminds me of the sweet drinks I would concoct in my college days, only far, far better.


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