Pink Gin: Nobody Talks Bad about Plymouth

In Belize, my friend Kiv taunted an Englishman for sipping a pink cocktail, in a waterside tavern. After some words ending with the trite "You and what army?" the man and his buddies -- British SAS commandos on leave from jungle training -- promptly heaved Kiv over a railing, into the cholera-ridden river below.

I didn't witness that bit of youthful indiscretion, but I'd guess that the rosy sip was Pink Gin, a cocktail from the glory days of the Royal Navy, and a drink that could easily be in the repertoire of any member of the British military.

Like many classic beverages, Pink Gin began as a curative. Angostura bitters were originally devised by a German doctor as a treatment for nausea, and they are equally effective against the symptoms of seasickness. Taking bitters straight is not recommended (from my experience), so sailors added it to their favorite on-board refreshment, Plymouth gin.

Plymouth gin is a different style of spirit from the more common London Dry Gin, in that it's more full-bodied, and not necessarily sweet, but notably less dry. In addition to traditional gin infusions, Plymouth has sweet orange peel and cardamom, one of the key spices in chai tea. The juniper is toned down, with less taste of what my gin-disdaining older brother refers to as "drinking pine trees."

If there is such thing as a sipping gin, Plymouth is it. Gin enthusiasts will argue the merits and demerits of Tanqueray, Bombay, Beefeater, or Hendrick's in their martinis, but nobody talks bad about Plymouth.

Pink Gin

  • 2 ounces Plymouth gin
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Chill a cocktail glass and the gin you'll use in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Drop bitters into the glass and swirl around to coat the inside of the glass. Pour out excess bitters, for an "out" version, or just leave them "in." Add gin. Use a vegetable peeler to slice off a length of lemon peel for a garnish.

Note: You may use London Dry Gin, but it's a different drink.

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