Taste Test: The Gin Martini

Because it’s Monday and I needed a bit of a pick me up after a positively dreadful weekend, I decided I’d combine a couple of my favorite things:  taste tests and martinis.  Also, it seemed like a justified way to drink a lot.

If anything represents a self-fulfilling prophesy, it’s my friendship with gin.  I never drank gin when I was younger because I thought of gin as something for old biddies with perms who wore long strands of pearls and too much makeup, while sucking on long cigarettes with plastic filters, swaying about, and spilling their martinis on everyone.  And although I’m not quite a biddy, I am old and have been known on occasion to totter about, sloshing my martini here and there, minus the perm, pearls, and make-up.

Several years ago, Sparklepants and I did a gin taste test, and for that taste test, we did straight shots, which might be the reason why I don’t remember a whole lot about those results, except that Sapphire was my favorite of the bunch.  Previously, I had been drinking Tanqueray, but ever since that first taste test, I have been devoted to Sapphire.

Since then, several new gins have emerged on the scene, and notably some from here in the Pacific Northwest. So we here at Curl Nation decided it was time to do another gin taste test — this time focused on the Classic Martini. So we gathered eight gins:

Aviation – Portland, OR
Beefeater – London, England
Bombay Sapphire – London, England
Cascade Mountain – Bend, OR
DryFly – Spokane, WA
Hendrick’s – Scotland
New Amsterdam – California
Plymouth – England

To be clear, we rated the gins in the context of how we think of The Classic Gin Martini. We did not rate the gins as gins in and of themselves.  First Mate came up with a rating system that stayed true to the British origins of the Martini:

Dreadful!
Piss-arse!
Spot on!
Excellent!
Brilliant!

And here are the results:

Aviation – Piss-arse!
Tasting notes: STRONG spice, coriander, anise, cinnamon. I think it tasted like liquid curry. Martini fail, but we want to try this gin out in some other inventive cocktails that could highlight its complexity. First Mate likes the label and so do I.

Beefeater – Spot on!
Tasting notes: There is nothing subtle about a Beefeater Martini. It punches you the face: I AM MARTINI!  The juniper is pretty strong and lingers on the tongue. It’s a solid martini.  This was the first time I tried Beefeater ‘cuz when I was vegetarian, I wouldn’t drink it out of principle, although as far as I can tell, gin is vegan.

Bombay Sapphire – Brilliant!
Tasting notes: Slightly more of a bite than the Plymouth, but like a sibling. Smooth. Classic martini. Curl Nation unanimously loves the Bombay Sapphire bottle. Marketing genius.

Cascade Mountain! – Dreadful!
Soapy, like rotten cheese. Wrong. Gin fail!! Although we liked the sentiment of the cork in the frosted bottle, overall, the bottle design is also lacking. If you’re going to have a crappy gin, shouldn’t you at least do something about the packaging?

DryFly – Spot on!
Intriguing enough to keep drinking, smooth, apple flavors. Although there’s nothing offensive about the bottle, I object on principle alone that this is the same bottle they use for their small-batch vodka.

Hendrick’s – Excellent!
Tasting notes: Smooth, flowery, short finish, subtle. As a shout-out to the people of our very own Sparklepants, the Scottish have given us something stellar other than whiskey and Sean Connery James Bond.

New Amsterdam – Piss-arse!
Tasting notes: Strong citrus. Orangey.  Slightly cloying.  Weak gin flavor.  Where’s the juniper?  It tastes more like an infused vodka than a gin.  Martini fail, but we think it could be good for trying out new creative cocktails.

Plymouth – Brilliant!
Tasting notes: This is THE classic martini. Balanced. Upon my first sip, I exclaimed, “That’s TASTY!”  First Mate also loves the art deco bottle.

So there you go. We know there are other gins to try, but take our word for it. The Plymouth gin is a clear winner if you love martinis. Bombay Sapphire is a very very close second, maybe only one millionth of a second behind, for its bold genius as a Martini gin. The Aviation and the New Amsterdam are exciting new versions of gin, but best to try as part of a new generation of innovative cocktails, not as anchors of The Classic Martini.

So Bottoms up!  We hope these results helps to usher in a new appreciation for gins, old and new.

Cheerio!

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2 Responses to Taste Test: The Gin Martini

  1. I am right there with you on Hendricks !!!! I’ll drink it neat, add a pinch of sea salt on the rocks, Mix it with cucumber and basil. Its also amazing in a Cucumber Saketini. The cuke extract and Rose water meld very well with a dry sake. Good Article … keep it up

  2. Pingback: The Morning After | c u r l

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