Friday, April 23, 2010

Pall Mall

Today, we're talking about Pall Mall, the cocktail, not the cigarette manufacturer.  I remember the cigarettes though.  In college, the smokers bought the cheapest packs available, and Pall Mall cigarettes fit the bill.  I also remember on the packaging, Pall Mall used the phrase "In Hoc Signo Vinces", meaning in this sign you will conquer.

I always found this a curious tagline for a cigarette manufacturer.  The phrase stems from Constantine, the Roman emprorer, and his conversion to Christianity upon allegedly seeing the sign of the cross.  I say allegedly because I think it's far more likely Constantine saw the benefits of mass rule under Christianity, as opposed to actually seeing a vision. 

In any event, what is Pall Mall, the cigarette manufacturer, trying to say by using this tagline?  And if the line is to be taken literally, what exactly will Pall Mall's smoking audience conquer when smoking under their brand?  Seems a bit grandiose to me.  I guess we should all set such high goals, eh?

Today though, we ditch the smokes, and turn to the drink of the same name - the Pall Mall!


American Bar, page 200
Pall Mall

1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon white creme de menthe
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


For this cocktail, I'm using the last of the Bombay Sapphire (going to have to run to the store for a new bottle), Martini Rossi Dry Vermouth, Gallo Sweet Vermouth, DeKuyper Creme de Menthe, and Angostura Bitters.

This has a pretty weird range of flavors.  The mint is the first flavor, you can smell it before taking your first sip.  Soon, thereafter, you'll taste the sweet vermouth.  Sweet vermouth has a way of pronouncing itself in cocktails, little else seems to be as sweet in the same way.  The last distinct flavor is the gin, though, the gin is really taking a backseat to the mint and sweet vermouth, and it is abundantly clear that I could have used a far lesser gin than Bombay Sapphire. 

I don't love this drink.  I like mint too, so this is a bit disappointing.  I just don't think the sweet vermouth pairs well with the rest of the drinks contents.  And the bitters are heavily masked by the mint, which makes me question its addition to the ingredient list.  I'm sure it adds a spice element that would otherwise not exist if the bitters were not included, but even so, its not adding a noticeably agreeable flavor.


I think mint flavored cocktails, or at a minimum those cocktails featuring creme de menthe, are fickle beasts.  Mint doesn't pair well with everything.  In fact, it doesn't pair well with most things.  That's why eating food after brushing one's teeth is usually an awkward experience.  Pairing mint with sweet wine, which is essentially what sweet vermouth is, seems awful in theory.  Perhaps the reason this cocktail isn't a complete failure is that there are enough additional ingredients to mask what could otherwise have been a debacle of a pairing, the mint flavors with sweet vermouth.

I don't think the Pall Mall is something I would ever order at a bar or restaurant. There are far better gin based drinks, and though I don't pretend to be an authority on mint cocktails, there have to be better choices (ex. the Stinger).

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