Welcome to the U.S., Portobello Road Gin!

portabello road gin
portabello road gin

All photos by Aliza Kellerman.

Released by award-winning bar Portobello Star, home of the Ginstitute, Portobello Road No. 171 Gin strikes a curious balance between traditional and quirky. Launched in New York, the nine-botanicled gin was served amidst the lush layout of The Lion. I tried it neat and in a variety of cocktails both traditional and whimsical. My thoughts?

This gin is super lemony, but not in a traditionally citrus-forward way. I tasted lemon desserts: lemon curd, pound cake, lemon cream, etc. Portobello isn’t over-the-top sweet, but there is quite a bit of delicate sugar in there. In the first cocktail I tried, the Tom Collins, I felt like the Portobello got a little lost in the simple syrup and Fever Tree Spring Soda Water.

Street Party Punch
Street Party Punch

The gin was much better suited for the Negroni, a traditionally bitter drink ever so lightened by this elegant spirit. The Portobello strained out the subtle sweet notes of Campari, making this a rich Negroni that could easily be served as an after-dinner digestif.

The signature grapefruit Gin and Tonic was, quite simply, perfect. Because Portobello’s lemon elements are mild as opposed to tangy, the grapefruit sourness was complementary rather than competitive with the gin’s botanicals. This is a perfect Spring cocktail that makes the most out of a London dry gin, accentuating the juniper while keeping the pine from overruling the fruit.

Lastly, I ended my night with the Portobello Road Street Party Punch. Pol Roger Brut, Robinsons Lemon Barley Water, Angostura Bitters, fresh lemon juice, and a dash of Huzzah!

Don’t you think this romantic punch would’ve been great for Valentine’s day? But I digress. Although punches are typically

Negroni on Tap
Negroni on Tap

sweet, the lemon barley water added a nice layer of maltiness. The punch was actually dryer than the Tom Collins, but easy enough sipping that people keep coming back for seconds (and thirds). Plus, you can’t beat a rose petal garnish.

While I enjoyed all of the cocktails served, and I understand the need to present easily batched and popular drinks at a large-scale event, I’m incredibly curious to see how Portobello would do in a dry cocktail, like a Martini. With left-of-center gins there’s plenty of room for tinkering, and Portobello is lovely and subtle enough to offer a wide range of mixability. I’m excited to see what NYC will do with this striker.