Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cocktail of the Week - The Old Old Tom Gin

Since contemporary concoctions of absinthe did not result in the total transport the younger generation had hoped for (though I'm sure it spawned an odious strain of drum circle-Baudelaires), the dear children seem to have moved on to another means of antique intoxication, Old Tom Gin. Almost all of the classic gin-based cocktails initially called for Old Tom, a fascinating blend of juniper, citrus & the maltiness associated with whiskey, but it went the way of the dodo in the late-1950s. There's a legend that the gin was named for a kind of Victorian tavern vending machine, a black cat carved into the side of a tavern that would dispense half-penny gin from its grinning maw. While this is lovely tale, it's impossible to find an artist's rendering or early photograph of such a thing. This, from an age when the evils of cheap gin were shouted in 72 pt. type from newspapers, broadsides & posters. One imagines that, if such things existed in any number, they would have been a regular feature in caricatures depicting sodden husbands careening home to beat their wives & smother their infants while they slept. Unlike absinthe, Old Tom Gin has been quite a success at the trendier saloons of Manhattan, and, one suspects, beyond. Recently, an old friend of ours from what's left of the O.T.O. Lodge in Germany, sent us a nice bottle of Old Tom from a boutique distillery in Berlin. The legend on the label read, "Revival of the Mystical Beast".

Revival of the Mystical Beast

When Minnie & I read articles about the resurgence in several magazines & newspaper food & drink sections, we took a look at the back of our liquor cabinet (where things like tobacco liqueur moulder sadly) & found two half-full bottles of very well-aged Tom Cat Gin, a bottle from Booth & Co. & another from F. Clelland & Sons. In addition, there was a sip left in a bottle from the Renee distillery. Minnie downed the sip from the bottle of Renee Tom Cat without so much as an "excuse me",  puckered her face & hissed like a stray feline. We were off.

We dusted off the Savoy & a few other, more esoteric, mixing guides & wiled away the summer evening making the following cocktails while listening to old Adam Aston 78 rpm records. If it sounds perfect, it was.

We began with the Tuxedo because it contained absinthe & we're always excited to try the Green Fairy as a mixer.

1 oz Old Tom Gin
1 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 Bar-Spoon Maraschino Syrup
1/4 Bar-Spoon Absinthe
3 Dashes Orange Bitters

Stir all the ingredients with ice & strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry & a lemon zest twist. Lovely.

Two of those apiece & we moved on to the legendary Casino:

2 oz Old Tom Gin
1/4 oz Maraschino Syrup
1/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
& 2 dashes Orange Bitters

Mix the same as the Tuxedo, but only use a lemon zest twist for garnish.

Minnie demanded we try the next one, despite my reservations about it seeming too sweet. I have to admit it was very tasty. So tasty, in fact, that we had three a piece.

Pistachio Fizz

Juice of 1/2 Lemon (1 oz)
1/2 tsp Sugar (1/2 oz Simple Syrup)
1 jigger Old Tom Gin (1 1/2 oz Ransom)
1 jigger Pistache Cream

Shake with ice. Add 1 1/2 oz of soda water to a highball glass and strain contents of shaker over it. Top off with more soda water (1 1/2 oz).

Our Tom Cat Gin Leftovers

We saved the two most interesting recipes for the end of the evening, despite our fuzzy heads, which made adhering to the designated amounts of alcohol nearly impossible. By now we were out of the vintage gins we'd found in our pantry & we were forced to send a neighbor boy out for a bottle of the much-touted Ransom Old Tom & one from its fierce competitor, Hayman's. We weren't in any state of mind to judge the merits of one in relation to the other, but we had no complaints about either of them. 

Crossing to Calais

1 3/4 oz Old Tom Gin
1 oz Bonal Gentiane-Quinquina
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1 Bar-Spoon Cointreau

Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

When we first encountered the new passion for Old Tom in a magazine, Minnie recalled a neat bit of ephemera from an old book on Vodou she'd purchased while visiting friends in New Orleans. The book was published around the turn of the last century & in a small-print endnote among MANY small-print endnotes was wedged a cocktail recipe, of all things. Though it did not relay mixing instructions, it did lay out the specific ingredients & one of them was (our luck is often astounding) our little bottle of Perique tobacco liqueur! The cocktail is called The North Star & it contains 1840 Cognac, Old Tom Gin, Punt e Mas Vermouth, Fernet Branca, Vanilla Syrup & the Perique. We toyed with the amounts over the course of several of these & while we failed to write down our most successful mixtures, not a one of them was less than stellar. I won't deprive you of the experimenting, which was the coziest part of our evening. Enjoy & Hail, Satan!

The North Star

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