I love gin. I love whiskey. Those statements combined can make it hard to order a cocktail. Now that Old Tom gin is back on the market, though, we can enjoy the best of both worlds. (For details on how this came to be, see my column in today’s Kansas City Star.)
Two brands are now readily available: Hayman’s and Ransom. Both have a hint of sweetness, distinguishing them from the more familiar London Dry style and making them perfect in classic cocktails like the Martinez, Tom Collins and Ramos Gin Fizz.
(Photos from brand websites)
Hayman’s looks like you think a gin should look, and its juniper notes are tempered by citrus, spice and other botanicals, plus a bit of cane sugar. It’s a perfectly nice gin, especially if you’re thirsty for a French 75.
But Ransom…well. It’s something different all together, with an orangy amber color and whiskey-like weight. Ransom Old Tom starts with malted barley (for body and sweetness), then adds in high-proof corn spirits infused with juniper, orange and lemon peel, coriander, angelica root and cardamom. The lot then goes through an alambic pot still and is aged four to five months in used wine barrels to replicate the treatment Old Tom might have received in Dickens’ time.
I especially like Ransom Old Tom in a Martinez, but Shawn Moriarty of The Majestic Steakhouse (an editing snafu at the Star put him a R Bar) recommends the Perfect Cocktail: 1 ounce Ransom Old Tom gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth (preferably Dolin blanc), 1 ounce sweet vermouth (preferably Dolin rouge) and 3 dashes rhubarb bitters. Fill the metal part of a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add gin, vermouths and bitters. Stir about 20 times, or until the outside of the shaker begins to frost. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.
Still, if you want to try that Martinez, here’s a recipe from David Wondrich: 2 ounces Old Tom style gin, 1 ounce Italian red vermouth, 1/2 teaspoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur and 2 dashes aromatic bitters (preferably Bitter Truth Aromatic Blend). In a large glass, combine gin, vermouth, maraschino liqueur, bitters and 2 cups ice. Stir for 15 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a strip of lemon peel over the top and drop it in.