November 7, 2014 – If you’ve no idea what the Old Tom designation means, don’t feel bad. You weren’t around in 18th Century London at the height of its popularity and it has only very recently been rediscovered by a handful of distillers. Mixologists are excited as it makes its way into craft cocktail consciousness.
Old Tom is smoother and silkier than regular gin and a new favorite of mixologists who appreciate its subtlety. Our go-to gin has been Tanqueray for years so we conducted a taste test and the difference is amazing both on the nose and the palate. Tanqueray London Dry Gin is much sharper with lots of forward juniper flavor and botanicals that fight for attention. Anchor Old Tom is mellow, slightly sweet, more complex and finishes softly. So what makes the difference?
In the case of Anchor Old Tom it is the mix of botanicals added to the juniper – star anise, licorice root and a small amount of stevia. The company claims it is the first use of stevia in gin. It is pot-distilled and bottled unfiltered.
The Old Tom recipe originated in gin-crazed London in the mid-1700s. There are a couple of theories as to how it got its name, both involving the cat sign that hung outside bars during that period. The consumption of gin and resulting drunkenness and crime were so egregious that Parliament implemented taxes and licensing restrictions. This caused an underground market. The cat cutout was converted into a dispenser. Placed in a window, the drinker dropped a coin in the cat’s mouth, through a lead pipe under the cat’s paw, a couple of ounces of gin were dispensed by someone behind the scene. Some sources say bars employed this technique; others credit Captain Dudley Bradstreet who is on record saying the following about his illicit gin:
“I… purchased… the Sign of a Cat, and had it nailed to a Street Window; I then caused a Leaden Pipe… to be placed under the Paw of the Cat; the End that was within had a Funnel.” Customers put money in the cat’s mouth and said, “‘Puss, give me two Pennyworth of Gin.’ I.. put my Mouth to the Tube, and bid them receive it from the Piper under her Paw, and then… poured it into the Funnel.”
That’s why Anchor Distilling’s bottle sports a sassy grinning cat that almost says, “Try me”!
We’re just glad someone came up with the recipe, that it survived the centuries, and that Anchor Distilling Co. is sharing it with the rest of us. Suggested retail is $29.95 and if it isn’t in your area right now, it will be soon. Then you can enjoy the following cocktail, recipe courtesy of Anchor. Cheers!
1.5 oz Anchor Old Tom Gin
1.5 oz Sweet vermouth
.25 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 dashes Abbott’s Bitters or Angostura
Garnish: Orange twist
Add all ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled coupe glass.