Much less malty than genever and extra full-bodied than London dry, Outdated Tom gin bridges the hole between its Sixteenth-century Dutch predecessor and the up to date standard-bearer, each stylistically and chronologically. And although it’d all however disappeared by the mid-Twentieth century, its early-aughts revival was met with enthusiasm from bartenders for good motive: Not solely does this barely candy fashion higher our understanding of traditional gin cocktails, it’s additionally helped heal the picture situation of one of many backbar’s most divisive spirits.
Although it might ultimately turn into its personal distinct fashion, Outdated Tom started its story as an unsavory offshoot of the extensively common genever. By the early 18th century, tighter authorities regulation—put in place to curb alcohol consumption throughout London’s Gin Craze—had pushed distillers underground. With real genever in brief provide, gin distributors resorted to slicing their product with turpentine, usually masking its taste with naturally candy botanicals like licorice root, which resulted in a distinctly sweeter bootlegged product.
The period noticed numerous steep licensing charges imposed on gin sellers, too, spurring a secretive workaround from which many counsel Outdated Tom takes its identify. The follow, which supposedly started in 1736, was the brainchild of an Irish immigrant, Captain Dudley Bradstreet, who put in a painted signal above the window of his store depicting a black cat—colloquially, a “Tom.” His thought, which was extensively copied at comparable institutions round London, was that in-the-know gin seekers would insert cost via the window and name “Puss,” at which level, if spirit was obtainable, the vendor may reply “Mew,” and dole out a serving of gin.
By the top of the century, the identify had caught, as had the sweeter fashion. (A turpentine-free model was first correctly bottled and offered below the identify Outdated Tom in 1800.) It wasn’t till a lot later within the century that the London dry fashion would turn into mainstream, aided initially by the 1830 introduction of the Coffey nonetheless, which allowed distillers to supply spirits at a better purity and with a lighter physique.
A long time later, in 1897, The New York Herald famous drinkers’ altering tastes in an article describing the drinks record on the Waldorf-Astoria resort: Although the Manhattan and the Martini (made with Italian vermouth and Outdated Tom gin) have been the preferred of the lot, the article emphasised a brand new, drier drink, consisting of equal elements French vermouth and Plymouth gin. “The current demand is for the dry,” wrote the writer. Prohibition dealt Outdated Tom its last blow: Not solely was there little incentive to bootleg the fashion, there was even much less to resurrect it by the point Repeal rolled round.
Outdated Tom wouldn’t formally be revived till 2007, when Hayman Distillers introduced again a household recipe courting from 1870. However since then, it’s made a fast leap to the backbar, with bartenders desirous to recreate the flavors of historic, pre-Prohibition-era cocktails that featured the spirit—notably, the Martinez, Tom Collins and Alaska. Nevertheless, although it’s mostly present in spirit-forward, stirred drinks, it will possibly work nicely on the base of lighter drinks like a julep, as in David Boelte’s summery Honeysuckle Julep.
“Outdated Tom is an attractive factor,” says Danny Shapiro, head bartender at Chicago’s Scofflaw, the place friends are inspired to benefit from the housemade Outdated Tom straight, out of a spent oyster shell. “I take pleasure in its versatility—it performs so nicely with so many issues.” In Shapiro’s Brockton Navy, Outdated Tom acts as a counter to bittersweet Amargo-Vallet liqueur, which will get a citrusy kick from lemon and a contact of sweetness from orgeat.
Utilized in mixture with different gins, Outdated Tom can add depth to drink bases. In Brian Miller’s Double Barrel Winchester, Outdated Tom is a part of a four-gin mix, for instance, whereas Al Sotack calls for 2 completely different Outdated Tom gins—one and a half ounces of Hayman’s, plus a half-ounce of Ransom—in his tackle the Bronx. “The Ransom is such a bizarre, particular factor,” says Sotack, and it really works finest as an accent spirit.
At The Gin Joint in Charleston, South Carolina, beverage director James Bolt deploys the Outdated Tom in his Baboso to steadiness the bitter notes of two gentian-based aperitifs—Suze and Bonal—whereas rye, Cynar and Carpano Antica add a fall-friendly veneer to this full-bodied, stirred drink, garnished with a charred habanero. The fashionable drink is a far cry from the classics Outdated Tom is understood for, and that’s by design. Bolt argues that the fashion is a uniquely approachable spirit: “Outdated Tom is a superb gin to get non-gin drinkers to start out having fun with gin,” he says.