By Julia Diakow
The Jensen Old Tom recipe is a piece of history in its own right; taken from a distiller’s handbook dating back to London in the 1840’s. It is sweetened only with large quantities of fragrant botanicals such as Licorice, the end resulting in a gin full of complex, vegetal and earthy flavors, with a subdued lovely sweetness.
The real history behind the branding of Old Tom remains inconclusive. Although, many stories have popped up, for instance of an Old Tom cat falling into a vat of gin at a distillery or to the claim of a master distiller named Tom.
Perhaps the closest truth is that it hearkens back to the wooden plaques shaped like “Old Tom” black cats that hung on the doorways of pubs in 18th century England. Hiding just below the cat’s paw was a slot and a lead pipe, attached to a funnel within the walls of the bar. Thirsty stragglers would simply drop a coin into the slot and would promptly receive a shot of Old Tom gin. For some reason, this would eventually lead to horrific gin epidemic, sweeping madness and debauchery across London, but we’ll save that story for another time…
It is a spirit that for many decades remained on the back bar, half empty from the occasional hipster order of a Martinez, while steadily being covered in dust. But with today’s growing interest in obscure spirits, especially those with significant historical backgrounds, the Old Tom is back.
Today, we’ve done a twist on the Espresso Martini, an homage to Dick Bradsell’s obscenely delicious caffeinated cocktail meant “to wake you up and fuck you up.” Cheers!