Hurray, World Gin Day is here! There are loads of events to help you celebrate this magnificent occasion (which is not just an excuse to drink gin – it’s a reason), or you can simply kick back at home with a gin-based cocktail. A G&T or martini are the obvious choices, but if you’re tired of them then check your pulse and, if you’re still alive, have a Gin Old Fashioned instead.
GIN OLD FASHIONED
I’m not much of a whisky drinker but I am a big fan of the Whisky Old Fashioned, which tempers the whisky’s fire with a decent dollop of sweetness and rounds it out with the earthiness of Angostura bitters. There’s a lengthy (but well worth reading) discourse about this drink, and a decent recipe, here.
Despite the fact that I usually use Johnnie Walker instead of the prescribed bourbon in my Old Fashioneds (oops), I’d never realised white spirits could be substituted for the whisky until I was idly flicking through the Savoy Cocktail Book and came across their Old Fashioned recipe, which says spirits such as gin or rum can be used in place of the whisky. Mind = blown. And so I tried out a Gin Old Fashioned, as follows.
60ml gin (I used Tanqueray)
15ml sugar syrup
3 good dashes Angostura Bitters
Orange slice, to garnish
Old fashioned, of course!
Mix the sugar syrup and bitters in the old fashioned glass. Add a few cubes of ice and half the gin. Stir well. Add a few more cubes of ice and the remaining gin. Stir. Garnish with the orange slice.
This is simultaneously robust, zesty, frivolous and refreshing – the kind of old fashioned you should drink in summer, when you want a serious drink but it’s too damn hot for a traditional old fashioned.
It’s based on so many traditional old fashioned recipes that it seems unfair to credit one source. But we’ll happily say it was inspired by The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock (first published 1930 by Constable & Co).
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
The predominant flavour and colour in a gin old fashioned comes from Angostura Bitters – if you love bitters, you will love this drink, which is not bitter as such (thanks to the sugar syrup) but full of flavour. And since the 52 Cocktails crew are bitters freaks, it seemed like a good idea to test out some other bitters in a gin old fashioned to see what it did for them. So we mixed up a second batch, omitting the Angostura, divided it into teeny little glasses and added a few drops each of some different bitters to see what would happen. We experimented with Greenall’s gin and a four-pack of bitters from the Bitter End.
Wow. What a way to try bitters. While we concluded that we prefer our Gin Old Fashioneds made, well, the old-fashioned way, this method of bitters-tasting allowed us to explore the flavour profile of these unusually flavoured bitters in a really fun way – as a bitters flight. I liked the smokiness of the Memphis Barbeque Bitters; the CTO preferred the coriander-led Thai Bitters. The Bitter End recommends using the BBQ bitters in a Manhattan – I’ll definitely be giving that a go. But for now, it’s back to the gin. After all, World Gin Day only happens every day…er, I mean, once a year. Ahem. Cheers!