I had the pleasure on my birthday this year to dine at Blue13 in River North. The lady and I had seen the restaurant highlighted on Check Please and thought it was perfect for my particular tastes and style. We couldn't have been more right. The evening began with our drink order and I had seen on Check Please that Blue13 offered Ransom Old Tom Gin, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered it on the rocks. To my surprise I had found my drink of choice. The taste is unique to anything I have tasted providing a warm feeling throughout. It has less of a juniper taste that most find off putting and instead has citrus notes with a bit of spice. I am not a connoisseur of gin or spirits for that matter, however I know what I like and Ransom's Old Tom Gin is what I like.
Tony Sachs at the Huffington Post has a great write-up today about Old Tom Gin re-gaining the hearts of bartenders and offers insight to Ransom's version:
But what if you want to go back even further, way back to the beginning of the modern cocktail era? Well, then you'll need a whole 'nuther kind of Old Tom. And for that, you'll have to look to Oregon, the home state of genius distiller Tad Seestedt and his Ransom Old Tom gin, which is one of the finest and most unusual spirits I've ever had the pleasure of imbibing.
Seestedt, with David Wondrich to guide him along the path of historical accuracy, has brought back to life a type of Old Tom that was around when Abe Lincoln was an obscure Illinois lawyer and Jerry Thomas, the most legendary bartender of the 19th century, was still a relative unknown -- Wondrich describes it as "almost pre-Victorian, it's almost late Georgian." Looking at Ransom Old Tom, and then tasting it, a 21st century martini drinker will probably say, "This is gin?!" Well, yes, although it's got more in common with Dutch genevers (also known as Holland gin, at the time the most popular gin in the States), and even American whiskey, than with modern London Dry gin.
Ransom Old Tom employs juniper and other traditional gin botanicals (orange, coriander and angelica, to name a few), but that's about where the similarities to modern-day gin end. Instead of using neutral grain spirits, Seestedt blends in a high percentage of barley-based whiskey. And at the end of the process, the gin is barrel-aged, giving it a whiskey-ish amber color.
The first taste of Ransom Old Tom is mind-blowing, or rather, taste bud-blowing. It's incredibly malty, with strong juniper and citrus notes and just a hint of sweetness. On ice, it opens up even more to reveal wood, corn and a little more sugar. It's one of the most complex spirits you'll ever try. In a Martinez... well, let's just say you haven't had a Martinez until you've tried it with Ransom. Its carnival of flavor mixes most harmoniously with the vermouth, making what could be a heavy, sodden drink a surprisingly light concoction. To think that this stuff went out of style!
Suffice it to say I am glad Ransom Old Tom Gin is getting attention from others that I believe it deserves. Now if only more than two places in Chicago would serve it regularly, I would be a much happier man about town.
I am Frank Chow and I approved this message