Old Tom gin is a style of gin that was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries in England. It is a slightly sweeter gin than London Dry, and is usually made with a blend of botanicals that includes licorice root or sugar.
The name “Old Tom” is said to come from a time when gin was sold in unmarked bottles and dispensed from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat. Customers would put a penny in the cat’s mouth and the gin would be dispensed from a tube under its paw. It was sweet because the sugar helped mast the rough taste of the often crude gin that was being sold in these times.
Now I said, sweetened with licorice or sugar. That’s because originally sugar came to the british empire in the form of cane sugar and was incredibly expensive – much more so than was gin. Thus, the early Old Tom was made with liquorish root to give the impression of sweetness. Later, in the late 1800’s sugar started being refined from beets in poland and eastern europe -leading to a drop in the sugar price and Old Tom being made with sugar instead.
With this in mind, this recipe is going to use liqurish and sugar to stay true to theme.
Here’s how to make your own Old Tom gin at home:
Ingredients: (to make 1L of finished gin)
- 450 ml of 95% high-proof neutral spirit
- 10 g juniper berries
- 2 g coriander seeds
- 1 g angelica root
- 1 g orris root
- 1 g licorice root
- 1 g cinnamon stick
- 1 g cardamom pods
- 1 g dried lime peel
- 26 g sugar
- Oak Staves (Optional)
- Crush the juniper berries, coriander seeds, and cardamom pods using a mortar and pestle.
- Add the crushed spices and all other ingredients to a large glass jar or bottle.
- Pour the vodka or high-proof neutral spirit over the botanicals and stir to combine.
- Seal the jar or bottle and place it in a cool, dark place for at least 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, strain the gin through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove all solids.
- Place into the boiler of your still and distill. Discard the first 50ml and stop the distillation run at 95 degreed celcius.
- Leave the gin to air overnight at full strength.
- Dilute the gin to 37.5% ABV with distilled water.
- Add the sugar to taste. 26g should make quite a sweet gin (but I believe that was typical of old tom). You may also have trouble getting that to disolve so shake well afterewards, or disolve in the water before hand if you calculate exactly how much water is needed for dilution.
- Bottle and enjoy your homemade Old Tom gin!
Notes: You can adjust the sweetness by adding more or less sugar. You can also experiment with different botanicals to create your own unique Old Tom gin recipe.