The gin equivalent of this drink is a funny old thing; dry as a bone, despite its sugary make-up, and deliciously rich. More importantly, we think it is probably the way to drink barrel aged gins; in fact, there are some that work so well in this combination that it almost feels like destiny. As a cocktail it’s smooth, sultry and effortlessly dignified, perfect for dim lights and late nights.
When it comes to a Gin Old Fashioned, barrel aged gin is the only real way to make this work. We’re not entirely opposed to giving it a go with a super-sweet Old Tom, but wood is the main character here, no bones about it. Sometimes, you can combine the two and in the like of Citadelle's No Mistake's Old Tom you have the ultimate tool. Our personal favourite for the job at hand is Hart & Dart Gin from Capreolus Distillery, who age their gin in Mulberry casks to create what must surely be the best barrel aged gin in Europe.
A BRIEF, INEBRIATED HISTORY:
Famously, the Old Fashioned is and has always been the property of whisk(e)y, but lately it’s been taken for a right old adventure, moving across the entire spirit realm.
And when we say lately… Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail book, first published in 1930, has a recipe for the Old Fashioned that states “This cocktail can be made with Brandy, Gin, Rum, etc., instead of Rye Whiskey.” So, while it’s hardly a new idea to use something other than Whisk(e)y, it’s probably more apt to say that lately it has been embraced, as drinkers continue to explore the very depths and nuances of the spirits they’re imbibing in great quantity and with far more information at their disposal than ever before.
According to drinking folklore – before it was known as the Old Fashioned, it was the Whiskey Cocktail, and the oldest version of it in a printed cocktail book (that we know of, anyway) happens to be the work of the long dead and still much celebrated bartender and author Jerry Thomas, who featured the cocktail in his 1862 book The Bartenders Guide. It’s worth noting here that Thomas has an almost identical Brandy and Gin recipe in the book, so – as we said before – while it’s famously a Whiskey drink, it’s likely that Whiskey was the most enduring variation because it was the one that worked best.
Still… onwards and upwards for the Gin version… Since the post-2012 Gin resurgence, Barrel Aged editions of the spirit have steadily been proliferating their way across bar shelves, and while many haven’t worked (botanicals are temperamental; even when distilled, they’re very much living things, so they react with wood in all sorts of crazy ways, with juniper putting in the most erratic performance of all), several have and are worth seeking out.