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Drink of the Week: The Defender with Tanqueray Old Tom Gin

Arianna Auber

Although Tanqueray Old Tom Gin is a relatively new release, its recipe isn’t — current Tanqueray distillers tried to make the gin as close to the Old Tom version the distillery would make 100 years ago, before Prohibition.

It’s a style of gin that had been extinct for awhile but is making a comeback on bar shelves thanks to its richer, sweeter flavor that sets it apart from other styles, such as Tanqueray’s London Dry.

“Really (Old Tom) can be viewed as the first ‘real’ gin,” Angus Winchester, Tanqueray’s brand ambassador, said. “It was the attempt by the English to make the spirit that they had enjoyed while fighting for the Dutch in the mid-1600s. We lacked the skill of the Dutch distillers so we added extra botanicals (the herbs, berries, spices and flowers used in gin production) and also added sugar to round off the rough edges of the spirit in those days.”

He noted that Old Tom began to die out after Prohibition, but “with the bartender and gin renaissance in the late 1990s and early 2000s, interest in this archaic style was piqued.”

Tanqueray has released only a limited amount of bottles of Old Tom, but they’re worth seeking out for their slightly sweeter, more full-bodied version of the juniper spirit and the style’s distinguished history. Here’s a recipe, calling for Old Tom, that was first published in an old cocktail recipe book popular at the turn of the last century.

The Defender

1 oz. Tanqueray Old Tom

¾ oz. Sweet Vermouth

¼ oz. Crème de Violet

2 dashes orange bitters

Add all ingredients to chilled stirring glass; add ice and stir. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange zest.

— “The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book