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Taste Test: Scofflaw Old Tom Gin

By Paul Leddy in Food on Feb 22, 2013 4:00PM

Scofflaw Old Tom Gin is sold exclusively at Scofflaw.
Let’s say you're hosting a family reunion for the Gin family. The first to arrive is the patriarch of the family, Papa Genever: a big, bulky Dutchmen that despite his outward appearance, is a soft man with distinguished tastes. He mingles around the party talking about the “good, old days” as he heads straight to the bar.

Next to arrive, is Genever’s grandson who now lives in London. He has a dry sense of humor and a biting edge. It’s that edge that can turn off many people when they first meet him. He walks towards his grandfather arrogantly bragging about all the friends he has met at bars who reach for him when they need help with a cocktail.

The last to arrive to the party is London Gin’s father, Tom. Tom bridges the gap between the generations. He is lighter and less robust than his dad and he is more rich and intense than his son. He fondly remembers the days when he was the one that bartenders sought out when making a cocktail. In fact, after his son was born, many thought Old Tom would never reenter the cocktail world.

Well, he’s back.

Thanks to distillers like Hayman’s and Ransom, Old Tom Gin has been creeping back into the hands of bartenders and consumers wanting to recreate pre-prohibition cocktails (or create new ones) using the style of gin that was available then. Even within the Old Tom Gin category, the styles of Hayman’s and Ransom are vastly different because of the unique recipes and processes those distilleries use (Ransom, for example, lightly ages their product in wine barrels). Luckily, for Chicagoans, there is a new kid on the block that brings a new and interesting flavor profile from the Old Tom Gin’s out there.

Scofflaw partnered with North Shore Distillery close to a year ago to design an Old Tom Gin that they could use in the bar and sell to their customers. Through a little trial and error, they settled on a formula that was higher proof (90) than other Old Tom style gins in the market but still soft and full of flavor. In addition to the usual citrus and juniper, Scofflaw’s Old Tom Gin contains flavors of coriander, anise, and thanks to the osthmanthus blossoms, a light floral note.

Recently, I purchased a bottle of Scofflaw’s Old Tom Gin and compared it to its closest competitor, Hayman’s. I tasted the gins on their own and then in the classic cocktail recipes for Tom Collins and The Martinez (which I received from Scofflaw head bartender, Danny Shapiro). I also tried the gin in one of my favorite gin cocktails called the Army Navy cocktail (all the recipes are below).

In all of my taste tests, it was clear that Scofflaw’s gin brought out a fuller, more complex flavor than Hayman’s. Its flavoring is designed to be more of a star player in cocktails as it takes even the simplest cocktail to a whole new level. Shapiro shared that as they tried to hone in on a right formula to make a larger batch, they would make a Tom Collins cocktail to see how the gin would taste in it. The gin has a nice long, clean finish that Hayman’s didn’t have.

Hayman’s, it should be said, is an excellent gin; it has been a trailblazer since it was introduced in 2007. It is exciting, however, that for us Chicagoans, we have another Old Tom Gin to use when making classic cocktails or putting a different spin on a recipe that calls for a London-style Gin.

Tom Collins cocktails made with Hayman's (left) and Scofflaw (right)

Tom Collins
From Scofflaw

1.5oz Scofflaw Old Tom Gin
.75oz Lemon juice
.50oz Simple syrup (1:1)

Place ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and shake. Strain into an ice filled Collins glass and top with club soda.

Martinez cocktail made with Scofflaw Old Tom Gin

From Scofflaw

1.5oz Scofflaw Old Tom Gin
.75oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
.50oz Maraschino liqueur
Dash of Regan’s orange bitters

Add ingredients to mixing glass and add ice. Stir for about 10 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Army Navy Cocktail

2oz Scofflaw Old Tom Gin
.75oz Lemon juice
.50oz Orgeat (store-bought or homemade)
1 dash Angostura bitters

Place ingredients in a shaker tin with ice and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass.

You can drink Scofflaw Old Tom Gin at Scofflaw (3201 West Armitage) or purchase a bottle there ($35) to try at home.