Tag Archives: gin

Happy Birthday Charles Tanqueray!

charles tanqueray simple cocktails

There are few historical figures that I celebrate on an annual basis, but Charles Tanqueray (born March 27, 1810) is one of them. Gin was the first spirit I fell in love with, and Tanqueray has always been my gold standard for London Drys. The following is an excerpt of an interview I did with Tom Nicol, Tanqueray’s previous master distiller.

“Tanqueray was a genius” says Nicol, explaining that  Charles was passionate about making things and he invented many items – other than gin – over the course of his life. Some examples include a formula for horse saddle polish and medicines for injured animals.

It’s often reported that Charles rejected his father’s life in the church to distill gin, but there’s no evidence that Charles was on track to the clergy at any point. He was smart, to be sure, but Charles didn’t show any interest in attending university, and that was required for the pulpit. He sought to invent, to create, and to experiment.

Charles eyed other successful British gin distillers Felix Booth and Alexander Gordon, and decided to create “a better gin than theirs,” says Nichol. In his early 20’s, Charles Tanqueray developed several gin recipes, but it was his London Dry recipe that proved unforgettable. Nichol says “Charles won the lottery with that one.”

Charles Tanqueray reveled in his success. “He wasn’t the genius recluse like we sometimes see today, but Nicol recons that he was a genius who told everybody he was a genius. From his proud stature, to his knee-length frock coat, to his stately moustache and beard, Nichol says that “Charles liked to show off his success.”

Though he was a proud man, Tanqueray’s personal life is strangely undocumented. This leaves us to wonder: was Tanqueray obsessed with his business, but absent from his family? Or was he just a very private man who sought to protect his loved ones? By any account, we know few details of his personal life, in fact, we’re not exactly sure how many children Charles had.

The one child we do know of, though, is Charles Waugh Tanqueray, who took over his father’s distillery after his father died at 58. Tanqueray’s historians call Charles Waugh “an upright Christian gentleman of forceful character yet with social conscience,” and just like his father, Charles Waugh was a very young man when he began distilling. More of a businessman than an inventor, Charles’ son placed his attention on gin exclusively, resulting in Charles Waugh growing the Tanqueray brand much larger than his father, including his facilitating a merger with Gordon’s Gin—one of his father’s inspirations and competitors—in  the late 1800’s.

Charles Tanqueray really seems to have been a proud genius who both flaunted his talent and shrouded his family in mystery. Today, Tanqueray stands as one of the oldest and most successful gins in the history of the world.

*Photo courtesy Diageo Archives.

St. Augustine Distillery New World Gin

st augustine gin

Hailing from the U.S.’s “oldest city,” St. Augustine Distillery distills New World Gin from sugar cane.

St. Augustine Distillery is based out of St. Augustine, Florida, a city founded in 1565 by the Spanish. The distillery was established in an old ice plant and distills all their products from Florida Cane Sugar. To my knowledge, Florida cane has never made its way into gin. I’ve always associated cane sugar with rum of course, or maybe sodas like Mountain Dew and Pepsi in their “Throwback” line, but gin?

New World Gin has a solid juniper base and a fragrant nose. I was surprised by the powerful but welcome bite that came with the first sip. If bite is your game, then this is the gin for you. The juniper is followed by a blend of orange, lemon, and cassia bark, angelica, and a number of other botanicals. then there’s the Florida cane sugar that adds a sweet and unique quality to New World. There’s a pleasantly sweet, spicy finish and lingering bite in the finish.

New World Gin can be purchased directly at St. Augustine Distillery Co. or on their website for about $30. They also distill Florida Cane Vodka and their Discovery Rum there, and are working to get their product distributed nationally as well.

Ransom Old Tom Gin

Ransom Old Tom Gin

Old Tom is a type of gin that dates back to the 1700s, and it ends up being the hybrid of London dry gin, genever, and whiskey (yes, whiskey). The legendary root of the “Old Tom” name is that in English alleyways during the gin craze, wooden cats would adorn the walls outside bars, and upon inserting your coin into the old tom cat, a proper dispense of gin would pour out, and you could be on your way after a slurp!

I started this review, then, by constructing a wooden cat dispenser in order to properly taste this gin.

I’m just kidding. It’s become a bit of a life’s goal for me, though, to try every gin that I can, and once I discovered that some new companies have begun distilling Old Tom, I had to get my hands on some. From what I can tell, only one brand of Old Tom gin is distilled and distributed in the United States: Ransom.

Old Tom is a sweeter gin than London dry, but more “gin-like” than genever. Ransom Old Tom’s base is malted barley (like scotch), and it’s aged for a short time in barrels, so I had no idea what to expect flavor-wise. I suppose I thought I would be drinking some sort of Southern Comfort-style sweet whiskey with some juniper flavor?

Now that I’ve cracked off it’s wax seal and had a taste, I can tell you that Ransom Old Tom is astounding gin, tasting completely gin-like and familiar, but with an added spice and a tiny sweetness that lingers long on the tongue. Ransom Old Tom is most definitely perfect in a Gin Old Fashioned:

Gin Old Fashioned

  • Add 1 sugar cube (or spoon of sugar) to an old fashioned glass
  • Douse with 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Add a splash of club soda and stir well
  • Fill glass with ice, add 2 oz of old tom gin, stir until cold
  • Take a piece of orange peel, squeeze over the glass and rub it around the rim
  • Top with another splash of club soda
  • Garnish with the orange peel and a cherry (I wrap the cherry in the peel)

Ransom Old Tom Gin retails for $37.

Aviation Gin

Aviation Gin

From the great state of Oregon comes Aviation Western Dry Gin, a $30 bottle with quite a bit of character. When I taste gin, I always have it stirred on ice and strained into a chilled glass, like a 100% dry martini. I’ve found it helps me nail down the stand-out flavors of each bottle, and with gin, there’s always a stand-out flavor. Juniper may seem the obvious choice, but depending on the distillery, citrus, spice, or some other botanical may lead the way.

Aviation says that Western Dry gin takes its cues from London Dry gin, but also lets another flavor “share the stage” with the juniper. With Aviation, it’s lavender, and this is the most floral gin I’ve tried yet. So what do you do with a floral gin? A martini is always a great way to enjoy the subtle differences between gins, and making one with lavender flower garnishes instead of an olive is great. Beyond that, though, is the classic cocktail that shares it’s name with this very gin: the Aviation.


  • 2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur (like Luxardo)
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • Shake and strain into a cocktail glass
  • Garnish with a cherry

Old Fashioned

This is simple in it’s ingredients, a little fancy in it’s preparation. Oh and it’s the best cocktail ever.

Rye Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

  • Add 1 sugar cube (or spoon of sugar) to an old fashioned glass
  • Douse with 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Add a splash of club soda and stir well
  • Fill glass with ice, add 2 oz of rye whiskey, stir until cold
  • Take a piece of orange peel, squeeze over the glass and rub it around the rim
  • Top with another splash of club soda
  • Garnish with the orange peel and a cherry (I wrap the cherry in the peel)

Gin Old Fashioned

Gin Old Fashioned

  • Add 1 sugar cube (or spoon of sugar) to an old fashioned glass
  • Douse with 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Douse with 2 dashes of orange bitters.
  • Add a splash of club soda and stir well
  • Fill glass with ice, add 2 oz of gin, stir until cold
  • Take a piece of orange peel, squeeze over the glass and rub it around the rim
  • Top with another splash of club soda
  • Garnish with the orange peel and a cherry (I wrap the cherry in the peel)

Bluecoat Gin

bluecoat gin

Bluecoat Gin is an “American Dry Gin” distilled 5 times in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s made from all natural, organic ingredients, including a “proprietary citrus blend” (more on that in a moment), and it comes in a sexy etched blue bottle. I tried it for the first time in a martini, which I’d argue is the perfect apéritif (before dinner) drink. I added 2 1/2 oz of Bluecoat, 1/2 oz dry vermouth, and stirred until ice-cold, then strained into a chilled glass with an olive garnish.

Gin geek rant (everyone else, skip down a paragraph): Bluecoat is a very tasty gin, and as I taste more and more gins, I’ve come to realize that unbridled citrus can spoil the flavor of gin for me. John Bernasconi (KGB Spirits owner) told me he discovered that too much citrus causes a gin to clash with the olive garnish in a martini. Since I made this discovery, I realize that my gin palate has me loving a gin like Tanqueray the most and further down would be a gin like Bombay Sapphire. The more prominent the juniper and more muted the citrus, the more I like it. Here’s a quote (by me): “I want my gin to taste more like pine trees and less like an orange grove.” A gin like Martin Miller’s Gin, though, has some subtle, soft citrus flavors, but still tastes good to a juniper lover like me. This brings us back to Bluecoat.

Unless citrus is handled properly in a gin, it can detract from my enjoyment and the mixability of that gin. While Bluecoat proudly touts citrus on the ingredient list, the gin still works incredibly well in a martini. The unique flavor you’ll find in Bluecoat is a mid-drink sweetness that still finishes quite dry. This is a good gin to drink straight, too, as it’s got some great complexities to it’s flavor. If you love gin, I think you’ll appreciate Bluecoat. God bless America.

Book Review: Gin: A Global History

gin a global history book

I just finished reading Gin: A Global History, which I won from 12 Bottle Bar. David and Leslie run the site over there and since Leslie Solmonson’s the author, she also graciously signed the book before sending it to me.

This is part of the Edible Series on food and drink by Reaktion Books, and the series also has books on wine, rum, whiskey, or even cake, sandwiches, and potatoes. They’re small books, 8″x5″, hardbacks with matching vanilla colored dust covers, each with a simple illustration. They are usually around 150 pages, and they make great coffee table books. The Gin book  has 140 pages of content and 15 pages of recipes and reference.

Gin: A Global History is a good book and the brevity makes it easy to read and enjoy. The illustrations and images are big and colorful, so the text here is to the point. Just like it’s title says, it’s a good, concise global history of gin.

gin a global history book

My favorite part is later in the book when the types of gin are compared and described – London Dry’s juniper-forward flavor in Tanqueray or Beefeater, the more Americanized citrus-forward gins like Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray 10, or the new style craft gins such as Hendrick’s and Aviation. I’ve had trouble figuring out why I don’t like Sapphire, and this section alone helped me get to the bottom of it.

Gin: A Global History is a great book, and if you like gin it’s a must-buy.  Having 10 pages of gin based recipes in the back is a nice bonus, and the first one I’m going to try is the Gin and Tonic Sorbet!

Buy the book here and make sure you visit 12 Bottle Bar.  Their site is very similar to ours in that they aim to make home cocktail making accessible for everyone.

The Gibson

Gibson cocktail

This is a great opportunity to use your smaller glassware…the “classic” stuff.


  • 2 oz. gin
  • a splash of dry vermouth
  • garnish with a cocktail onion

Some suggest that you simply wave the vermouth bottle over the glass, making for a truly dry drink (i.e. straight gin), I go with a little splash though.  Shake or stir with lots of ice until freezing cold with a nice layer of ice on top, strain into a 2 1/2 oz cocktail glass and drink immediately.

As I noted with a martini before, put ice water in the empty glass while you’re mixing – it gets the glass just as cold as freezing it would, but it’s much easier.  The key to this drink is cold!

Gin Rickey

gin rickey

For several months, a Gin and Tonic has been a good go-to drink for me.  I always get my tonic water at Whole Foods to avoid the high-fructose corn syrup that swims in Schwepp’s.  They have their own 365 Every Day Value brand for $2.50 for a six-pack of bar-friendly cans. Now while I like the flavor of tonic water, I wish I could reduce the sweetness of it.

Tonic water is bubbly water with quinine, citrus, and sugar.  Club soda is bubbly water, nothing more.  Whole Foods has some of that too. I googled club soda, lime, and gin to discover it’s already a common cocktail that I have heard of several times: The Gin Rickey!  Here’s the recipe:

Gin Rickey

  • In a 10-oz glass filled with ice, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lime (I like it with more)
  • top with club soda (about 3-4 ounces)

You’ll end up with a drier, more refreshing, more sour alternative to the Gin & Tonic!  Yum!

Pink Gin

1 1/2 oz gin
3 or more dashes of bitters

Shake with ice, strain into cocktail glass.

About the simplest cocktail out there.  Clearly, you should use good gin and I recommend Angostura or Peychaud’s bitters.