In general, whiskey and gin occupy very different spaces in the cocktail world. Gin: Unaged, clear, herbaceous. Whiskey: Dark and more robust.
But there are some styles of gin that break this paradigm—like Barr Hill’s exceptional barrel-aged gin, which they’ve dubbed “Tom Cat Gin.” The Vermont distillery makes its spirits with raw honey, giving them a unique, slightly floral character, and then ages the gin for six months in new American oak barrels, just as you would a bourbon. It lends the spirit weight and body, while it still has the complex aromatics of juniper.
The effect is something between whiskey and gin—and what sounds more appealing in cocktails than that? Here are three of our favorites.
Easy: Tom Cat’s Bees Knees
The Bee’s Knees, one of those dead-simple classics that should really be better known, is simply a gin sour made with honey. And given the honey in this spirit, the Bee’s Knees was an obvious candidate. Thanks to the extra weight from the barrel-aging, the effect is something between a classic Bee’s Knees and a whiskey sour—perfect spring drinking.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine two ounces of Tom Cat Gin, an ounce of fresh lemon juice, and ¾ ounce honey syrup (that’s just honey cut 1:1 with hot water and stirred until dissolved). Shake until very well-chilled and strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel.
Intermediate: Mint Martini
Any kind of gin works well with fresh herbs. Here, we’re using a muddler to press gently on the mint—don’t pound it up, or the drink will be bitter—releasing its flavor into the gin and vermouth. As clean and potent as a classic martini, but with a character all its own.
Instructions: Add ten mint leaves to a mixing glass with no ice, then add one ounce of Tom Cat Gin. Gently press mint leaves with a muddler. Add another ounce of the Tom Cat, and an ounce of dry vermouth, and lots of ice. Stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a mint sprig, tapped against the palm of your hand to release its herbal aromas.
Advanced: Tom Cat Fizz
Here we’re playing up the rich flavors of the Tom Cat Gin with egg white, which lends drinks a silky, creamy texture; lemon and a bit of sugar balance it out. Perhaps the classiest imaginable brunch drink, or an ideal spring aperitif.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker without ice, combine an ounce and a half of Tom Cat Gin, an ounce of fresh lemon juice, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, and one egg white. Shake very hard without ice, open shaker, add ice, and shake again until very well-chilled. Double-strain into a tall glass without ice. Gently pour in 2 ounces of club soda. Garnish with two straws.
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