Ransom Old Tom Gin: Not Your Mother's Gin

Categories: Booze

A friend and I had just settled in to the bar at Simone on Sunset, a new wine and cocktail bar in Rice Village, when she commenced her preaching on the subject of gin.

"I consider myself a gin missionary," she said.

"A ginvangelist?" I punned back.

"Yes," she declared. "A ginvangelist!" She continued: "And I've tried nearly every gin in the world, but nothing compares to Ransom."

I wasn't sure what she was talking about, but I shortly received an education from my friend -- as well as from Simone's genial owner, Kristen Powell -- on the topic of barrel-aged gin. Ransom Old Tom is such a gin, out of Oregon, that more closely approximates what a gin would have tasted like in the 19th century. Appropriate for this whole classic cocktail movement, no?

My friend ordered a cocktail with the Ransom in it, as well as two small glasses to try for a side-by-side comparison: one with Hendrick's, which is a classic example of London dry gin, and one with Ransom. The barrel-aged Ransom is an example of Old Tom gin, gin that's brown in color and slightly sweet instead of decidedly juniper-forward, but it's the London dry that's more popular these days.

One sip of the Hendrick's, which has never appealed to me (I'm a Tanqueray fan), tasted like lightly juniper-flavored vodka. Which is to say, not good. But one sip of the Ransom and it was a rush of different flavors that culminated in me sputtering: "It tastes like whiskey-gin!" Which is to say, very good.

The Ransom had a slight oakiness to it that manifested more as smoke and vanilla than anything else, subtly enhancing the fresh taste of the base spirit with a very soft, mature undertone. And as if vanilla wasn't enough, the bold warmth of cardamom came charging through as well. It was like slipping into a pair of beautiful, very expensive calf's leather shoes.

In the cocktail, a Horse's Neck (also known as a Kentucky Gentleman), the Ransom was combined with a bright twist of lemon that teased out the citrus undertones in the gin -- yes, they're certainly there -- and ginger ale that gave it a slight bite. The drink made all memories of gin and tonics past seem like the schmaltzy Amaretto Sunrises I blithely enjoyed in college.

Simone is one of the few bars in town to stock Ransom if you'd like to perform your own taste test at your leisure. You can also find it at other classic cocktail-oriented places such as Anvil Bar & Refuge, Haven and Grand Prize Bar. And, of course, you can grab your own bottle at Spec's for just a hair under $35.

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I really wouldn't call Hendrick's a "classic example of London dry gin." It's intense cucumber-floral flavor is different enough from regular gin that if you order a Hendrick's and tonic it (should--I've had amateur bartenders who don't do this, to the deficit of the drink) get topped with a slice of cucumber instead of the classic lime wedge because (speaking from experience now) the lime wedge throws off the whole flavor of the drink. It's a discordant element, as opposed to in a G&T made with a more standard gin where the lime blends much better.


Gin is kind of a love it or hate it alcoholic beverage. I moved from Tanqueray/Bombay to Hendricks many moons ago, though. My new love, however, is Bluecoat Gin. Poor a little bit of this and garnish with cucumber? Perfection.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Excellent! I've been working on liking gin again. Tanqueray and I are done for good, I know that, though Hendrick's has been good luck for me, particularly in my Pimm's Cups. I will have to grab this up next time I'm at Spec's.


I'd be interested to see what drinks Nicholas would come up with using a barrel-aged gin. 

I'm curious - is it really as strongly flavored as a whiskey, or is it more softly flavored with the oakiness/spiciness of the barrel?  I'm not a whiskey/scotch fan because the oakiness is too aggressive for me, but I'd be intrigued to try this.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

Actually, I think a lot of recipes for an Aviation call for Old Tom Gin. I don't believe that all Old Tom is aged, though. Hayman's, for example, which I know some folk prefer as the gin of choice in an Aviation.

A while back, I made a batch of American Beautyberry infused gin. Its flavor profile is actually somewhat close to Ransom, in a way. I've had luck shaking it up with citrus and simple syrup, sometimes with a bit of mint or basil. Think hybrid whiskey/gin smash, and you're on the right track.

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