I'm having lots of fun with Old Tom gin lately. So much fun, in fact, that I had to do two weeks in a row of Old Tom cocktails.
See also: How to Make a Tom Collins the Right Way
This week is a cocktail to get lovers of Manhattans on to the joy of gin. It's the Ampersand, a positively ancient cocktail. It would have gone completely extinct if it weren't for the recent rediscovery of Old Tom Gin, the lighter, sweeter cousin to the London Dry gin more commonly available today.
The first known instance of the Ampersand goes back to just after the repeal of Prohibition, in The Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book that was published back in 1935. It's said that the drink got the name from the punctuation mark seen on a bottle of Martini & Rossi vermouth. It's as good of an origin story as any other.
When looking at the recipe, you'll see it's right in the wheelhouse of Martinis and Manhattans, with a base spirit, vermouth, and bitters. One might be tempted to modernize the recipe a little bit and reduce the amount of vermouth to a 3:1 or even 6:1 spirit-to-vermouth ratio. I'm sure that makes a fine drink, but remember that the ampersand on the vermouth bottle is where the drink got its name. The vermouth deserves equal billing with the spirits.
Before I hand over the recipe, I have to share a bit of linguistic trivia related to the drink. Did you know that the ampersand was once part of the English alphabet? It was more or less the 27th letter, right after Z.
Back then, the symbol didn't have a name; it was just "and". Since it was both a letter and a word of its own, when children recited the alphabet they would end with "and per se and", per se meaning "in and of itself". Over time, it slurred into "ampersand", and the ampersand itself fell off the end of the alphabet, leaving us with the 26 letters you know and love.
Now go find the "The More You Know" music clip on YouTube and make one of these.
Ampersand Cocktail 3/4 ounce cognac 3/4 ounce Old Tom gin 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth 1 or 2 dashes orange bitters
Stir well with ice cubes. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
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