Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Remsen Cooler Will Remind You of Summer No Matter What Time of Year

As you peruse the shelves at your local liquor store this holiday season, you may come across a bottle of Old Tom gin. We’ve talked about Old Tom gin before in an earlier post. It’s slightly sweet, and the Hayman’s Old Tim gin discussed is not so juniper forward. If you pick up a bottle for the Holidays, and you’re into Martinis, then do try the Improved Tom Gin Cocktail that we adapted in that write-up. But if you want something not so boozy, try a Remsen Cooler. This refreshing elixir made with Old Tom gin and soda was putatively created in the mid 1800s by one William R. Remsen, a retired navy officer, who made them for the men of the private Union Club in New York City, of which he was an imbibing member. Cut to 2010, and at Paul’s office there works a woman named Michele Remsen, a writer who occasionally likes to kick back with a gin cocktail in her hand after a hard day of turning a phrase. Could she be a descendant of the esteemed William R.? And is liking gin hardwired into our genetic code? Regardless, the Remsen Cooler may appeal to anyone who enjoys a highball. It may appeal more during the hotter months or in warmer climates, but having one now as the weather turns frosty in many parts of the world will take you back to summer barbecues and afternoon cocktail parties.

What makes a Remsen Cooler special is the wide swath of lemon peel that’s required to gussy up the drink and give it some bright citrus flavor. If you plan on making a bunch of Remsen Coolers, make sure to buy some extra lemons so you can practice on a few using a vegetable peeler to remove the rind in one go. It takes a little getting used to, but hold the lemon in one hand, and start peeling it as you would an apple in one long, wide spiral. Just keep turning the lemon as if your hand were a lathe, and let the peeler do its magic. If, after you’re done, a lot of the white pith remains on the underside of the peel, you can remove it by laying down the peel with the pith side up, and scraping it off gently with a small knife.

Just make sure you also have a lot of ice, and thirsty party guests, and you’re all set. If you can’t find Old Tom gin, you can do one of two things: (1) substitute your favorite gin (try Bulldog or New Amsterdam) and add some confectioners’ or superfine sugar, or (2) try another sweet-ish gin, such as Beefeater 24. Remember, all gin are not created equal. They are as disparate as Chihuahuas and Great Danes, and every breed in between.

To make a Remsen Cooler, some dexterity is required:

Remsen Cooler
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Old Tom Gin*
very long, wide lemon peel (with no pith)**

1) In a highball or collins glass, place one end of the lemon peel at the bottom so that the shiny side is pressed up against the inside of the glass, and drop in a few ice cubes to anchor it. Then slowly twist the peel up against the glass and press it as it spirals toward the top (this will release some of the lemon oil), all the while adding more ice to keep it in place, filling the glass.

2) When the lemon peel and ice are in place, add the gin, then top with soda. Give a quick stir.

* You can substitute another gin for Old Tom gin, plus 1/2 teaspoon superfine or 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar. To make this version, add the peel, then the sugar to the glass, followed by the gin. Stir, making sure you press the peel against the glass to release the oils. Add ice, making sure the peel spirals to the top, then top with soda.

** One peel will last for several drinks per glass.

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