So after reading the Chronicle's much better summation (see the link in the post below) of up and coming aperitifs, I was motivated to try the Vesper #2 that Heaven's Dog has added to their cocktail menu - without actually driving up to Heaven's Dog. I already had a bottle of the Cocchi and some brandy at home, but I needed a bottle of the Ransom Old Tom gin - something we carry, but that I had never actually tasted. It's made in Oregon and is barrel aged with just a touch of sweetness - more so than the Heyman's which I had just run out of. Upon tasting the Ransom I was very impressed. It was more what I had originally expected Old Tom gin to taste like.
If you're wondering what Old Tom gin is exactly, it's a style not a brand. London Dry gin is called dry to distinguish it from slightly sweet gins. Old Tom gins are always a bit sweet as they were the original ingredient in the Tom Collins. From Wikipedia: The name purportedly came from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an "Old Tom") mounted on the outside wall of some pubs above a public walkway in the 1700s England. After a pedestrian deposited a penny in the cat's mouth, they would place their lips around a small tube between the cat's paws. From the tube would come a shot of Gin, poured there by the bartender inside the pub. They mix better than dry gins with sweeter cocktails like the Martinez or the Negroni. The Vesper, however, sees no addition of sweet vermouth, so it's interesting that HD decided to go down that route. I see the merit in this cocktail however and after getting a tip on what the basic formula should be I was ready to get down to business.
I tried to follow the classic cocktail mentality that your drink should always be at least 50% of its base - so:
1 oz. gin - .5 oz Cocchi - .5 oz. brandy - this tasted OK, but the Cognac overpowered.
I decided to beef it up a bit on the Cocchi and rather than decrease the brandy, I added more gin - that's the sweet spot!
What a fantastic cocktail. You get all the herbacious qualities of the gin, the bitter notes from the Cocchi, and the brandy just helps to smooth it out a bit. This is what James Bond wished he would have ordered in Casino Royal, rather than some bizzare vodka/gin/kina Lillet martini.