Cat's Paw · Tapestry

Credit: Brian Samuels
By Eric Twardzik · 10/08/2018

The Cat’s Paw is a cocktail that plays with your head. It looks like a Manhattan—right down to the coupe glass and cherry garnish—but the first sip suggests otherwise.

The resemblance isn’t accidental. Tapestry bartender Ian Jones wanted to make a gin-based riff on the classic, and enlisted the once-forgotten Old Tom style of gin to do so. Old Tom, which had its heyday in the mid-to-late 1800s, is sweeter, softer, and more malty than the London Dry styles that later overtook it.

While Jones uses Ransom Old Tom Gin (a dark-hued version that’s aged in wine barrels for several months), he says that another barrel-aged Old Tom—such as Barr Hill’s Tom Cat Gin—can be substituted.

In the cocktail, that base spirit—along with some vermouth—activate the subtler notes of Bonal, a French aperitif made with bitter gentian root. “It brings out the nutty notes in Bonal, which is not something you get when you first try it,” Jones says.

The name itself touches on cocktail lore. According to Jones, underground bars in 18thcentury England would place an iron cat outside their premises. If a patron dropped coins into the cat’s paw, the owners would stick out a pipe filled with Old Tom and pour the coin-dropper a shot.

Like many drinking tales, it’s a great story that might be more entertaining than authentic.

“I really hope it’s true,” says Jones. “There’s so much myth behind cocktails.”

Cat’s Paw
1½ ounces Ransom Old Tom Gin (or another barrel-aged Old Tom)

¾ ounce Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth
½ ounce Bonal Gentiane-Quina
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters 
Luxardo cherry, for garnish

Add all ingredients to mixing glass filled with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into coupe glass and garnish with speared cherry.

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