'Clap Your Hands' is part of a series of blog posts focusing on items which were previously unavailable or difficult to come by.

Maine has received an allotment of the limited edition bottling of Tanqueray Malacca. Initially released in 1997, Malacca didn't meet with a lot of commercial success. It was discontinued a few years later after the release of Tanqueray Ten. It did, however, have an impact on the spirits industry. In the years following its discontinuation the initial bottling became collectible as its unique flavor and finite availability drove prices up to as much as $200 a bottle. More importantly however, Malacca has since been identified as one of the earliest examples of a style of gin known by the relatively new designation 'new western dry'. Time will tell if this classification manages to gain traction but the ideas behind it make a lot of sense.

The establishment of a new category, separate from London dry, was intended to differentiate gins that significantly dial back the role played by juniper. Gins in the new western dry category still have a juniper presence but whereas a typical London dry like regular Tangueray or Beefeater will have juniper up front and intense, a new western dry gin will have a more restrained juniper presence allowing other botanicals to feature more prominently. There's still juniper involved just less brashly so. Ryan Magarian, of Aviation Gin has a much more thorough and informative breakdown of the classification here.

So what does it taste like? I tried it straight and the juniper/pine aroma that normally precedes a London dry was far more subdued. Certainly there was juniper but there were also warm spices - cloves, cinnamon, some anise maybe. And quite a bit of citrus which came through in the taste as well. It's sweeter than a London dry, softer, less bracing. There's a floral quality to it as well. I also thought I picked up on some lavender. I like it. I like juniper-forward gins also but the Malacca is bringing something different and as a result I wanted to try it in a few drinks.

Turf Club Cocktail
Turf Club Cocktail

Turf Club Cocktail - Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Angostura, Lemon Twist

Bitters come through along with the lemon oil from the garnish on the nose followed by a luxuriously smooth, thick silk of soft gin and vermouth. The gin harmonizes incredibly well with the vermouth here. Not pulling ahead with robust assertive juniper but rather letting its citrus and spice flavors co-mingle with those in the vermouth. David Wondrich suggested Malacca as substitute for Old Tom Gin in the Turf Club and it's easy to see why. The ingredients here are very comfortable with each other. There's no center stage. Gin does eventually edge its way to the front but softly so with a little bit of proof and spice at the end.

A/B'ing Hoffman Houses
A/B'ing Hoffman Houses

Hoffman House - Gin, Dry Vermouth, Orange Bitters, Lemon Twist

Two versions here. One with Dolin Dry, the other with Cocchi Americano. Technically, this drink should be made with dry vermouth. And that does indeed make for a tasty cocktail. However, I subbed the quinquina Cocchi Americano for the vermouth once and have usually made it that way ever since. It adds a soft roundness highlighted by citrus and a pleasant but not overwhelmingly bitter edge. Since Malacca itself is softer and with a pronounced citrus component it seemed worthwhile to revisit this recipe and see how the gin interacted with Dolin/Cocchi in what is basically a 2:1 Martini plus orange bitters.

Dry Vermouth - More bracing of the two. Vermouth up front yields quickly to the gin's botanicals. Really a good showcase for the Malacca. Vermouth complements nicely adding its own herbal contributions but lets the gin take most of the attention.

Cocchi - Citrus all over the place. Sweeter, but with a bitter quality that leans in around mid-palate and carries into a long finish. Tough to say where one component drops off and the other picks up. Softer than the Dolin version.

A/B'ing French Pearls
A/B'ing French Pearls

French Pearl - Gin, Absinthe, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Mint

Audrey Saunders' French Pearl is an amazing cocktail. The sum is so much greater than the parts - everything comes together in the glass and the result is a wonderfully rich, full-flavored cocktail. The original recipe specifies Plymouth for the gin so I thought I'd compare that version with one made with Malacca. The Malacca version was only slightly different. I wouldn't say its citrus asserts itself over the other ingredients but there is a nice lightness to it that complements the lime, absinthe and mint. Otherwise the differences were subtle at best and both versions were delicious.

Pink Gin
Pink Gin

Pink Gin - Gin, Angostura

Old school technique for this one is bitters plus gin (Plymouth usually). The other, more popular, technique is to add ice, stir and strain. While ice would likely make for a more accessible drink it's not like this gin is overproof and there was a certain appeal to the simple and unflinchingly direct impact of preparing it without ice. As a compromise I chilled the glass.

This drink is stiff, solid and intense. The Angostura and gin work well together. The warm spices of the bitters tie into those offered by the gin, adding depth while toning down the gin's brighter citrus qualities.

A/B'ing Dorchesters
A/B'ing Dorchesters

Dorchester - Gin, Lillet Blanc, Dubonnet Rouge, Curacao, Orange Twist

There are a lot of recipes which call for curacao. Usually in those cases I reach for Grand Marnier but I realize that's not really a direct substitute. Sometimes Cointreau works but that's not what the recipes had in mind either. Though Cointreau for triple sec is always a good bet and a solid upgrade. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is delicious and would no doubt be great in this drink but it's unavailable in Maine. Marie Brizard's curacao, heck, their whole line, would be nice to see up here as well. Anyway, what am I talking about? Back to the drink.

I figured this drink could provide an interesting opportunity to compare Cointreau and Grand Marnier and see how their individual properties work with this gin and the drink overall. When I'm at home I'm usually making two drinks at once anyway. Sometimes I'll make them exactly the same but usually I'll tweak one ingredient. It isn't that much more effort and it's fun to compare the end results while getting someone else's opinion on the matter.

The Dorchester with Cointreau led with orange oil from the garnish combined with Dubonnet and Cointreau. That transitioned nicely into more pronounced botanicals from the gin and lillet which carried into the finish. Cointreau has a nice slightly bittersweet edge which I thought worked well with the Malacca and the drink as a whole. The version with Grand Marnier had slightly more depth and was rounded where the Cointreau was direct. This version, Grand Marnier, was not quite as vibrant.

A/B'ing Nerinas
A/B'ing Nerinas

Nerina - Gin, Meletti Amaro, Punt e Mes

The Nerina is another drink calling for Plymouth. Since it's equal parts it adjusts easily when looking to try things out on a smaller scale. This drink opens up with a Meletti/Punt e Mes combination full of herbal, bitter, sweet and chocolate flavors. This transitions nicely into the contributions made by the gin. The version with Plymouth was softer and the chocolate in the Meletti came through unimpeded by the gin. That one had a nice dark weight to it. The version with Malacca brought a quality of lightness that was reminiscent of the role it played in the French Pearl. Differences here were subtle but it seemed the Malacca had an added crispness compared to the Plymouth.

A/B'ing Twentieth Centuries
A/B'ing Twentieth Centuries

Twentieth Century - Gin, Lillet Blanc, White Creme de Cacao, Lemon Juice

The Twentieth Century is a fascinating cocktail. It's so easy to mess up and get a drink that misses on one or multiple levels. When this drink works though it's amazing. There's a slight tension and yet a fantastically delicate harmony between an unusual set of ingredients. Gin, chocolate, lemon and an aromatized wine? Somehow it works. I have found, however, that this drink is not usually fond of substitutions. While I frequently employ Cocchi Americano where Lillet Blanc is called for (and sometimes for dry vermouth as noted above) this is one of the few where that substitution doesn't work so well. Ditto on the gin and cacao. Plymouth is my gin of choice for this drink but since the Malacca is softer, sweeter, and less juniper-y I wondered how its attributes would fare here.

Having tried them both I still prefer the Plymouth version. The Malacca didn't step on the other ingredients so much as pull at them in a distracting way. As a drink it was fine but its brighter citrus elements seemed to be just slightly at odds with the other ingredients. The Twentieth Century is an unusual cocktail and ultimately those citrus notes wanted more spotlight than the drink could afford.

Recipes:

Turf Club Cocktail - How to Mix Drinks - Bar-Keeper's Handbook, 1884
1 1/2 oz Old Tom Gin
1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Peruvian Bitters (sub Angostura)
Lemon Twist (optional)

Stir, Strain, Up

 

Hoffman House - Harry McElhone, Barflies and Cocktails, 1927
2 oz Gin
1 oz Dry Vermouth
2 dashes Orange Bittters
Garnish - Orange or Lemon Twist

Stir, Strain, Up

 

French Pearl - Audrey Saunders, Pegu Club, NYC
2 oz Plymouth Gin
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Absinthe
Mint

Mudlle mint with the rest of the ingredients, Shake, Double Strain, Up

 

Pink Gin - 1800's
2 oz Plymouth Gin
2-4 dashes bitters

Dash bitters in a glass, turn glass to coat the inside with the bitters, discard excess and pour in the gin.

 

Dorchester - An Anthology of Cocktails, Booth's Gin, 1930's
1 1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1/4 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1/2 tsp Orange Curacao
Garnish - Orange Twist

Stir, Strain, Up

 

Nerina - Employee's Only, NYC
1 1/4 oz Plymouth Gin
1 1/4 oz Meletti Amaro
1 1/4 oz Punt e Mes
Garnish - Orange Twist

Stir, Strain, Up

 

Twentieth Century - Credited to C.A. Tuck in William Tarling's Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, 1937
1 1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
1/2 oz White Creme de Cacao, Marie Brizard 
1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Shake, Strain, Up