If you want something not so boozy this summer, try a Remsen Cooler. This refreshing elixir made with Old Tom gin (a slightly sweet version of London dry gin that goes way back) 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.
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.Remsen Cooler
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.
The Remsen Cooler will pair with lots of party food: chips and dip, shrimp cocktail, almost anything savory.
* 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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Photo (c) Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz