Lately, I’ve been spending some quality time in the 19th century. I haven’t grown a walrus mustache or Civil War officer’s beard or mutton chops. Nor have I taken to wearing bowlers or top hats or an ascot with a stickpin. My time travel has been solely one of taste.
When it comes to spirits, the 19th century may be the last frontier. It makes sense. At this stage of the spirits market, we’ve already seen the reintroduction of foreign spirits formerly thought to be lost. Pre-Prohibition bar staples such as genever from the Netherlands, Old Tom gin from England, creme de violette from the Alps, maraschino liqueur from Italy and Croatia and batavia arrack from Indonesia were still being produced in their native countries, and savvy importers simply brought them back to American shelves, after an absence of a half-century or more.
Making the rare and obscure available again has driven the past decade’s cocktail renaissance. But where do we go from here? Apparently, we burrow deep into dusty old distilling recipes from the mid-19th century, if my recent tastings are any guide.