In 1925 London, “hot cocktails” were all the rage thanks to Harry Craddock, that famous Savoy bartender, whom a pond-hopping Chicago Tribune reporter cited as “providing a hot cocktail for visitors from the cold outside world,” using “a new shaker” with “a hot water jacket that is replenished at regular intervals by an assistant.”1 Craddock was said to have had “three special mixtures” meant for his hot shaker, and his drinks were all the rage that winter, drawing folks to the Savoy to have a nice hot cocktail on a cold winter’s day.2
But what wonderful concoction was Craddock making, exactly? To find out, I turned once again to the gorgeous Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), Craddock’s masterwork of vintage cocktail recipes—and it turns out that, aside from the outlandish Ale Flip, the only drink served hot in the entire book was…
THE GIN SLING (1930):
Dissolve 1 Teaspoon of Sugar in Water.
1 Glass Dry Gin.
1 Lump of Ice.
Serve in long tumbler and fill with water or soda; if served hot a little nutmeg [grated] on top. (Craddock, pg. 190)
When I first read Craddock’s recipe, I was rather surprised. To begin with, I’m not really a fan of gin, but…HOT gin?! That sounded even worse! :p
According to this Huffington Post article, however, hot gin is actually pretty great—especially if you don’t like gin. Once heated, “certain flavor compounds” in gin are suppressed, and the “botanical notes” come out more clearly, giving the drink a new “depth of flavor” that it otherwise lacks when cold.
Thanks to this “more spicy, floral, or fruity” kick, hot gin became a popular holiday drink in Britain during the 1700s, where it was a featured part of outdoor fairs on the frozen Thames. It was also a popular drink in Colonial America, where it was considered particularly “American” in nature and was related to flips, another hot alcoholic drink.
As a result, hot gin slings are common in many early cocktail guides prior to Craddock’s time. Technically, the drink can be served either hot or cold, as this recipe from Thomas Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them (1904) shows, but both varieties are present. Interestingly, some vintage recipes, like this one in Tim Daly’s Bartender’s Encyclopedia (1903), call for Holland gin instead—which technically isn’t gin at all, though it is flavored with juniper. One might also argue that they’re related to skins, which are cocktails made with hot water, a strong spirit like brandy, gin, or whiskey, and a twist of lemon. Some recipes, like this one from George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks (1900), combine both by directing the bartender to “add a piece of lemon peel” and “grate a little nutmeg on top,” as for a Hot Brandy Sling, while swapping out the brandy for gin.
Whatever recipe you pick, however, it seems that hot gin has become increasingly popular in the past couple years, especially around Christmas time. According to Good Housekeeping, you can expect drinks featuring hot gin on winter menus this year, especially in the form of Gin Hot Toddies, an alternative to the classic Hot Toddy.
Want to add some hot gin to spice up your own drink this winter? If so, Huffington Post writer Nastasha Hinde recommends “heating it gradually in a saucepan” on the stove, “but make sure you don’t burn or boil it,” because too much heat will “easily weaken the alcohol content” if you’re not careful.
Have you ever had a sip of hot gin, dear readers? If so, did you like it or not? And what did it taste like to you—fruity, floral, or something else? Or maybe you’ve had one of its cousins, the Singapore Sling? If so, I’d love to know what you thought of it. Let me know in the Comments section below! 🙂
Works Cited (The Ones Without Hyperlinks):
1. Nancy, R. “Winter Tempered to London by Newest in Drinks–Hot Cocktail.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 30, 1925. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180739888?accountid=3688.