It seems fitting on Melbourne Cup Day to share the Turf Club, possibly the first recorded cocktail to combine gin and vermouth, and named after the ‘turf clubs’ where rich men drank and gambled on the horses.
The oldest mention of a Turf Club is in George Winter’s 1884 book ‘How to Mix Drinks-Bar-Keeper’s-Handbook, which is the recipe I’ve used, but there are several variations of this drink some featuring maraschino liqueur and abinsthe. I might give those a whirl later.
This recipe calls for Old Tom gin and Italian vermouth (sweet), although it is likely to have also been made with ‘Holland’ (genever style gin) which was the most-used style of gin in the US at that time. This combination creates a sweet martini and early recipes, according to David Wondrich in his book, Imbibe, also included a dash of ‘gum’ (sugar syrup). Modern drinkers can manage without this addition as the Turf Club is definitely sweet enough!
I opted to use Punt e Mes (the name means one point of sweetness and a half of bitterness) to offset the sweetness of the Tanqueray Old Tom.
Drinks in these early years were served ‘straight up’, often with no garnish, but you could add a twist of lemon if you like.
Ingredients for a Turf Club
45ml Old Tom Gin
45ml Italian vermouth
2-3 dashes of bitters (the original recipe calls for Peruvian bitters, I used Angoustura)
Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice. Stir gently for 30-45 seconds and then double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.