Tom Collins cocktails are making a major comeback, and it's not surprising. It's hard to go wrong with something as refreshing as gin, sugar, lemon juice and club soda -- or the creative riffs a classic combo invites. Last week, a dozen of the Bay Area's best bartenders came together at The Claremont Hotel's Meritage restaurant for a battle royale -- or rather, a mixology melee -- to determine the ultimate St. George Tom Collins cocktail. The Alameda-based craft distillery provided its St. George Botanivore Gin. The rest was up to the bar mavens from Alameda's American Oak, Oakland's Bocanova, Walnut Creek's Eleve and Redwood City's Martins West, among others.
The winner: A Caprese Collins designed by Jay Crabb, from Berkeley's BUILD Pizzeria Roma (and formerly with Walnut Creek Yacht Club, where he won the Best of the East Bay martini honors in 2011). Crabb, who was kind enough to share the recipe, infused his gin with olive oil first, using a fat-washing technique -- basically, you add the fat, freeze the mixture, then strain it -- that leaves the flavor but not the oily mouth-feel.
You may want to simply use the Botanivore gin as is. It's an herbaceous gin flavored with 19 botanicals, including citrus peel, dill seed, angelica root and citra hops. (Editor's note: It's lovely stuff.) Actually, the recipe involves enough homemade pepper tinctures and basil infusions, you may want to just head over to BUILD and ask Crabb to make it for you. And next time you hear the term "craft cocktail," you'll know exactly what that means.
1 3/4 ounce olive oil-washed Botanivore gin
3/4 ounce heirloom tomato water
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce homemade basil-infused simple syrup
3 drops homemade Calabrian tincture
Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Fine-strain it into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with a splash of chilled seltzer water. Garnish with a caprese skewer -- half a cherry tomato, a small mozzarella ball, pepper and basil.