New York Distilling in Williamsburg, Brooklyn makes two very delicious types of gin: Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin and Dorothy Parker Gin. The names are not just clever, there’s actually some history behind them. So here’s a little background info on two famous drinkers and the gin they inspired.
Perry's Tot Navy Strength Gin
First of all, let's establish just what navy strength gin means. Back in day, the British Royal Navy brought barrels of gin on their long sea voyages (because what goes better with the rocking of a ship than a tipsy sailor?). They must have spilled a barrel or two along the way, and realized that lower-proof gin ruined gunpowder if it spilled — but high-proof gin did not. So the Royal Navy began to carry gin of 57% alcohol by volume (ABV). Most gin today is bottled at 40% ABV, so you'll notice a sharper bite to any navy strength gin you try.
On to the man named Perry — Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the U.S. Navy — who inspired New York Distilling's navy strength gin. An advocate of new technology and education, Perry helped to push the U.S. Navy into the modern era in the mid-1800s. He established training and education programs for new seamen and urged the use of steam engines in new ships. After planting the American flag on Key West to claim the islands for our country, Perry was appointed as commander of the New York Navy Yard (in Brooklyn) in 1840. He lived in Vinegar Hill, just blocks from the Navy Yard (the building is still there).
New York Distilling says, “We celebrate the attitude and approach that connects the ingenuity and grit of 19th century Brooklyn with contemporary enthusiasts who continue to revive an American cocktail culture.”
There are plenty of recipes out there that call for navy strength gin, but you should first try Perry's Tot Navy Strength Gin in a Gin and Tonic. Plain as this drink may be, it harkens back to the British Royal Navy's occupation of Indonesia. Malaria was a common ailment, but the sailors found that drinking a mixture of sugar, water, lime and gin could ward off infection. Huzzah!
Dorothy Parker American Gin
Another famous New Yorker — and perhaps the quintessential New York intellectual — Dorothy Parker was a prolific writer who ran in New York's intellectual circles in the early 1900s. She wrote for Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker, and Esquire. She also wrote poetry, short stories and screenplays. Along with two other writers, Parker was a founding member of the famous Algonquin Round Table, a weekly gathering of writers and actors. It's the kind of thing we modern folks romanticize, this meeting in person to discuss things face-to-face (by why bother going out when you can just send someone a Facebook message instead?).
Like many American intellectuals, Parker was labeled a Communist and blacklisted in Hollywood in the 1950s. The FBI file on Parker is a whopping 9,000 pages long. In addition to activities that flirted with Communism, she became an outspoken advocate for civil liberties in the U.S. She left her estate to Martin Luther King Jr.
It was also around this time that Parker began drinking more — a lot more. Parker's poetry continued to improve, but we can't really say if that's because of age and maturity, or because of the booze. She was one of those writers whose brilliance was either fueled by or ruined by alcohol.
But as the guys at New York Distilling say, “no one could have been a more interesting drinking companion.” For an authentic Dorothy Parker moment (please skip the depression and suicide attempts, let's stick to her wit, ok?), try Dorothy Parker American Gin in a Martini.
I like to have a martini
Two at the very most.
Three, I’m under the table
Four, I’m under the host