This cocktail predates the Ford motorcar company, so it is not named after them or Henry Ford. Based upon gin, the drink is made more complete through the inclusion of vermouth, bitters, and Bénédictine.
Ted Haigh cites the first source of this as George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks from 1895, and is likely named for Malcom Webster Ford, “famed champion athlete, journalist, and great-grandson of Noah Webster[,]” whose name, evoking images of lexicons of the English language bound in leather tomes, is not far from the mark (Haigh 136). Noah Webster is the creator of the Webster dictionary, and helped to publish textbooks, while writing a profilic amount of text. Contrary to how we conceive of him now a days, he died rather in obscurity, since his dictionary was not well recognized yet; his descendent, Malcom Webster Ford, for whom the cocktail was named, committed suicide in 1902 on account of financial problems. The cocktail itself is a bit better than the end that both of these men received, though, it is rare and not well known.
According to Haigh, the drink is also known as a Vancouver if made with sweet vermouth (ibid 137). personally, both versions are extremely good, provided you use fresh vermouth; of course the drink is made better through the use of gins with a little bit more sweetness, hence Old Tom gin; however, in the case of the Vancouver version, the cocktail works exceedingly well with an earthier gin, such as a Genevieve style. As such, I recommend Bols Genever for that purpose. In actuality, you can also get away with using a Genevieve style gin in place of the Old Tom for the drier version, but it isn’t necessarily as well balanced unless you absolutely prefer cocktails approaching a lower limit for sugar. Really though, it is your preference on the gin selection.
For bitters, the two main orange bitters on the market, Angostura Orange and Regan’s Orange work really differently in this cocktail: the inclusion of the Angostura gives it a bit more vivid brightness, and makes the drink more light and floral, pulling out the brighter notes of the gin; while the inclusion of the Regan’s pulls out the flavor from the Bénédictine, and blends together the spices. I think that a dash of each is rather good course towards mediating and pulling all the flavors together.
1 ounce Old Tom Gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
3 dashes Bénédictine
3 dashes orange bitters
Combine over cracked ice, stirring well, straining into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.
Haigh, Ted. 2009. Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails: From the Alamagoozlum to the Zombie and Beyond. Beverly, Massachusetts: Quarry Books.