Just another selection of recent martinis…
A dirty one.
Both dirty and clean – photograph courtesy of Dr. Kirsty.
Just another selection of recent martinis…
A dirty one.
Both dirty and clean – photograph courtesy of Dr. Kirsty.
A Lemon Drop Martini during a London Spring sunset.
Channeling Danish hygge at my aunty’s house.
“No lace. No lace, Mrs. Bennet, I beg you!” – a classic Pride and Prejudice quote that had to go with this martini and doily at home.
Have a good weekend and enjoy World Gin Day responsibly!
Die-hard martini fans, look away now…
This sounds like a very glamorous, American thing to order at a bar: “I’ll take a martini on the rocks“.
Conversely, it is a very uncommon thing to say in the United Kingdom.
Us Brits tend not to say “on the rocks” for fear of sounding affected. With the exception of obvious drinks such as spirits and mixers (which normally come with ice as standard), we will otherwise simply ask for a drink then ask the bar tender to put ice in it. Our eloquence may know no bounds in our literature, but when it comes to alcohol we tend to prefer clear concision and direct instruction; no bullshit – and certainly no risk of ballsing up the drinks order with potentially confusing idioms.
If I asked for “a martini on the rocks” I would also be very concerned that I might receive a glass of straight vermouth topped up with ice cubes. This has definitely happened in the past, and while not necessarily unpleasant for many people, it would likely disappoint a gin-fiend waiting for their martini fix (you know who you are – and we’re all friends here).
This kind of vermouth calamity can sometimes happen simply when you order a martini without any mention of it being on the rocks – continental Europe take note! Presumably the bar tender merely thought you were referring to the Martini brand of vermouth, rather than the life-altering, semi-spiritual cocktail that we have all come to love.
But back to this martini variation – the one with ice cubes.
The two main points that separate a martini on the rocks from a classic martini are obvious but fundamental: temperature and texture. Yes it’s just ice we’re adding, but it changes everything.
I have frequently discussed the importance of temperature when making a martini.
If the gin or vodka has been stored in the freezer it shouldn’t be necessary to add ice to the drink at any stage of its production. I don’t shake or stir my martinis with ice if the alcohol has been sufficiently chilled already. This makes it very easy to rustle up a couple of them at very short notice and they taste – in my humble opinion – the best.
The other crucial aspect of a martini is texture. A martini made with gin from the freezer has an almost irreplaceable texture – like cold, almost crystallised oil.
A normal martini stirred with ice is lighter, not usually as cold, but still smooth.
A martini shaken with ice – perhaps the most famous variation – is also lighter, fresher even, sometimes with tiny flecks of ice that gradually melt as you sip. However, I don’t think it’s as magically intoxicating (in a literary sense as well as a chemical one) as a martini made with freezer-gin.
One surprise is that a martini on the rocks made by pouring room temperature vermouth and gin into a glass then topping it up with ice does not taste as whole-heartedly appalling as it might sound to a die-hard martini fan. It was somewhat refreshing, if an ultimate disappointment when compared to the real-deal.
It’s therefore preferable to use vermouth from the fridge and gin from the freezer if possible – but it’s not essential.
Otherwise I would recommend that you use the same vermouth-to-gin ratio that you’re used to (guidance here).
I would also recommend adding a generous slice of lemon, rather than a lemon twist or an olive. The latter two are too astringent or savoury for this drink.
If you’re in a bit of a pickle, you don’t even need a proper V-shaped martini glass for this variation (although they are always better).
However, with the ice cubes and lemon bobbing around in the glass this version cannot rival a smooth, tranquil, classic martini.
I would recommend it only in times of emergency, when you haven’t had the chance to chill your gin in advance. Under such circumstances, it could prove a life-saving variation on the classic drink, especially at the end of the day in a hot country. Here’s looking at you, Brazil, Australia, India, the Mediterranean and others.
Otherwise, why not just have a gin and tonic? You read more about those here.
“Oh god… is my face melting?”
I didn’t invent this one. Some other crazy person did.
What’s more, it’s evidently been ordered and drunk often enough to have earned itself a name: the Mystic Martini.
Invented in Switzerland, its alleged psychoactive properties led to its prohibition in many countries for decades, before decriminalisation led to a comeback in the 1990s.
Flavoured with botanicals including sweet fennel and wormwood, the drink is anise-flavoured and usually green or colourless. It turns milky/cloudy when mixed with water.
The drink was traditionally served via ‘the French method’ whereby a slotted spoon holding a sugar cube was placed over a glass containing a measure of absinthe. Cold water was then poured over the sugar cube, running into the absinthe, turning it cloudy and bringing out its complex flavours.
Social folklore and urban legend, now largely disproved, claimed that the effects of absinthe on the drinker were different to that of other types of alcohol, such as hallucinations and temporary insanity.
The ‘absinthe fairy’ is also associated with a wide variety of artists, writers and other cultural figures, earning the drink a reputation for bohemian creativity – as well as danger.
Some bartenders rinse the glass with the absinthe before pouring the martini, others stir the absinthe into the martini after it has been prepared. I prefer the latter method, so you can watch the absinthe swirl into the already hypnotic drink. To evoke ‘the French method’ you could serve a classic martini with a measure of absinthe separately in a silver spoon, so the drinker can add it themselves and watch it ooze into the mixture.
Traditionally you are supposed to garnish this martini with a single green olive (largely for appearance purposes) but I actually think a wrinkled black olive goes better with the anise flavouring. I made the above drink with lemon peel which doesn’t compliment the anise flavour quite so well. If you really want to appreciate the complex botanicals of the absinthe you might also want to prepare this drink using vodka instead of gin – sacre bleu!
Personally anise is not my favourite flavour so this isn’t a drink I will be revisiting, but if it’s your thing, give it a go. Just make sure you’ve got life insurance first.
I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while.
A very good friend and reader of this blog presented me with a bottle of this gin from Haymans. I instantly loved the branding and packaging. The colours, dark blue and gold, were positively regal.
So I put the bottle in the freezer and awaiting a visit from my friend so we could have a martini (or three… oops).
This is the Family Reserve edition, where the gin has been stored in Scotch whisky barrels for three weeks prior to bottling. This mellows the drink and apparently conforms to a traditional method popular in the nineteenth century. Bottles from this limited batch are individually numbered, adding to the exclusive feel of the brand.
I made the martinis using my usual method – keep the gin in the freezer and mix with vermouth to taste as follows:
I served the martini with lemon peel garnish rather than olives as I wasn’t sure the latter pairing would work, although olives were served on the side and went very well. Black olives in particular could compliment the liquorice flavour of the gin.
Other nibble dishes that could go well with this martini include asparagus, cheeses of all shapes and sizes, seafood (including the classic martini accompaniment oysters) and strongly seasoned meat, cured, fried or grilled, particularly if it incorporates liquorice or anise-type botanicals.
Because of its distinctive flavour a martini made wth this gin works well as an aperitif to build ones appetite (especially if you are a liquorice fan) but could also break martini tradition and be served as a digestif as well.
Just don’t overdo it! The rule exists for a reason, it doesn’t matter how nice the gin is.
And nice it is. You can see the full range from the traditional family distillers here.
A sweeter alternative to the classic martini.
You will need gin/vodka, sweet vermouth and a jar of maraschino cherries. The following recipe is for a 150ml glass:
Because of its sweet nature this martini could be served as a digestif instead of an aperitif.
I first tasted maraschino cherries at a very young age in the back of the Mishnish Hotel (above in yellow). A long-standing family-owned venue, a cousin sneaked me into the kitchen during some sort of gathering (a christening or wedding or something). I remember being confronted by a stern but caring member of staff who presented me with a cherry on a silver teaspoon to try before ushering me out and back to the family event. What a treat! I’ll never forget the taste.
Maraschino cherries were historically seen as a royal luxury in parts of Europe. A produce of Croatia, they have been picked, salted, pickled and sweetened in alcohol for centuries. What a luxurious addition to the classic martini.
Quite why it’s referred to as a Gypsy martini remains unknown to me. If anyone has any idea please comment below!
I also have to thank my latest martini guest CatLoud for some of these beautiful photographs. A former regular at the Mishnish, Ms. Loud is a cabaret singer (a perfect martini accompaniment) and a veteran of the Edinburgh festival. She will also be performing at the Canal Theatre Cafe in London in January.
Marmalade cocktails have been around for a long time but the decadent breakfast martini was invented by Salvatore Calabrese in the Lanesborough hotel in London in 2000. It involves gin, marmalade, lemon juice and Cointreau or Triple Sec.
These measures serve approximately 140-150ml – enough for one large martini or two small ones.
Strain the ingredients into a chilled martini glass. Leave out the ice, but be sure to get some of those luscious marmalade strands into the drink.
You can also use a triangle of toast with some marmalade spread on it, which provides a nice contrasting crunch to the jellied drink.
Note that texture is an important and striking element of this drink which sets it apart from other martinis.
For extra morning decadence you could also serve additional crystallised/candied orange slices dipped in dark chocolate (available online from Tobermory Chocolate who deliver all over the world). I would save this for a special occasion, like a birthday or Christmas for example.
The cocktail also makes a nice shorter drink over ice. Here I used my previously purchased spherical ice makers.
Despite being a breakfast cocktail, it’s a very nice after-dinner drink to have by the fireside as well.