A Bombay Martini


I was picking up some supplies in the supermarket when this gin caught my eye. Bombay London Dry Gin: more muted in appearance than its bright blue Sapphire  sister, it has a simple, almost stringently-coloured branding.

I am not a fan of floral or overly botanical gins in my martini so I though that this one with only 8 botanicals (to Sapphire’s 10) might provide a basic, clean, high street option so I took it home and chucked it in the freezer to find out.


A day later when the gin was thoroughly chilled, I made a simple martini, garnished with lemon peel and accompanied by the obvious snack of Bombay Mix.


The gin was less citrusy and floral than Bombay Sapphire. I love citrus notes, but I prefer them firstly in the aroma of the drink, ideally from the lemon peel I’ve just squeezed into it, then finally as a slow melting aftertaste which follows what I prefer to be a strong, leading juniper flavour. The Bombay Dry leads with juniper which was a nice surprise. It was overall less citrusy than I like, but this gives you the option of squeezing extra lemon peel into the drink if you want it, or leaving it out if you don’t. I know several martini fans who prefer less lemon in their martini so this one would make a good option. Otherwise, the botanicals were understated, much like the branding of the bottle.


There was a heat in the aftertaste of the gin which I don’t particularly welcome, especially in a martini which should be ice cold and ideally smooth. It reminded me somewhat of the warmth of the Botanist gin, a sensation which I think is more suited to a whisky than a gin. Nonetheless, for a high street brand I thought it was good value for money with a suitable clean and juniper taste.


As chance would have it my flatmate brought back a bottle of Bombay Sapphire the very next day. Absolutely perfect for a bare-faced comparison test. As you can see, the branding is far more exuberant. The blue-coloured glass is iconic, while the black and gold detail is positively regal, enhanced not least by the image of HM Queen Victoria.


I threw it in the freezer next to the Bombay Dry and whipped up another quick classic the next day.


Bombay Sapphire is lovely for a gin and tonic, especially for people who are otherwise put off by the strong juniper taste of standard gins. It has a smooth taste with complex spicy notes that dominate, followed by an almost sweet citrus aftertaste.


As expected, for me, Bombay Sapphire is not my gin of choice because I expect a strong, leading juniper flavour in my martini. It bolsters the almost surgical cleanliness of the drink while adding a sharp freshness evocative of a cold, winter pine forest.


However, the bold and admirable botanicals of the Bombay Sapphire were nonetheless pleasant and interesting. I love coriander and cardamom and while they might dominate my coveted martinis they were more like a temporary house guest. It’s a slight inconvenience and not as quiet as normal but it’s interesting to catch up. Furthermore, if gin isn’t normally your thing, or if you’re not especially keen on juniper, give this one a try in a gin and tonic or a martini. It has been described as a ‘gateway gin’ luring innocents into the sophisticated but Hogarthian danger of the gin world so for that I must salute it!


In summary, Bombay Dry is largely juniper, with a slight heat in the aftertaste, but good value for money. Bombay Sapphire is sweet and spicy and a good choice if you’re new to gin or not overly keen on juniper.

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A Martini made with Absinthe

“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.

  
Absinthe is typically 45-74% ABV and therefore highly potent.

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.

  
So back to the cocktail. The Mystic Martini is basically a classic martini with approximately one teaspoon of absinthe added to the mix.

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.