Here is a simple selection of some recent martinis I had.
Here is a simple selection of some recent martinis I had.
This is a slight departure from my normal work, but I’ve got a cold and was craving something less potent and more sweet and fruity than a martini.
Apparently emerging in the early 1800s (it might even have evolved towards the late 1700s), this drink is a lot older than a Martini.
It also has a reputation for being a bit of a “fog-cutter” – that is, the sort of drink you choose when you’ve got a hangover, something sweet to try and ease the pain and help you get back on your feet again. The Breakfast Martini can serve a similar purpose.
Such hangover tactics are completely contrary to modern medical advice, but by Jove, if people have been swearing by the technique for over 200 years then who am I to argue?
Recipes for an Old Fashioned today can involve ingredients such as soda water, maraschino cherries and slices of orange but I wanted to create something much more intense, and err… old fashioned.
I like to taste alcohol when I drink alcohol, you see.
I first drank an Old Fashioned in the office after a long, intense day. I think we were in the midst of monitoring the onset of the Arab Spring, a time when Middle Eastern governments tended to collapse on a Friday, leaving us working late into the evening while the rest of London descended unto the pub.
I was told the cocktail was making a comeback because of its portrayal in the US series ‘Mad Men’. My industry might not have encouraged the same sort of working hours drinking habits of Don Draper but booze was a fairly vital commodity once we had finished our work at the end of the day.
Given the supply of various ingredients we routinely kept in our drawers our office was the perfect place for our first tipple. A quick mix and we could relax, chat about work and enjoy a short period of shared workplace quietude before we too joined the masses in the pubs.
The recipe we used in the office involved honey, but my recipe uses demarara sugar.
You will need:
I picked the garden with the whippet puppies but indoor settings are more common; somewhere with dim lighting, leather furniture and perhaps some cigars would definitely work.
Because of its sweetness I don’t think this drink goes especially well with nibbles.
It could, however, be served both before or after a meal.
Indeed the drink’s versatility means that it could be served at a variety of times in a range of environments and settings.
Here, for example, is a perfect setting: a bar cabaret performance by the talented Cat Loud and Finn Anderson.
It also works well during more intense and strategic pursuits.
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.
Gird your loins and lock up your daughters – and sons, for that matter.
Martinis cause a lot of confusion. There are many myths out there over things like how to prepare them, how to drink them, who said what about them and where they originally come from.
Of course, a drink that contains 6 units of alcohol was always likely to foment disarray, but hopefully this blog is helping cut through the fog. And oh haven’t there been some foggy days putting it together (all that painstaking ‘research’ etc).
Anyway, the filthy martini seems to cause quite a lot of confusion on its own, with many people, including those at well-known gin brands mistakenly believing it to be a dirty martini with extra olive juice.
In fact, the filthy martini is the creation of the above, humble caperberry.
Another delectable gift from Fragata, these berries are the matured form of capers (caper buds), endemic to many parts of the world with a Mediterranean or semi-arid climate. They are often pickled and regularly served with seafood or in salads. The pickled caper bud is a well-known constituent of tartare sauce.
The berries are frequently pickled in brine for consumption in countries where they don’t grow naturally (such as in Northern Europe), which allows us to create this martini variation. The pickling process also seems to bring out a savoury mustard-like aroma in the berries which cuts in very well to the clean juniper of a classic martini.
I also love their texture, firm and fleshy on the outside, with satisfying crunchy seeds inside that pop, almost like a vegetarian form of Japanese tobiko (flying fish roe).
Anyway, here’s how to make the drink:
You Will Need
-A fresh lemon
-Put the bottle of gin/vodka in the freezer for at least 8 hours.
-Rinse the martini glasses under a tap and put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
-Note that I keep my gin and glasses in the freezer permanently.
-Take a strip of lemon peel and squeeze it into the martini glass to spray it with lemon oil.
-Pour in the vermouth to taste: between 2tsp to 30ml.
-Top up with gin/vodka: around 130ml.
-Stir with the lemon peel, which you can then drop in the drink as a garnish.
-Serve with nibbles such as olives or nuts.
For more detailed information on making a classic martini click here.
For more ideas on nibbles click here.
If you find martinis too strong click here.
For more ideas on martinis in general be sure to sign up to the blog.
I first collected a bottle of this gin in Madrid airport duty free. The unusual branding caught my eye. Made with pure Icelandic water with a traditional English gin technique, it sits in a tall, proud-looking bottle with straight lines and clean imagery. There are strong maritime tones to the bottles appearance.
It has a smokey-smooth character, not too strong on juniper, or indeed any botanicals, which helped make a subtle but simultaneously bold martini.
To hark to its Nordic links you could drink it around mid-summer (midsommar), or mid-winter, but to be honest it would work at any time of year. Like most classic martinis it will go well with seafood but there’s something about this gin which makes me want to pair it with smoked things in particular – fish or meat.
It also went down very nicely in the smokey air as we waited for steaks to cook on our fire pit. Despite the beautiful sunset it was freezing up in the Hebrides when we drank this, but we kept warm with the strong spirits inside us as we stood around the fire.
My favourite non-classic: the Japanese pickled ginger martini.
A sexy Gibson martini.
A classic martini with pickled gherkins.
A martini made with coriander-infused gin (cilantro). Instructions here.
A classic martini with Balti mix.
An Umami Martini.
A dry classic martini and pistachio nuts.
And finally, a dry classic martini with crisps. Who wouldn’t like that? Happy World Gin Day!