Sweet martini accompaniments

Normally I would only ever serve savoury snacks to accompany a martini, but there have been a small number of exceptions. I don’t have a sweet tooth but some of you might, so this is for you.

I made some umami tuna steaks for a friend for dinner (thank you Laura Santtini for the recipe). We had a martini as an apéritif before the meal but then wanted another one after we had eaten as well… I guess as a digestif.

After the umami flavour of dinner, my friend asked for something sweet to follow. I rarely eat dessert but I had one or two sweet items to hand – although they were perhaps a little unconventional, not just as a pudding, but also as a martini accompaniment.

I served maraschino cherries.

And some cherry sherbet. Which looks a little bit like cocaine.

But let’s be honest, if you’re drinking martinis, who needs drugs?

On another occasion I dipped some maraschino cherries in some Tobermory dark chocolate which went nicely as a digestif accompaniment.


I do NOT approve of this but some of my friends do… 


Cape gooseberries make a nice, subtle citrus accompaniment. I would actually consider serving them alongside savoury martini snacks.

Lychees can work. 

Lots of lychees can also work.

Especially if served as part of a lychee martini.

This sweet popcorn went quite nicely with an after-dinner espresso martini.

Here is a late-night martini I served with some chocolate-covered almonds.

Here is some homemade Scottish tablet, referred to by some of my friends in England as “sugar heroin”. It’s not particularly healthy but it tastes amazing and is a nice pick-me-up after a meal.

Even someone like me likes the odd bit of chocolate in the evening, especially during the winter months. Here is a small selection of rough pieces served on a cold, rainy night in Scotland. 

Finally, how can you beat this Italian classic? The affogato (which means ‘drowned’) combines ice cream drenched in an espresso, in this case served perfectly in a martini glass.

Thank you Italy for taking us, once again, to the next level.


More martini snacks and canapes

I’m just going to leave this here…


What could be easier than olives and cheese-stuffed peppers that you picked up at the shops on the way home? I particularly like the colour contrast of these two. Oh and the taste.

You can’t go wrong with the lemony-buttery taste of Nocellara olive flesh, while the soft creamy cheese paired very indulgently with the sweet piccante crunch of the pepper.

This one was also a little bit last minute. I threw together some Bombay mix, prosciutto and olives when a friend popped round unexpectedly. The Bombay mix didn’t really go with the other two, but it’s definitely very nice on its own.


Here are some nuts, arranged mindlessly while I stared into space sipping my first drink of the night. Salted pistachio nuts are my favourite, although some nice big fat macadamia nuts would go well with a martini too.

Simple, easy, light, savoury, Twiglets are an underrated canapé snack. They are the flavour and texture opposite of the martini. Where a martini is cold, smooth, heady, citrusy and ever so slightly sweet, these are light, crunchy, salty and savoury. They don’t look particularly elegant but the flavour contrast really works. They’re a guaranteed winner for marmite fans.

This one is a bit more fancy. Asparagus skewers, blini with taramasalata, maki rolls, sigeumchi-namul, crisps, a martini and candles…

A simple but slightly more edgy snack, here are some wasabi peas with a simple classic.

Extremely simple, but very tasty, here is some lightly pickled baby beetroot. I’m sure we could create some kind of pink-coloured beetroot Gibson Martini, perhaps similar to the Beet Up Vesper Martini at the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town bar in central London. 

Sea Aster is a seasonal coastal plant that flowers in the summer but is edible in the spring. Wash and eat raw or lightly boil for a minute or two. I got mine at a fish monger’s in Borough Market.

Mum bought these langoustines from Tobermory Main Street while I picked up the samphire on Oban pier on a trip back from London.

There’s a whole world of tapas-style ingredients and food types you could use. Above you can see chorizo, cold roast pork slices, feta cheese, olives, bread, houmous, oil  and duqqah.

You can turn the nibbles into your whole meal and really take your time with the martini. Above you can see crab open sandwiches, nuts, wood ear mushrooms, Korean-style spinach, roasted vegetables, seaweed, manchego cheese, Bombay mix, olives, bread, oil and houmous all to be slowly munched while you sip your cold gin.

Houmous is a relaxed martini accompaniment to have at home with informal company over a drink.

Here it is served with sliced pitta bread and a variety of mostly Mediterranean snacks.

My kind neighbour made me some lovely Middle Eastern sweets which I included in the meal.

The Arabic element of the food was especially good at soaking up some of the alcohol!

Dim sum was a surprisingly good – if slightly unconventional accompaniment.

Oysters are my favourite.

I also love creamy manchego cheese.

Finally though, the most classical martini snack will always remain the pitted green olive. If it’s all you have, you’ll be fine. And you won’t spoil your appetite for dinner.

Asparagus skewers to accompany a martini

This is dead easy.

Asparagus is tasty and a bit of a luxury so it naturally pairs well with a martini. I love its distinctive flavour, visual appeal and most of all, its satisfying fresh and crunchy texture.

My brother and I were having a martini before dinner, but after we had drunk the first one we really just wanted to have another one and postpone the food. Not to miss out on our nutrition (you can’t live on gin and olives…) I decided to take the vegetables we were going to eat and martini-fy them.


Inspired by this Izakaya-style spring onion recipe I cut each asparagus spear into three pieces and threaded them onto some bamboo skewers.

I added them to boiling water and cooked them for 4.5 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt a knob of butter in a frying pan with about half a tablespoon of soy sauce, half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of pepper. You could also add a splash of mirin or sweet vermouth. 

I then removed the skewers from the water and shook them to discard any excess. I added them to the frying pan with the sauce and simmered them for about 30 seconds, tossing the skewers to coat them in the sauce.

Serve and pour over the excess sauce.

Reward yourself with another martini, which you can make while the asparagus is boiling and the butter is melting.

The French call the asparagus tips “points d’amour”. Apparently Madame de Pompadour was a fan.


She’s also at the top of my list of people I’d like to have a martini with so I hope she would approve of the recipe.
Humans have been consuming asparagus for thousands of years. 

Harvesting the plant has been depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The Romans even had a phrase “quicker than you can prepare asparagus” which serves as a reminder of how rapidly you can create this dish.

It’s also been described as an aphrodisiac in the past.

I’m not sure about the science behind that one so I’d recommend sticking to oysters.

But let’s be honest, if you’re sharing a martini with your amour you might not need an aphrodisiac at all.

Paesan Restaurant, Farringdon, London, 4/5

Cucina povera means ‘poor/poverty kitchen’, and this restaurant specialises in traditional Italian ‘peasant food’. If I was reviewing food and service this place would get full marks. So when I have to mark them down for very small (but crucial) martini points it makes me feel bad. I even added a subjective point to this rating – because they make their own in-house olive-infused gin. They had run out when I got there, which was obviously devastating, and I only found out about it following detailed gin enquiries via one of their lovely, helpful employees. This gin is not on the menu and it’s made by their in-house ‘witch’ (La Strega) – their words, not mine. Furthermore, the olive gin is kept in the fridge, so at least it would be nice and cool for a martini.

All this restaurant needs to do for maximum points is keep the gin and martini glasses in the freezer. I would also recommend changing the music. It was a little too loud (does that make me sound old?) and wasn’t ideal for a martini, although the overall vibe was still a cool one, and of course the main stay of this place is food. My life might revolve around martinis but I concede that it is not the same for everyone else.

Otherwise, I would recommend that you try this place as the food is lovely and the service was extremely attentive.

Sometimes you get the impression that just about everyone who works in a restaurant is also friends with one another. There was a nice vibe in this place. The staff were smiley, helpful, knowledgeable as regards the menu and genuinely helpful. They even recommended good bars for us to go to in the area after normal closing hours – because that was where they went as colleagues after work. I take that as a good sign.

To eat, I had truffle fries and spicy garlic mussels, which were delicious. We were also served really tasty antipasti at the beginning, It was the first time I had ever tried caperberries. They were tangy and crunchy and made a very good garnish for my martini. I may seek them out in future at Borough Market for when I serve martinis at home.
And back to the martinis… Aside from the sad news that they had run out of olive gin, they served me a classic martini with dry vermouth. It was garnished with a Noccelara olive (my favourite) on a clear shard-like plastic toothpick (also used by Dukes Bar and the Savoy Hotel). I would describe the drink as a little bit too dry, although I sipped it very slowly, which ultimately was a good thing given the length of the night.

I have said many times that I prefer a martini with a dash of sweet vermouth, and apparently I am in the minority, but I don’t mind being in the minority. I’ve had plenty of practise at this. However, from a bar/restaurant perspective, what is important is that the server should ask whether or not the customer would prefer the martini dry or sweet. Also, as I said before, the gin and the glasses should be kept in the freezer. And finally, I would recommend a squeeze of lemon peel into the glass – in addition to the tasty olive – or at least the option of it.

Otherwise, I had a great night, with lovely food and wonderful company celebrating the birthday of a very close friend of mine from Sri Lanka. Bohuma istuti!