The Saffron Martini

This one is a real treat of colour.

 
I have taken the rarest, most expensive spice and infused it into the most elegant of drinks, although note that you can buy very high quality saffron gin ready made here.

I cannot claim credit for the original recipe. It has been created before at the incomparable martini setting – Dukes Bar, although they made it with vodka. You can see an instructional video by the venerable Toni Miccilota here

My recipe differs ever so slightly (I use gin for a start), but it is essentially very similar.

  
Saffron consists of the styles and stigmas of the saffron crocus.

The tiny little red ‘threads’ have been hand-picked and used in cooking for over three thousand years.

It has a grassy taste, evocative of wheat or hay and the warmth of the late summer harvest. Its strong colour also imparts itself easily to food and drink, making it popular in otherwise pale dishes such as rice.

  
An ancient Grecian harvests the spice.

Originally found in the eastern Mediterranean and wider Middle East the plant has since been cultivated in several warm, dry regions around the world, which thankfully for Brits, include some rare parts of Essex and Wessex in southern England.  

 
I was sent a beautiful batch of English Saffron from a friend who lives in one of the few areas: the town of Saffron Walden, named after its famous produce. Saffron was first harvested in the town in the 1500s.

  

I love the English Saffron packaging, with the gold-coloured metal metal box and a medieval-style wax seal on the plastic container inside.

I added 0.2g of the saffron (which equates to one of the bags from the English Saffron company) to a litre of gin.

  
Give it a good shake then leave it for around two days.

The colour, flavour and aroma transfer very quickly. 

  

Remove the saffron strands. I found it easiest to do this with a pair of chopsticks but you could strain the gin through a sieve as well.

Put the gin into the freezer and leave for at least 8 hours. I left it in there overnight.

  
When it’s time to pour, make it just like a classic martini with vermouth to your taste preference, topped up with the saffron gin.

Stir the drink, then garnish with some additional saffron strands. I tried to be frugal but you can put in quite a lot of you want a really strong flavour. I would recommend around 8 threads.

 And there you go.

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A Martini with Crushed Oyster Shell


I drifted into borough market the other day and found myself standing in front of a fishmonger’s counter staring at all the produce. I couldn’t leave empty handed and suddenly felt a craving for salty, briny oysters so I bought a handful.I’ve made a martini with oysters before (you can see the blog post here).

This time, though, I was inspired by a story I’d heard about a martini made with gin shaken up with crushed oyster shells.


There’s something anciently pleasing about oyster shells. We always have a pile of discarded ones in the garden by our kitchen door. It’s like a primordial mark of civility, like our Roman and prehistoric Hebridean forebears.

From a taste perspective, I like the ground, salty and metallic/chalky flavour.


So I got to work. I opened the oysters and ground one of the flat, detached shells with a pestle and mortar.

I poured some chilled gin into a jug with the pulverised shell and stirred I vigorously for about 30 seconds.


I then strained the gin and added it to vermouth in a glass to make a martini.

As with a classic martini, I had rubbed some lemon peel into the glass first as this little citrus touch goes nicely with the oyster flavour.


I then served the martini with the opened oysters on the side.

I liked the sharp, metallic taste that the process gave the martini, although I was really craving something saltier and ended up pouring some of the brine in as well.

In sum total, I would say that crushing the oyster shell was a bit of a faff and ultimately the best part of the flavour simply came from the oyster brine I added at the end.


So I concluded that’s unless you have a lot of time, I would keep it simple. If you’re craving an oyster-themed martini simply serve them on the side of a simple classic martini and pour in some of the brine to taste. You could even tip the whole body of one in for a striking (and tasty) aperitif.