The Tsukemono Gibson Martini

“Tsukemono Gibson sounds like some sort of Bond Girl.”

 
This is a very simple variation on the classic, elegant Gibson Martini. The only difference is that instead of a pickled onion garnish I’m using a gentler, more subtle addition: Japanese Tsukemono pickles.

  
I served a Gibson martini with Tsukemono as an accompaniment once which is what gave me the idea

These pickles are easy to make (recipe here). You can also buy them in Asian cooking shops and some Japanese takeaway restaurants. They’re often coloured red with shiso leaf so the visual effect will be different if you make them at home.

  

Select some pickles.

  
Thread them onto a bamboo skewer. If you’ve only got toothpicks to hand just use those, with only one of the pickles.

Pour the martini using the classic recipe but without lemon:

  • Take a chilled glass from the freezer.
  • Pour a measure (or to taste) of vermouth, usually between 2tsp and 30ml.
  • Top up with around 100-130ml gin or vodka from the freezer.
  • Use the garnish to stir the drink.
  • Chin chin.

The martini goes well with Japanese food, as well as frightfully English cucumber sandwiches.

It also goes well if you make it with some of the more subtly flavoured Polish vodkas (although note that  Żubrówka would be too powerful a flavour for the fragile Tsukemono). It will also work well if you make it with the cucumber-infused Hendricks gin.

I don’t really believe in sake-tinis (you might have noticed their glaring absence on this blog) but yes, if you insist, they might go well with one.

Kanpai!

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Gin and Tonic advice courtesy of @GinMonkeyUK

This isn’t a standard martini post but the Gin Monkey very kindly gave me some advice on tonic water for those of you who would like some guidance for making G&Ts. I don’t drink G&Ts very frequently anymore but they were my drink of choice before I discovered the simplistic power of a martini.

  • Her basic rule for tonic is to stay away from artificial sugars and slimline at all costs.
  • Make sure it’s cold.
  • Add plenty of ice.

As regards certain brands, it will depend on the gin and your personal preference but Waitrose own brand tonic was recommended, as was Fever Tree and even the classic brand Schweppes.

And on the subject of garnishes it can also depend on the gin. A slice of lemon is more traditional, although some people prefer lime. Both the Gin Monkey and myself are in the lemon camp. Other gins, such as a Hendricks, go with a slice of cucumber. Pink grapefruit can work. Some like Gin Mare go well with rosemary and olive (I MUST try this amazing sounding gin in a martini – it seems made for it) but there are all sorts of possible pairings, often recommended by the gin-makers themselves. I’ve heard rumours about chilli and mangoes and while I’m a bit of a traditionalist I like both of those flavours.

You can see more about G&Ts on the Gin Monkeys site here. I particularly enjoyed the entry on Spain.

The Gin Monkey also provided her thoughts on favourite gins to use in a martini.

She agrees with my personal preferences for Beefeater and Plymouth gins but also recommends Beefeater 24, Tanqueray No. 10 and Martin Millers gin.

Finally, she recommended that I try out Fords Gin as being seriously impressive. So that’s on my to-do list.

Thank you to the Gin Monkey!

Tanqueray in a martini

  
I’ve previously mentioned my penchant for Plymouth Gin which I find smooth and strong on juniper, but tanqueray is another favourite.

  
There has definitely been a bit of a backlash (not a unanimous one though) against some of the more florally extravagant brands of gin to emerge over recent years. I would feel inclined to agree as I like gin to taste of juniper and not be overpowered by other tastes and aromas. The clean taste reminds me of pine forests. The associated smells are so evocative: Christmas trees, freshly cut furniture, long walks in foresty commission property…

  
Nonetheless, some of the more floral botanicals of the gin world, such as the cucumber and rose infused Hendricks, definitely have their place. They go very nicely in a gin and tonic on a summer’s day for example. But when it comes to the botanicals needed for a martini I think that less is more and I drink Hendricks infrequently, usually on special occasions when I am back in Scotland. I also imagine that it’s a favourite drink for Scottish expatriates living around the world, in Dubai, Spain, Singapore or the US for example, a pleasant but distinctive reminder of the civilities of home.

Ideally the flavour of a classic martini should involve a balance of botanical vermouth, with a haze of predominantly juniper from the gin seeping in at the end of each taste. I therefore prefer the plain and subtle tasting gins to their more fancy counterparts.

  
Tanqueray was one of the many vices of the late beautiful Amy Winehouse (whom I actually once met in Edinburgh, when her hair was long and loose, not up in a High Barnet). I find that this brand of gin has a dominant juniper flavour, but one that is soft and mellow nonetheless, making it an excellent complement to vermouth in a martini.

 
So I mixed some with a little vermouth and drank it down. And they lived happily ever after. 

The end.

The Raitini (cucumber raita martini)

What kind of martini should you serve before a curry? This one.

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Indian summer? No, just a British one.

As much as I love a classic gin martini, sometimes it can leave your mouth just a little too raw before you eat a fiery dish, so I started to contemplate an alternative, something with less alcohol but more flavour to compliment the curry.

Of course, South Asia presents us with a wonderful array of flavours to play with, but at risk of creating something some people in the region might consider ‘insipid’ I choose fairly mild flavours to create a cooling and refreshing martini, based on mint and cucumber yoghurt raita, but without the yoghurt. Imagine a salt lassi with alcohol instead of dairy products.

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The Raitini is born.

To serve two of these, take half a cucumber and grate it. I use a plastic Japanese grater I found on the internet. I have seen people use it for grating daikon/mooli but it’s perfect for this task as well.

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Separate the juice from the pulp. Pour the juice into a glass and put the pulp into a bowl.

Next, peel a knob of ginger.

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I was taught this peeling technique by a Sri Lankan friend. Use a teaspoon to scrape off the skin. It’s really fast and easy and you barely lose any of the juicy flesh underneath.

Next, grate the ginger in the same way as the cucumber. Really squeeze the ginger pulp to get as much juice out as possible, then discard the pulp. Pour the juice into the same glass as the cucumber juice. This adds a little bit of fire to the martini. If you really want to give it some kick you could grate in some chilli as well but personally I would save your spice for the meal itself. The drink should be cooling so as to contrast it.

Take a handful of mint leaves and chop then finely then add them to the cucumber and ginger juice. If you don’t have mint leaves you can substitute this with a teaspoon of mint sauce.

With the cucumber pulp that you separated earlier, you can now make an actual raita to serve with your curry.

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Mix it with a few tablespoons of natural yoghurt and add a generous handful of chopped mint leaves (or a teaspoon or two or mint sauce) and you’re good to go.

Back to the martini, take a martini glass, add 1 – 1.5 parts vermouth, then 2 parts of the cucumber juice and stir. Top up with gin (about 2 parts), stir again and garnish with a slice of cucumber.

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Fit for Aishwarya ‘Raitini’ Rai perhaps?

You can also use vodka for this recipe but I would recommend gin for those sentimental over the days of the British Raj. Bombay Sapphire would be a good choice for obvious reasons. Hendricks gin also goes very well with cucumber.

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I predictably served these latest martinis with Bombay mix and pistachio nuts but there is an array of bites that could accompany these drinks: bhajis, samosa and poppadoms are easy to get hold of but there are loads of possibilities. I would be interested to hear other people’s suggestions.

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And here’s the curry I served afterwards: marinated tandoori chicken with salad and grilled broccoli and a generous side helping of cooling raita made with the pulp of the grated cucumber.