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.


Mums Limoncello from the Last Milennium

We were clearing up the house after taking down all the Christmas decorations and we came across this mysterious bottle.

Okay okay… I say “mysterious” but actually, as soon as I saw it I knew exactly what it was.

Sometime in the last few years mum made some limoncello with vodka and lemon rind then left it to season. Obviously we forgot about it and it even managed to accompany us undetected through a house-move. I’m not quite sure how this happened but there you go.

So obviously I wanted to (a) taste it and (b) use it in martini form somehow.

A few years back a man in Beirut told me he liked to add a teaspoon or two of limoncello to his martinis to give them a nice, citrusy note.

So that’s what I did.

I chucked the limoncello into the freezer for a few hours, although note that some limoncellos might freeze. Mum’s was suitably alcoholic that it did not.

Add one teaspoon to a normal martini (the standard recipe is here) and stir it with your piece of lemon peel. Serve.

It adds a nice lemon aftertaste but is a little sweet, so consider using less vermouth than normal if you want to try this out.

It’s also worth noting that this makes an excellent substitute if you find yourself without any fresh lemons. Remember – these are crucial for making a standard martini (unless you’re having it dirty or you’ve got a very good or distinctive gin to taste). A teaspoon of limoncello might be a nicer to impart a lemon flavour than using a dab of lemon oil which I sometimes resort to.

The limoncello also goes very nicely added to a gin and tonic (with a 50:50 gin:limoncello ratio).

So act now: buy some limoncello, make your own, or give your house a spring clean. You never know what alcoholic delights might be gathering dust in a corner.

If you’re moving house be especially sure to check for rogue bottles. You wouldn’t want the next occupants to enjoy it at your expense.

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.

The Parmesan Cheese Martini

“Sweet dreams are made of cheese.” 

Before you think “that sounds gross” I would recommend giving this one a try.

This martini idea genuinely came to me in a dream. I woke up with a clear memory of shaking up a cheese martini and decided to google whether or not such a thing existed. It turns out that at least two recipes are out there in the interwebs, such as the Grilled Cheese Martini, so I decided to have a go at my own variation. 

I used a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese for every 100ml of vodka I wanted to infuse (when it comes to flavour – go big or go home).  


Put it all in a clean jar and give it a good shake, then leave it in a cool, dark place (i.e. not like in the above photo – but doesn’t London look good?). 

Continue to shake it every now and then, just when you remember – maybe one a day or so, maybe more if you’re enthusiastic and impatient for CHEESE FLAVOUR. Do this over the course of around four days. 

Get yourself some plain cheesecloth. Strain the vodka infusion through it so as to remove much of the cheese goo.

Pour the strained liquid into a jar and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours.

Then, when it’s time to serve, add some vermouth to a martini glass and top up with the infused vodka, as per these instructions and measurements, i.e. 2tsp – 30ml vermouth (to taste) and around 130ml vodka).

Before you pour the drink, the www.parmesan.com blog suggests rubbing a little honey around the rim of the glass and dusting it with Parmesan powder. This sounds delicious but in this instance I really wanted to taste the Parmesan in the alcohol itself to test how effective the infusion process had been, so I left the glass un-rimmed.

Next, stir the drink and garnish it. You could choose all sorts of things for this: 

Grapes for example;

A simple pickle perhaps;

Or some prosciutto.

Olives stuffed with cheese would be a good alternative. Asparagus spears, perhaps trimmed so that they fit into the glass without towering over it, would also work. A basil leaf or two, or maybe some cherry tomatoes, would also compliment the Parmesan flavour.


And as for accompanying nibbles you could serve it with all of the above garnishes. Figs, walnuts, fried sage leaves and of course, cheese and biscuits, will all work well.

If you still think it sounds like a weird concoction I promise you it’s a nice, savoury/umami flavour that REALLY whet my appetite before my meal. If you make some of these for guests at a dinner party it will no doubt be a talking point.

The man from the Alphabet Agencies

While attending an ‘event’ in a certain Middle Eastern city, I was introduced to a charming gentleman from, shall we say, one of the ‘Alphabet Agencies’.

While our discussion covered subjects including politics, diplomacy and turmoil in the region, it settled upon the subject of martinis, of which we are both fond.

When one works in the business of ‘international affairs’, a strong martini is sometimes the only thing that will soothe your mind at the end of the day. I also mentioned earlier the inextricable link between martinis and a certain specialist in the field.

The gentleman gave me his variation on the classic version of a martini: add a teaspoon of limoncello.

Made in Southern Italy (or your own home) by infusing clear spirit (such as vodka) with lemon peel (and adding sugar), limoncello is a popular drink in my household already (my mother makes the best).

I have also written earlier about the importance of lemons to a martini.

The marriage of the two makes for a delightful variation on the classic.