A Martini with Samphire

  
This is a very simple variation on the classic martini. The only thing I have changed is the garnish.

  
Marsh Samphire is one of my favourite foods. Harvested in the summer months from coastal rocky areas it is comparable to asparagus, but with a saltier and less pungent aftertaste. It’s very simple to prepare but it’s fleshy, crunchy freshness makes for a lovely seasonal martini accompaniment.

  
Grab it while it’s in season (it can turn a little bit woody later on). You can usually find it in fish mongers in July/August. For this martini accompaniment, I returned to my trusty fish dealer – Watt’s on the pier in Oban.

  
Boil it in lightly salted water for around 2 minutes.

  
Drain it.

  
Add some butter and pepper to taste.

  
Serve it as a light bite on its own, as a starter or as part of a full meal.

  
And it makes a nice garnish for a Classic Martini.

A Martin Miller’s Gin martini

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.

  
The gin has a crisp, dry flavour that you can lose in a gin and tonic (make sure you choose a tonic that does the gin justice). In a martini, however, I thought it went very well.

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. 

  
Feeling a little bit merry, I went for a nice wander in the trees shortly after. A lovely end to the day.

Earl Grey Gin & Tonic

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I previously made Earl Grey infused gin which I’ve used to make one or two martinis.

However, for a highly refreshing (and less alcoholic alternative) I would also recommend this infused drink for a nice gin and tonic (yes, I drink tonic water sometimes). Right now it’s in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere but if you’re in Australia, Chile, South Africa, the tropics, the equatorial regions or anywhere else currently enjoying warming weather this might be a nice drink to enjoy at the end of the day.

Otherwise you can wait until spring and summer if you’re in the northern latitudes, although so long as you’re wearing enough warm clothing it’s quite a nice drink for any time of year

If you keep the gin and the glass in the freezer prior to drinking this it will be even more refreshing.

* Take the glass and add some ice.
* Squeeze a slice of lemon peel over the inside of the glass so that the lemon oil is sprayed in over the ice
* Pour in a measure or two of the Earl Grey Gin
* Top up with tonic to your taste
* Use the lemon peel to stir the drink then drop it in the glass as a garnish
* As an alternative garnish to lemon, you could use a slice of fresh cucumber. It gives the drink a fresh grassy start, which is followed by the longer, slower more subtle arrival of the smoky earl grey flavour.

Le Jacques Coustini

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For mid-summer I like to gather friends in the evening for seafood and drinks as the sun slowly sets. Akvavit normally features strongly in the blueprints for the night but before I served the food I wanted at least one martini as an aperitif.

For a seafood theme I made a slight alteration to a classic gin martini, adding a dash of olive brine for a sea salty hint. Real salty sea dogs might want to make it a full blown dirty martini for that briny flavour. I also garnished the glass with some octopus tentacles I boiled and chilled earlier.

Once that was consumed it was on to the food: seared scallops, grilled langoustine, prawn cocktail, baby crayfish tails, salad and brown bread.

And then there was akvavit. Lots of akvavit. And Icelandic Brennivin. I found some of that in the freezer too.

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Summer akvavit

Sunday evening, I didn’t want a full martini, just a little pre-dinner sip. London looks green, with the stirring of a summer haze as the sun sets. The approach of the solstice put me in mind of Scandinavian celebrations so I took a bottle of akvavit out of the freezer and poured some into a tall, frozen shot glass, with a twist of lemon peel for a bit of edge.

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