Our Second Pop Up Martini Bar


Thank you to everyone who came to our martini pop up bar at the end of October.


We held it in ‘the Gallery’ on the Main Street of Tobermory, Isle of Mull.


At the end of the tourist season I hoped that it was a chance for locals to relax and try something different. It was also a bit of a send off for us and our staff, including our manageress Catriona who celebrated her 21st birthday on the night.


Unlike our pop up bar in July, the night was dark and it was too cold to be outside, so we went inside and set up the tables, switched on the heaters and lit all the candles, then hoped it would all work out.


We were only open for a short while: 17:00 to 20:00 with last orders at 19:30 to allow everyone to finish their last martini at a leisurely pace.


The week before we also held a Facebook competition. Whoever liked and shared the pop up bar announcement would enter a prize draw for a free martini and a martini-related gift.


We put together a large martini glass filled with champagne truffles from the Tobermory Chocolate Factory (you can order online here and they deliver anywhere in the world) and awarded it to one lucky winner who happened to be my former teacher.


I wasn’t as nervous as before the last pop up bar we did because I knew the concept worked in principle. I also had all my equipment lined up in order. However, it was darker and colder than during our summer event so I was worried that it wouldn’t be as comfortable or warm enough in our giant old church.


I also thought that because the tourist season was over, no-one would turn up.


However, in the end, the atmosphere was nice, it was warm enough, and the venue was full. I made dozens of martinis and was happy to see people enjoying themselves, especially after a long summer.


Our excellent chef also cooked up some amazing blini, which we served on platters with smoked salmon, sour cream, fish roe and miniature croque-monsieurs. Absolutely delicious and the perfect accompaniment to a cold martini.


So, all-in-all, a fun night. And now we’re ready for winter. Thank you to everyone who came, and thank you to all our amazing colleagues who made it happen.

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The Lydia Martini


When someone orders a Gibson Martini, I instantly hold them in high regard.


It’s such a stylish-looking version of the classic martini.


The single white cocktail onion floating solemnly in the glass almost makes it look like a religious offering.


The sharp flavour is also very distinctive.


Furthermore, to know about a Gibson indicates a sophisticated and experienced familiarity with martinis in general, which can only be a good thing.


My friend Lydia expressed a particular liking of both martinis and pickled onions, so much so that she requested extra pickled onions in her Gibson.


Naturally I obliged.


It’s not like we’re suffering an onion shortage or anything like that.

The name Lydia comes from an ancient region of western Anatolia, in modern-day Turkey. 

Classical and evocative with a beautiful climate, it’s an ideal martini location.


Incidentally, a common hangover cure in this part of the world is a drink of pickle juice – šalgam (shalgam) which might be perfect if you partake of too many martinis the night before and you’re a fan of the pickled goodness.


This Gibson recipe variation may have been done before but I couldn’t find any record of it anywhere so I thought I would name it, if for no other reason than for brevity when we’ve got family and friends round.


When everyone is asked “how would you like your martini” it’s far easier to take an order of “a Lydia” rather than “a Gibson but with loads and loads of pickled onions – more than you think are natural”.


The additional pickles also mean that the drink isn’t quite a lethal as a classic martini, making it an even more angelic choice.

So:

  • Pour one measure (to taste) of chilled vermouth into a frozen martini glass.
  • Add anything from 3-10 pickled onions.
  • Pour in a teaspoon of the pickle juice for good measure.
  • Top up with chilled gin or vodka and gently stir.
  • Serve (potentially with salt and vinegar or pickled onion crisps on the side – or perhaps even a glass of šalgam).

And enjoy! Although you might not get to kiss anyone afterwards…

The Filthy Martini

Gird your loins and lock up your daughters – and sons, for that matter.

  

Martinis cause a lot of confusion. There are many myths out there over things like how to prepare them, how to drink them, who said what about them and where they originally come from.

 
Of course, a drink that contains 6 units of alcohol was always likely to foment disarray, but hopefully this blog is helping cut through the fog. And oh haven’t there been some foggy days putting it together (all that painstaking ‘research’ etc). 

Anyway, the filthy martini seems to cause quite a lot of confusion on its own, with many people, including those at well-known gin brands mistakenly believing it to be a dirty martini with extra olive juice.

 
This is incorrect.

In fact, the filthy martini is the creation of the above, humble caperberry.

Another delectable gift from Fragata, these berries are the matured form of capers (caper buds), endemic to many parts of the world with a Mediterranean or semi-arid climate. They are often pickled and regularly served with seafood or in salads. The pickled caper bud is a well-known constituent of tartare sauce.

The caperberry is juicer but still delightfully tart and was even once thought to have been an aphrodisiac (please see asparagus and oysters).

The berries are frequently pickled in brine for consumption in countries where they don’t grow naturally (such as in Northern Europe), which allows us to create this martini variation. The pickling process also seems to bring out a savoury mustard-like aroma in the berries which cuts in very well to the clean juniper of a classic martini.

I also love their texture, firm and fleshy on the outside, with satisfying crunchy seeds inside that pop, almost like a vegetarian form of Japanese tobiko (flying fish roe).

  

Anyway, here’s how to make the drink:

  • Take a strip of lemon peel and squeeze and rub it into a chilled martini glass to transfer the lemon oil.
  • Add caperberry brine to taste (usually between 2-6tsp).
  • Add vermouth to taste (usually between 2tsp to 30ml depending on your preferences and the size of your glass).
  • Top up with gin/vodka (usually around 90-130ml depending on the size of your glass).
  • Stir with the lemon peel (which you can then discard).
  • Drop a single caperberry into the drink.
  • Serve.

  

 
I would recommend serving more caperberries on the side, potentially with some other nibbles as well if you’re particularly hungry.

  
This martini works particularly well as an aperitif before some good seafood, particularly any kind of fish served fried in batter, from cod to calamari.

Enjoy.

  
#FILTH!

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.

An easy guide to making Tsukemono (Japanese pickles)

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I sometimes serve pickles alongside a martini as an accompanying snack. A pickled onion is the garnish of a Gibson Martini while I like Polish-style pickled gherkins on the side as well.

However, I am also a fan of Japanese pickles – tsukemono / 漬物 – which I tend to find more delicate than their robust European cousins, so I thought they would make an ideal counterbalance to a martini. They’re also quick and easy to make.

Here is a recipe for cucumber tsukemono:

-Prep time: about 15 mins
-Waiting around time: 15 more minutes and then 1-4 days

You will need
-1 British cucumber or 3 Japanese cucumbers
-Salt
-Rice vinegar
-Sugar
-Mirin (optional)

To prepare
-Wash and dry the cucumber.

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-Slice it into rounds, about the thickness of a British pound coin.

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-As British cucumbers are larger than their Japanese counterparts I slice the rounds in half as well.

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-Lay the slices out on a plate and sprinkle over 3 tsp salt.
-Leave for 15 minutes.
-Rinse off the salt and pat dry the cucumber with kitchen towel.

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-Mix half a cup of rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar as a substitute), with a dash of mirin (optional), 3 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp salt
-Stir with a non-metallic object (apparently metal reacts with the vinegar, changing its flavour). I use a wooden chopstick.
-Put the cucumber into a sealable container and cover with the vinegar mixture.

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-Leave to pickle for at least a day, although preferably for 3-4 days.

  
You can add a cup of wakame seaweed as well if you want.

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Once they’re ready, pick them out of the jar using clean chopsticks so you don’t contaminate the pickles. You can serve them on their own as a taster dish, or as a palate cleanser, between courses or as a side dish.

An accompanying martini is optional.

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Or is it?

Sliced gherkins and Eastern Europe

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I’ve mentioned before that I like Eastern European (particularly Polish) bars that serve traditional vodka (kept in the freezer) served with good accompanying nibbles. Sliced pickled gherkins are a very simple but traditional example. They’re quick, crunchy and healthier than crisps or Bombay mix or any of the other things I like to eat with a martini.

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They are very easy to do at home, so I always have a large jar in the fridge in case of unexpected guests – the same reason I always keep my gin, vodka and martini glasses in the freezer.

However, you can also spot this sort of fare at some of my favourite Eastern European bars and eateries in London:

Mamuśka – cheap, authentic Polish comfort food in Elephant and Castle shopping centre. Mamuśka means ‘mummy’ in Polish (the mother kind, not the ancient Egyptian variety). As they say on their website: we don’t want to replace Polish mothers, we just want to take care of their kids while they are away from home. So sweet. And it’s worth scurrying through the occasionally alarming interior of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre to visit.

Bar Polskie – an unusual but relaxed and very good night out, with a fantastic vodka selection and good accompanying bites, hidden down an interesting alleyway in Holborn. My personal favourite is the Dębova (oak) vodka but they have dozens of interesting flavours that you will definitely never be able to get through in one sitting.

Baltic – a beautiful Eastern European restaurant with fantastic blini, wonderful food, gorgeous lighting, passionate, highly professional staff and a good vodka selection. Located near Southwark tube station.

Na zdrowie!

The Gibson Martini

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Very simply, this is a classic martini garnished with a pickled onion. It’s one of my favourites: simple but strikingly different.

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The somewhat blurry history of the drink indicates that its traditional recipes and potential inspirations are varied and many. In reality the history of most great cocktails is hazy and difficult to recall – testament to the effectiveness of the cocktails themselves. Here is my recipe:

Take a chilled martini glass out of the freezer.

Pour in one measure (or to taste) of vermouth (somewhere between 2tsp and 30ml). Note that I use sweet vermouth, not dry.

Take some gin/vodka from the freezer and add around 130ml.

Stir, then add a single pickled onion.

Make sure there are toothpicks to hand to extract the pickled onion.

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Serve.

The pickled onion adds a vinegary kick to the drink. Given that a martini has a pretty hefty kick to begin with I consider this a noteworthy achievement.

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As an accompaniment you might like to serve pickled onion flavoured crisps.

For a retro and well-suited (but perhaps not the most sophisticated) snack you might want to try Monster Munch pickled onion flavour crisps. They had a bit of a cool resurgence in early 2013 but I think that – much like martinis – it doesn’t matter if they’re in or out of fashion. If they’re good, just do it.