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 Mermaid Inn, NYC 4.5/5

This is one of my favourite places in the world.

Oyster happy hour is a must! 

I’ve previously mentioned how well seafood goes with a martini, especially the simplistically delicate oyster, so a bar/restaurant that specialises in briny goodness was always going to get me excited.

 

However, I’ve got to focus on the martini and not get too ahead of myself.

Using my martini rating scale I award this bar and restaurant very high points: 4.5 out of 5.


I ordered a hot and dirty martini (vodka, olive brine, Tabasco sauce with a crunchy, fresh and bright red peppadew garnish). It was ice cold, salty and fiery – a perfect tongue-tantalising aperitif.


The service was fast, attentive and the staff were passionate about the food and drinks.

The setting was intimate, clean and unpretentious.


And finally, the food is fantastic with a wide variety of seasonal oysters as well as a range of sustainably sourced seafood. It’s ideal for a light bite or a more substantial meal.


The only thing I would recommend to the Mermaid Inn is that the management make more of their martinis on the menu. The restaurant does them so well I think they should promote them more prominently. I really can’t fault them in any other way.


Basically to sum up my experience, If I died suddenly and my life flashed before my eyes I hope I would linger here for just a little while en route to the next level. And I hope the next level has oyster happy hour too.

 

Don’t forget to download their useful app Oysterpedia

The Hot and Dirty Martini

Grrrrrrrrrrr

  
This is a very simple variation on the classic martini, and its obviously got a very arresting name.
  
I first had a hot and dirty martini at the Mermaid Inn in New York. It’s an excellent aperitif as it really gets your digestive juices churning. It’s perfect before a special dinner, whether it’s Sunday lunch, seafood, a romantic meal for two or otherwise.

  
I have been sent a selection of goodies by the wonderful people at Fragata, a traditional Spanish firm specialising in olives, peppers, caperberries and other tasty goods.

  
I regularly eat their olives stuffed with anchovies. I think I’ve mentioned that a few times… I used these for brine.

  
I’m also a big fan of hot and spicy food and drinks so Tabasco sauce definitely features.

  
Tabasco Sauce has been officially appointed as a preferred supplier by Her Majesty the Queen. I really hope she would like this recipe.

  
Another delectable treat sent to me by Fragata was a jar of handpicked pimiento piquillo peppers.

These sweet members of the chilli family aren’t actually that spicy but they taste amazing.

  
Peeled then roasted over embers, they make a delicious sweet yet also savoury canapé/appetiser/tapas on their own.

But in a martini, they add texture, deep flavour and beautiful colour.

  

  • Add vermouth to taste to a chilled martini glass (usually between 1 tsp and 30ml depending on your preference).
  • Add brine from the tinned olives stuffed with anchovies. I would recommend between 2-6 teaspoons (I go for 4).
  • Add Tabasco sauce to taste (I like 5 drops).
  • Stir with one of the peppers and drop it in as a garnish.
  • Serve additional peppers as accompanying nibbles.

Make sure you’ve got a tasty dinner to enjoy afterwards!

The Lorena-san Michelada

This is my Japanese variation of a classic Mexican drink – the Michelada. I have named my version after my friend from Mexico City who introduced me to the concept. It’s not a martini but hey – I can’t drink martinis ALL the time! Plus, summer is coming and this is a great summer drink.

It’s very similar to a standard Mexican Michelada, which is essentially beer, lime juice and some additional savoury and/or spicy sauces served in a salt-rimmed glass. The drink is comparable to a Bloody Mary and very good for a hangover or alcoholic rehydration on a hot day. However, the mixture for the glass rim in my version is heavily influenced by Japanese ingredients. If you can’t get hold of them, I recommend you try a more standard recipe with beer, Worcestershire sauce, lime and salt at the very least, so you can experience this wonderful drink. The ingredient combination might sound unusual, alien and even unpalatable to some of you but trust me, I’ve had lots of experience.

You might ask me why I would combine a Mexican recipe with a Japanese tang. Well, it’s mainly because I tried this and it worked. Otherwise though, Japan and Mexico have more in common than might meet the eye. Obviously both countries feature heavily in the Kill Bill franchise. Both countries also have extensive experience of earthquakes. If there’s ever a rumble and a shake of the earth your Mexican and Japanese friends will be the first to jump under a table – fact! However, most importantly for the sake of this blog, the cultures of both countries hold flavours and cuisine in extremely high regard.

Both Japan and Mexico are blessed with climatic diversity, which in turn has led to very distinct regional variations in things like agricultural produce and other forms of naturally available food. This in turn has led to the evolution of a rich assortment of cuisine specialities.

In the case of Mexico I think that the highly sophisticated cuisines do not receive enough international acclaim. I love Japanese food and I am very glad that it has received a lot of global recognition, evidenced not least by the multitude of Michelin stars awarded to Tokyo.

Mexican cuisine however, does not seem to have had the same international recognition. It appears to have been hijacked by numerous profit-making rip-off versions, selling a business model rather than genuine Mexican food. Of course, there are exceptions, particularly in the United States (and there are a handful in London) but it is far easier to find an authentic Japanese restaurant than it is to find an authentic Mexican one. I hope that in the future Mexican cuisine will be given the acclaim it deserves.

But I digress… here is my recipe.

Run a tall beer glass under a tap and place it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes (preferably longer).

  
Grind a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of furikake (a salty-umami Japanese seasoning), a pinch of caster sugar, a pinch of chilli powder and a pinch of sesame seeds with a pestle and mortar. 

Slice a lime or yuzu fruit. Rub one half over the rim of the glass. 

 
Rim the glass with the ground mixture. Save any leftover mixture for later. You will need the lime/yuzu as well.

Add the following to the glass:

The juice of 2 limes or yuzu fruit

A dash of hot sauce (I used Sriracha)

A dash of soy sauce

A dash of Worcestireshire sauce

And last but not least… A light beer!

You can add an ice cube or two to cool it down, or even better, use frozen lime or lemon slices.

 

Serve with the leftover salt/chilli/sesame/furikake mixture in a side dish. Lick your finger and dab it in to taste, as you would with some salt with a tequila.

Serve with a wedge or two of lime/yuzu as well.

And it will go with a wide range of izakaya-style snacks too.

¡Salud!

乾杯!

Y muchas gracias Lorena-san!


The hot hot Sriracha martini

It’s a thing now.
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What do Thais and Texans have in common? A penchant for spicy food.

I have a good friend, currently in Texas, who recently announced his addiction to Sriracha hot chilli sauce, a fiery concoction from Thailand.

A US national and an Arabist, he has a very interesting career and academic background, with some very intriguing (and often hilarious) tales from London and the Middle East. Martinis are the best accompaniment to international storytelling so he is therefore a perfect martini guest.

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I remarked that I should try and make a martini out of the sauce for him. I have already talked about my love of Sri Lanka so it should come as no surprise that I love spicy food, while I have previously made spicy martinis here, here and here. However, I think my friend was appalled at the suggestion of a Sriracha martini. And perhaps rightly so: you shouldn’t mess with a classic, let alone two.

Nonetheless, I persevered, and I was pretty happy the first time round.

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– Take a strip of lemon peel and squeeze the oil out of it into a chilled martini glass.
– Add a measure of sweet vermouth
– Add a dash of Sriracha hot sauce (or to taste – it’s spicy!)
– mix the two together, then top up with chilled gin or vodka
– stir the drink with the lemon peel and add it as a garnish (you might want to shape it with a knife so it looks neater).

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It’s very spicy, with a hint of lemon, and is good for whetting the appetite.

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As far as accompaniments are concerned this martini goes very well with seafood. I would recommend chilled oysters, prawns or salmon as an accompaniment, possibly even with avocado. I think the cool, oily/fatty fish compliments the fiery drink. Here I served chilled king prawns on a bed of lettuce with Peking duck sauce with sesame seeds. I’m sure there are more sophisticated accompaniments than something I poured out from a jar but I just got home from work and wasn’t intent on doing anything more fancy. I also served some spicy broad beans as well.

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Another new snack I recently found in an Asian supermarket was roasted salted soy beans which was a nice, non-spicy accompaniment for the martini.

This drink would also be a good aperitif before some Thai food.

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You might even want to drink it while watching a live Thai dancing performance.

In fact, if you drink a few of them you could probably join in.

Chon Gow!

Spicy Martini with Brazilian Peppers

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I found some pickled Brazilian ‘little beak’ peppers (pimenta biquinho em conserva) in the supermarket and I knew instantly what to do with them.

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It’s a very simple variation on a spicy martini recipe I’ve made before.

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Notable ingredients include tabasco sauce or hot sauce. I use both but you could omit one if you wanted. The hot sauce adds colour, while both add a fiery element to the drink.

The recipe is as follows:

1 part sweet vermouth (or to taste)
4-6 drops of Tabasco (or to taste – I like it very spicy)
2-3 drops of hot sauce (or to taste)
4-5 parts chilled gin or vodka (I used vodka this time but this works with either)
3 pimenta biquinhos em conserva

Pour the vermouth, the hot sauce and tabasco into a martini glass and stir. Add the gin or vodka and stir again, then garnish with the pickled peppers on a toothpick or skewer.

It’s good for whetting your appetite before a meal, if you can actually finish it.

The Langoustini

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I’m currently visiting family in the Hebrides. This part of the world is known for its seafood, natural beauty and gargantuan drinking habits. This makes it a perfect setting for martini drinkers.

Unusually, much of the seafood caught in the rich Hebridean waters is transported to Spain. However, if you know which restaurants to eat at, or if you know who to speak to you can get yourself some of this bounty before it gets shipped away.

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We were delivered a bag of langoustines by someone in the town.

As usual, my first thought was: how do I incorporate this into a martini?

Luckily an adaptable recipe already exists. I came up with two variations.

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Firstly, boil the langoustines, then have your family peel them (you are exempt from this task as your duty is to prepare the drinks).

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If possible, take extra care with the langoustines bearing roe. Try not to crack the shells while you squeeze out the flesh. The intact shells can be served as an accompaniment to the martini and you can suck the eggs from the undersides between mouthfuls of drink. It feels Roman and decidedly decadent.

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Take a shelled langoustine for every martini you want to serve.

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Insert a toothpick and your garnish is ready. You can vary the shape and style of this garnish depending on the species of crustacean available to you so I imagine all sorts of variations might be possible here.

(For all the langoustines which aren’t destined for martini greatness there are countless ways you can eat them. We had them flash fried in garlic with chorizo and tomatoes, then tossed them in linguine for dinner after martini o’clock was over.)

Back to the martinis, I have two recipes. Both have:

1 part (or to taste) vermouth
5-6 parts (or to taste) gin/vodka

You can either add a few dashes (or to taste) of Tabasco sauce or you can muddle a teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce in the vermouth before adding the gin. With either variation stir the drink with the crustacean garnish before serving.

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We also had classic martinis as well.

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