A Martini on the Rocks

Die-hard martini fans, look away now…

  

This sounds like a very glamorous, American thing to order at a bar: “I’ll take a martini on the rocks“. 

Conversely, it is a very uncommon thing to say in the United Kingdom.

Us Brits tend not to say “on the rocks” for fear of sounding affected. With the exception of obvious drinks such as spirits and mixers (which normally come with ice as standard), we will otherwise simply ask for a drink then ask the bar tender to put ice in it. Our eloquence may know no bounds in our literature, but when it comes to alcohol we tend to prefer clear concision and direct instruction; no bullshit – and certainly no risk of ballsing up the drinks order with potentially confusing idioms.

If I asked for “a martini on the rocks” I would also be very concerned that I might receive a glass of straight vermouth topped up with ice cubes. This has definitely happened in the past, and while not necessarily unpleasant for many people, it would likely disappoint a gin-fiend waiting for their martini fix (you know who you are – and we’re all friends here).

This kind of vermouth calamity can sometimes happen simply when you order a martini without any mention of it being on the rocks – continental Europe take note! Presumably the bar tender merely thought you were referring to the Martini brand of vermouth, rather than the life-altering, semi-spiritual cocktail that we have all come to love.

  

But back to this martini variation – the one with ice cubes.

The two main points that separate a martini on the rocks from a classic martini are obvious but fundamental: temperature and texture. Yes it’s just ice we’re adding, but it changes everything.

I have frequently discussed the importance of temperature when making a martini.

If the gin or vodka has been stored in the freezer it shouldn’t be necessary to add ice to the drink at any stage of its production. I don’t shake or stir my martinis with ice if the alcohol has been sufficiently chilled already. This makes it very easy to rustle up a couple of them at very short notice and they taste – in my humble opinion – the best.

The other crucial aspect of a martini is texture. A martini made with gin from the freezer has an almost irreplaceable texture – like cold, almost crystallised oil.

A normal martini stirred with ice is lighter, not usually as cold, but still smooth.

A martini shaken with ice – perhaps the most famous variation – is also lighter, fresher even, sometimes with tiny flecks of ice that gradually melt as you sip. However, I don’t think it’s as magically intoxicating (in a literary sense as well as a chemical one) as a martini made with freezer-gin.

One surprise is that a martini on the rocks made by pouring room temperature vermouth and gin into a glass then topping it up with ice does not taste as whole-heartedly appalling as it might sound to a die-hard martini fan. It was somewhat refreshing, if an ultimate disappointment when compared to the real-deal.

It’s therefore preferable to use vermouth from the fridge and gin from the freezer if possible – but it’s not essential.

Otherwise I would recommend that you use the same vermouth-to-gin ratio that you’re used to (guidance here).

I would also recommend adding a generous slice of lemon, rather than a lemon twist or an olive. The latter two are too astringent or savoury for this drink.

If you’re in a bit of a pickle, you don’t even need a proper V-shaped martini glass for this variation (although they are always better).

However, with the ice cubes and lemon bobbing around in the glass this version cannot rival a smooth, tranquil, classic martini. 

  

I would recommend it only in times of emergency, when you haven’t had the chance to chill your gin in advance. Under such circumstances, it could prove a life-saving variation on the classic drink, especially at the end of the day in a hot country. Here’s looking at you, Brazil, Australia, India, the Mediterranean and others.

Otherwise, why not just have a gin and tonic? You read more about those here.

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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 Breakfast Martini

Wake up to something magically taboo.
 

Marmalade cocktails have been around for a long time but the decadent breakfast martini was invented by Salvatore Calabrese in the Lanesborough hotel in London in 2000. It involves gin, marmalade, lemon juice and Cointreau or Triple Sec.

  
Those nice people at Fragata sent me a jar of Marmalade from their native Spain. It tasted so good I had to alter Mr. Calabrese’s famous recipe in order to use more of it, made with Seville oranges.

  
In addition to marmalade you will need the juice of half a lemon.

  
Cointreu or Triple Sec (I found some in one of the secret alcohol cupboards we have in our house).

   
And of course, some gin, which we always keep in our freezer.

  
Muddle, stir then shake the following ingredients in a cocktail shaker (or a simple jam jar if you don’t have one of those):

  • 1 tbsp marmalade
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp Cointreu
  • 120ml gin

These measures serve approximately 140-150ml – enough for one large martini or two small ones.

Strain the ingredients into a chilled martini glass. Leave out the ice, but be sure to get some of those luscious marmalade strands into the drink.

 As a garnish, you can use a strip of orange peel dropped into the drink, a slice of fresh orange, or as I have opted for in this case, a whole crystallised/candied orange slice.

You can also use a triangle of toast with some marmalade spread on it, which provides a nice contrasting crunch to the jellied drink.

Note that texture is an important and striking element of this drink which sets it apart from other martinis. 

  
Here’s a toast garnish I made with jam a year ago, although I don’t think it’s quite as visually appealing as the breakfast martini equivalent.

  
For extra morning decadence you could also serve additional crystallised/candied orange slices dipped in dark chocolate (available online from Tobermory Chocolate who deliver all over the world). I would save this for a special occasion, like a birthday or Christmas for example.

  
The cocktail also makes a nice shorter drink over ice. Here I used my previously purchased spherical ice makers.

Despite being a breakfast cocktail, it’s a very nice after-dinner drink to have by the fireside as well.