Martinez

 

Photo courtesy of Sam Simpson

Where to begin with the Martinez – a drink about which so much has been written, so much conjectured and so little understood?

Of course many know the Martinez as the direct ancestor of the Martini (not least because of the name), but it is also cited as a sort of missing link – the crucial step between the brusque rye whiskey and cognac drinks of the mid/late 1800s and the fresher, lighter gin drinks of the early 20th century.

How much of a role as ancestor the drink can claim is uncertain – it appears to only be about five years older than its more famous relation.  But given that the Martinez was introduced in print (by O.H. Byron in The Modern Bartenders’ Guide (1884) as “same as a Manhattan, only you substitute gin for whiskey” it can clearly claim to have helped drinking society to cross from dark spirit based drinks to light.

In truth, not much is known about the history of the Martinez, or the initial form it takes.  In particular, Byron’s recipe was somewhat unhelpful as his book lists two recipes for the Manhattan and fails to specify which one the Martinez is based on.

As well as this, other bartenders from the 1800s have a claim to inventing the drink – Jerry Thomas may have been one (although the drink did not appear until the 1887 edition of his Bartender’s Guide), and some have traced the drink to Martinez. California and one Julio Richelieu who was said to have created it for a passing goldminer in 1874.

By now, your view of the Martinez may be a little clouded.  It will only become more so.  In fact it’s fair to say that today’s Martinez is more of a category of drink than a single recipe.  Ingredient by ingredient the mystery grows.  Should it be based on Genever instead of gin?  Possibly, although the first printed record calls for gin.  But which gin?  Old Tom (a sweeter variety than the now ubiquitous Dry London) was certainly popular in the late 1800s, but does a drink which combines sweet vermouth and a sweet liqueur need any more sugar?  Probably to the palate of a late-Victorian drinker.

Next, the vermouth.  Byron listed both a sweet and dry Manhattan in his 1884 guide and there is no clue as to whether his Martinez used sweet or dry vermouth.  Most recipes now call for sweet on the basis that during the late 19th century this was more common than dry, so where a recipe fails to specify it is safest to assume sweet vermouth is intended.

Finally, the ratios.  As with the Martini, tastes have changed over time, and it is fair to say that most modern bartenders have turned the original two parts sweet vermouth to one part gin recipe precisely on its head.  Of course as the drink evolves towards the modern Martini, the recipe was forced to get drier, so there is no shame in calling for a more modern version.  Personally, I make mine as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of gin, a measure of sweet vermouth, a barspoon of Maraschino and three dashes of bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir for sixty seconds and strain into a chilled martini glass/coupe.
  3. Garnish with either a twist of lemon or a cherry.

Sophisticated, a little bit dry and a little bit sweet too, and probably still true to some halfway-house recipe that paved the way for the classic Martini.  History in a glass.

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Guid Auld Scotch Drink

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Let other poets raise a fracas

“Bout vines, an’ wines, an’ drucken Bacchus,

An’ crabbit names an’stories wrack us,

An’ grate our lug:

I sing the juice Scotch bear can mak us,

In glass or jug.

– Robert Burns, Scotch Drink, 1785

Scottish mythology tells us Robert Burns, the country’s best-loved poet, was a hard drinking womaniser and given the lines he penned in praise of Scotch whisky, and the fact that he (allegedly) died of rheumatic fever after falling asleep (drunk) at the side of the road aged just 37, I have no reason to doubt this.

Even if Burns was wary of any more than the most occasional dram of the “king o’ grain” undoubtedly served neat – and while now there are those who continue live by the old Irish proverb of “never steal another man’s wife and never water another man’s whiskey” and then would consider a possible breach of the first part – the focus of all modern cocktails is (or should be) the subtle marriage of complex flavours, and as the defining characteristic of first-rate Scotch whisky is the quest for the same pleasure from the juxtaposition of oak and grain, why shouldn’t fine malts and fine cocktails go together like a country lassie and mawn hay?

So, however you choose to celebrate the life of Robert Burns this Friday night, whether by traditional formal dinner – all Highland dress, pipers and toasts to the lassies; by emulating the great man himself – in a night of kirk-defying revelry and womansing; or by sitting in front of the open fire and cracking open a dusty old bottle of “the poor man’s wine” here are a few recipes worthy of a “bardie’s gratefu’ thanks”:

The Bobby Burns

Given the bard’s distaste for bitter, dearthfu’ wines, it is unlikely he ever thought to combine his whisky with sweet vermouth, or (dare we say) tonic wine. In fact, it is even doubted whether the drink is named for the poet or the politician of the same name. Either way, we’re all agreed it wasn’t named for the Nuneaton Town midfielder, and it calls for Scotch whisky, so it’s a good a place to start as any:

Note: The original recipe (Harry Craddock’s from The Savoy Cocktail Book) calls for equal parts whisky and sweet vermouth and 3 dashes of Bénédictine, the 2:1 version is far more suited to the modern palate:

  1. Add a large measure of Scotch whisky (blended is best here), a measure of sweet vermouth and 1/4 measure of Bénédictine to a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon (and possibly some shortbread).

David Embury’s version replaces the Bénédictine with Drambuie largely on the basis that it is Scottish.

Rusty Bobby Burns

A small step away from the Bobby Burns is its ‘rusty’ cousin which is a 2:1:1 whisky, Drambuie and sweet vermouth version with a double sploosh of Peychaud’s bitters or, more excitingly for Sazerac fans:

  1. Add a large measure of Drambuie, a measure of sweet vermouth, a teaspoon of absinthe, a teaspoon of maraschino and a double sploosh of Angostura bitters to a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a twist of orange.

The Big Yin

While ‘The Big Yin’ usually refers to Billy Connolly, it’s easily applicable to any ‘big man’ and in the west of Scotland that’s pretty much anyone worthy of the name, so why not Rabbie?

  1. Dissolve a teaspoon of brown sugar with a little water in a rocks glass.
  2. Add a sploosh each of chocolate and orange bitters, a piece of ice, a piece of orange peel and a large measure of whisky (an old highland malt is best here).
  3. Stir well and serve with a twist of orange.

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The Blue Blazer

The Blue Blazer is a true celebrity of a cocktail. The drink that made Jerry Thomas’s name (and probably lost him his eyebrows once or twice in the early days), it was the original attention-seeking barman’s act, long before the flash of caramelising orange zest distracted the Sex and the City clique. In the interests of safety I cannot condone the full Blue Blazer arc, a few simple pours back and forth will do the trick:

  1. Add a large measure of whisky (cask strength is your best bet here. Use an Islay or Highland malt here – something with a pleasant complexity) and a sploosh of orange bitters to a mug.
  2. At this point you can choose to add a liqueur, some spices or some fruit – purely optional, but Chartreuse and Chambord or Crème de Mure are good.
  3. Add a large measure of boiling water to the mug and ignite the liquid.
  4. Mix by pouring the blazing mixture from one mug to another four or five times.
  5. Sweeten with a teaspoon of Demerara sugar and serve in a tumbler garnished with a twist of orange peel.

The act of concocting a Blue Blazer requires a little practice (with water) to ensure you have the pour right before you add flames to the mix. Be sure not to burn the house down (even though you think it is what Robert Burns would have done) and don’t forget to extinguish the drink before you take a sip.

Sláinte!

Earl Grey Daiquiri

Photo courtesy of StuartWebster, some rights reserved

The Daiquiri is a sub-category of the sours group of cocktails, and is constructed from the simple combination of rum, lime juice (or lemon, once upon a time) and sugar.

Invented in Santiago, Cuba; the Daiquiri owes much of its reputation to Ernest Hemingway.  Upon moving to Cuba in 1932 to escape the horrors of Prohibition, Hemingway fell in love with Daiquiri Number Three as served in Constantino Ribalaigua’s El Floridita, the bar now known as the self-appointed ‘cradle of the Daiquiri’.

However, Hemingway’s favourite version was far removed from the traditional white rum, lemon and sugar concoction that was first served back in the 1890s. For a start, Hemingway was diabetic and therefore wary of drinks made with added sugar. Secondly, the addition of grapefruit juice will appeal only to those who prefer a super sour flavour profile. In my mind grapefruit juice is solely reminiscent of those bleary-eyed mornings in a continental hotel where you end up sucking your cheeks in after opting for the wrong jug at the breakfast buffet.

However, Hemingway’s endorsement and the mass exodus of wealthy Americans to Cuba during the dark days following the Volstead Act were enough to create a buzz around the concept of the Daiquiri.  Following on from the rich tradition of El Floridita #1 through #3, we now live in a world where Daiquiri possibilities are so endless that “drive-through Daiquiri joints are ubiquitous” in Louisiana.

The Daiquiri has proved to be a versatile canvas for the cocktail boomers of recent years. But while Difford’s #9 contains just over one hundred Daiquiri variants from Acapulco, Ace of Clubs and Aged Honey through to the Vanilla, Very Rusty and Whoop It Up varieties, the Savoy Cocktail Book contains just the one and I think it’s fair to say that a number of the current crop were born in the dark days of sparklers, blue curaçao and umbrellas (see the frozen puréed fruit varieties in particular).

At its heart, the Daiquiri is best made as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of white rum, the juice of half a lime and a barspoon of simple syrup to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Of course some flavoured Daiquiris can be acceptable and even quite pleasant. Consider using aged rum for a richer taste, or branch out to the other end of the spectrum and make a Hemingway Daiquiri to punish your taste buds:

  1. Add an extra large measure of rum, one measure each of pink grapefruit juice, maraschino and fresh lime juice, and an optional half a measure of simple syrup, to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime

However, I was making Earl Grey syrup the other weekend, and couldn’t resist the opportunity to experiment.

The Earl Grey Daiquiri, therefore:

  1. Add a large measure of rum, four bar spoons of Earl Grey Syrup and the juice of half a lime to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well.
  3. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a wedge of lime (perched on the edge of the glass).

Much better.

Aviation

Photo courtesy of ReeseCLloyd, some rights reserved

My post on The Bitter Truth’s fantastic Cocktail Bitters Traveller’s Set has already referred to the golden age of travel.  This drink is another that brings to mind images of the glory days of Pan Am and luxury air travel.

The Aviation was an ideal at-seat serve as you drift along at hundreds of miles an hour above the clouds with not a care in the world – a million miles away from the modern pile ’em high approach to air travel.  The origins of the Aviation are unknown, but it was first published in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks, a 1916 guide to the drinks served in New York’s Hotel Wallick.

The Aviation is effectively a tune up of the Gin Sour (gin, lemon juice, sugar) with a sweetening hit of maraschino.  The traditional recipe went as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of gin, the juice of half a lemon, a barspoon of maraschino and a barspoon of crème de violette to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry (or twist of lemon peel).

This recipe creates a delightfully sour drink with a hint of blue sky courtesy of the crème de violette.  However, my homebar is, as yet, lacking a bottle (it’s on the list) so I prefer the modern version which excludes the hard to find violet-brandy liqueur.

McKinley’s Delight

This week’s #MidweekManhattan variant is McKinley’s Delight, a fantastic adaptation that dates back to William McKinley’s successful run for the White House in 1896. While my knowledge of Mr McKinley extends only as far as the John Renbourn song, White House Blues, which I covered in a band at university, it appears that the story is that as McKinley’s rival, William Jennings Bryan, had a cocktail linked to his campaign (the Free Silver Fizz: gin, lime and soda water), McKinley had to have one too.

You see, back in the nineteenth century, cocktails had somewhat of a reputation as being aids to electioneering. The Balance and Colombian Repository had declared, when defining cocktail for the first time:

[A cocktail] is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.

As a result, McKinley’s team (I assume) set to work to come up with their own signature drink. I have images of West Wing staffers busying themselves in Toby Ziegler’s office, or perhaps the Map Room, mixing and tasting furiously, trying to find a way to embody McKinley’s love of tariff reform in liquid form.

After this, all history records is that McKinley won the election, and, as far as I’m concerned, McKinley’s Delight is by far the superior drink of the two. Perhaps there’s a lesson here, and a return to candidate-endorsed drinks is the way to liven up future campaign trails?

Anyway, politicking aside, the recipe for the McKinley’s Delight is as follows:

  1. Pour a large measure of whiskey, a small measure of sweet vermouth, a teaspoon of maraschino and half a teaspoon of absinthe into a shaker with ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a martini glass.

The only change to my standard Manhattan is the replacement of a dribble of bitters with a dribble of absinthe (or absinthe substitute in those dark days 1914-2000), but what a difference it makes!

Manhattan

The Manhattan is one of the “Six Basic Drinks” as espoused by David A Embury in his 1948 encyclopedia of drinking, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. As a lawyer turned dipsologist, it appears Embury was on to something.

A popular but highly unlikely story (although one I wish dearly to be true) claims that the Manhattan was invented for Winston Churchill’s mother, and named after the Manhattan Club in New York City, where it was first made, so legend has it, in the early 1870s. With Lady Randolph Churchill as its ambassador, the drink first took Manhattan and then (arguably) Berlin through the actions of her son some 75 years later.

History records the Manhattan as the first cocktail to contain vermouth, a dry fortified wine from France and Italy which was developed in the late eighteenth century. Traditionally a Manhattan calls for sweet vermouth, but you can make a dry Manhattan if you use dry vermouth, or a perfect Manhattan by using equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth. The traditional Manhattan calls for equal parts rye whiskey and sweet vermouth with 2:1 and 3:1 also popular – feel free to experiment.

  1. Pour a large measure of whiskey, a small measure of sweet vermouth and two dashes of bitters into a shaker of ice.
  2. Stir well (a good 20 times) and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry and/or a twist of orange peel.

I perk up my Manhattans with a teaspoon of maraschino, a cherry liqueur from Italy that tastes reassuringly like Calpol. Technically this makes the drink a Red Hook, named for the neighbourhood of Brooklyn in which it was first made, but I think it is an admirable addition to the classic NY cocktail.

Aside from the dry and perfect Manhattans, the other main variation on a Manhattan is the Rob Roy which takes Scotch whisky instead of rye or the Brooklyn which is a perfect Manhattan with a bar spoon of Maraschino.