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.

Advertisements

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.