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

The Cosmopolitan

Photo courtesy of quinn.anya, some rights reserved.

The Cosmopolitan was introduced to a generation of young women as Carrie Bradshaw’s drink of choice, but before it found fame on the Upper East Side, it had its beginnings in the mid-1980s as a pretty pink (and easy-drinking) alternative to the Martini for those who wanted the glamour of drinking from a martini glass, but weren’t fans of the eponymous drink itself.  As a result, the “Cosmo” gets a lot of bad press among ‘serious’ cocktail writers who dismiss it as a cocktail for people who don’t like cocktails.

The Cosmopolitan is now usually listed as one of the ‘sours’ family of cocktails, alongside the Margarita (which replaces vodka with tequila), and the Kamikaze (which excludes the cranberry juice).  In many ways therefore, it is a useful gateway drink to a world of cocktail discovery, and it is certainly more popular in my house than a large number of ‘more serious’ drinks.

The other side to that coin is that the drink has started to become a victim of its own success.  In its celebrity champion’s own words:

Miranda: “Why did we ever stop drinking these?”

Carrie: “’Cos everyone else started.”

By the time Sex and the City had reached its peak, the Cosmopolitan was found on every basic cocktail menu around the world.  This spawned a world of below par Cosmos that suffered from the use of cheap ingredients, sour mix and an over-reliance on too much cranberry juice.

I was always taught that a Cosmopolitan should be mostly vodka, with considerably less triple sec and cranberry juice, and consequently follow a 2:1:1 ratio.  If you’re looking for something a little easier on the palate, don’t move further than a 1:1:1.5 ratio:

  1. Pour a large measure of vodka, a measure of cranberry juice and a measure of triple sec into a shaker of ice.
  2. Add the juice of half a lime and a dash or two of orange bitters.
  3. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.
Citrus vodka works best if you have it, and a wedge of lime perched on the edge of the glass is also acceptable in place of the twist of orange but not nearly as much fun.

If you’re looking for a more grown up version of the Cosmpolitan, you could do worse than mix yourself a Xanadu Fancy – a drink that I discovered on the menu of the much lamented Raconteur Bar in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge neighbourhood:

  1. Add a large measure of vodka, a measure of aperol, orgeat, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice to a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake hard for twenty seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.

Islay Martini

Photo courtesy of gothick_matt, some rights reserved.

In honour of World Whisky Day, today’s post is influenced by a drink I’ve only ever heard referred to as a Paisley Martini.  The name now conjures up images of the distinctive teardrop pattern, and may sound vaguely threatening to those familiar with the corridors of Paisley Sheriff Court, but in fact pays tribute to a town with proud distilling credentials.

Paisley was once the home of William Grant & Sons, and remains the home of Chivas Brothers, both big names in the world of blended whisky.  But seeing as my favourite whiskies all hail from Islay, and the name Paisley Martini now brings to mind an association with a certain kiss from the nearest city, I have decided to re-dedicate this drink in honour of the wee island that is home to eight distinguished distilleries – and what better occasion to choose than the first World Whisky Day?

World Whisky Day was the creation of Blair Bowman, a student at the University of Aberdeen who spotted a gap in the social calendar and dreams of making “a day for people across the world to thank those who work in the global whisky industry” a permanent fixture.

However you prefer your whisky – with or without the ‘e’ and from Paisley or Islay, tonight is the night to enjoy a dram or perhaps a more exotic whisky concoction, and what better way to experiment than to introduce the classic cocktail to the classic distilled liquor?

  1. Rinse a martini glass with a barspoon of whisky.  Fill with ice and leave to chill.
  2. Add three parts gin, one part vermouth (or your own preferred Martini ratio) to a mixing glass of ice.
  3. Stir well and strain into your ice cold martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

As an alternative, you can forgo the whisky rinse and instead add a spritz to the surface of the finished drink with your pocket atomiser.  You do have one, right?

Sláinte!

Champagne French Martini

Photo courtesy of StuartWebster, some rights reserved.

All celebrations are special, but for a really special celebration (perhaps a Princess’s birthday?) something quite exquisite is required. I’ve never really understood what makes a French Martini a Martini, because apart from the glass they are nothing alike, but the addition of Champagne certainly makes this French Martini even more French.

The ever-so simple but effective French-Martini.com explains that originally a French Martini was just a Martini made with a French vermouth, which makes literal sense, although apart from national pride (thank you, L’Académie Française!) perhaps doesn’t warrant the naming of a whole new drink.

As a result, therefore, we can only assume that the French Martini as we now know it was developed for those who cannot face the prospect of a genuine Martini just yet, but want to pretend they’re enjoying a distant relative of the drink enjoyed by those embodiments of suave, Humphrey Bogart and Mae West.

Of course the French Martini is a variant of the Martini in the loosest possible sense, as it contains neither of the ingredients of a traditional Martini, and unlike its namesake is fruity, crisp and super-sweet in equal measure.

To make a delectable celebratory version of this sweet treat proceed as follows:

  1. Add a measure of vanilla vodka, 2/3 measure of Chambord black raspberry liqueur and 1/2 measure of pineapple juice to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass (also works well in tea cups, jam jars and plant pots).
  3. Top up with Champagne and garnish with a raspberries.

Tea and Vermouth

Tea is every Englishman’s drink of choice, so what better way to delve deeper into the world of cocktail experimentation than by adding tea to some classic recipes?

A number of sources I’ve consulted have suggested tea-infused sugar syrup or tea infused bourbon, but inspired by some recent reading, I’ve decided to prepare some tea-infused vermouth – a staple of a number of the old favourites already featured on this site.

On recommendation I’ve opted for a green tea infused dry vermouth and a chai infused sweet vermouth.  The former to provide a healthy jasmine tint to the classic Martini, and the latter to spice up (quite literally) my Manhattans and Whiskey Sours.

The tea I’ve used has come from Jeeves & Jericho, a pair of upstarts from Oxford, who front a jolly good tea company and have been powering this site during daylight hours thanks to their delicious Scottish Brew.

Infusing any liquid with herbs, spices or tea leaves is a fairly simple process and is best worked at over time using a trial and error approach.  With that in mind I’ve opted for two slightly different recipes.

China Jasmine Dry Vermouth

  1. Add one tablespoon of loose leaf green tea to 500ml of dry vermouth.
  2. Leave to infuse for twenty-four hours.
  3. Sieve and store in an air-tight bottle.

Spiced Masala Chai Sweet Vermouth

  1. Add six tablespoons of loose leaf Chai tea to 200ml of sweet vermouth.
  2. Leave to infuse for thirty minutes.
  3. Sieve and store in an air-tight bottle.

The Chai Sweet Vermouth is almost instantly ready for its first outing in a Chai Manhattan:

  1. Add a large measure of whiskey, a measure of chai vermouth and three splooshes of your preferred bitters (I used Boker’s) to a mixing glass.
  2. Stir well and strain into a Martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or a twist of lemon.

After twenty-four hours, the Green Tea Martini was ready as well:

  1. Add one part green tea vermouth, five parts gin and three splooshes of a fruity bitters (I used dandelion & burdock).
  2. Stir and strain into a Martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit or lemon.

Delicious and refreshing, both; just like the tea that inspired them.

Return of the Mad Men

Photo created at http://www.MadMenYourself.com, all rights reserved.

A post tonight to celebrate the upcoming return of Mad Men to our TV screens after a break of over a year.  This American drama, set in a New York advertising agency in the 1960s has been credited with sparking a sixties revival in fashion, and as part of that, in drinking fashion.  As a result, here is a quick rundown of some of the characters’ favourite drinks, as told to your host, on his internship at Sterling Cooper (pictured above handing Mr Draper his morning paper and Old Fashioned).

Vodka Gimlet

The Gimlet is attributed to the Royal Navy who added gin to their scurvy-avoidance rations of gin to help it go down.  The vodka alternative became more popular in the 1960s, and Betty Draper is partial to the occasional Vodka Gimlet whilst conducting extra-marital affairs.

  1. Add a large measure of vodka and the juice of one lime to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Tom Collins

The Collins family were raised in New York in the 1870s.  Tom always drank his with gin, while John preferred bourbon, and cousin Juan preferred tequila.  These may not be a favourite of Sally Draper (we hope) but she’s been mixing them for her parents and their friends from a young age.

  1. Add a large measure of gin, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of simple syrup to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a highball.
  3. Top up with soda water, add ice and garnish with a wedge of lemon, orange and cherry.

Stinger

A classic drink of the fifties where Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield shared them onscreen in Kiss Them For Me, the Stinger is also one of Peggy Olsen’s choices when out on the town.

  1. Add a measure of brandy and a measure of crème de menthe to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake and strain into a brandy glass.

Old Fashioned

This favourite of Don Draper and yours truly has been covered elsewhere, but let’s just say that like your author, Don Draper can mix these like a pro – and Conrad Hilton can attest to that.

  1. Muddle a sugar cube, two dashes of bitters and a sploosh of water in a rocks glass.
  2. Add ice and a large measure of whiskey. Stir and serve.

Bloody Mary

A breakfast-time classic, and a staple of the Sterling Cooper meeting room.  The Bloody Mary was developed as a hangover cure in 1920s’ Paris.  Use pepper vodka for even more of a kick.

  1. Shake a large measure of vodka, a (slightly) larger measure of tomato juice, the juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of horseradish, a sploosh of Worcestershire sauce and a sploosh of Tabasco with ice.
  2. Strain into a highball.
  3. Garnish with pepper, a wedge of lime and a stalk of celery.

Brandy Alexander

Another favourite of Peggy Olsen this milkshake-like drink was originally made with gin (an Alexander), which sounds truly horrific.  Try it with brandy instead and it becomes more like a dessert.

  1. Shake a measure of brandy, a measure of crème de cacao and measure of single cream with ice.
  2. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with ground nutmeg.

Gibson Martini

Roger Sterling, a self-confessed fan of only clear drinks, will opt for a Gibson, when a straight Martini just won’t cut it.  Just be careful you don’t have too many with your oyster lunch.

  1. Stir a large measure of gin with a measure of dry vermouth and ice.
  2. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with three or four cocktail onions.

The Martini

Where to begin with this the most personal, complex and contentious combination of two simple ingredients?

Well, the Martini is a straightforward mixture of gin and vermouth created in the nineteenth century, either as a variation of the Martinez (gin, vermouth, curacao and orange bitters), or the child of an Italian vermouth distillery or the Knickerbocker Hotel, New York (for an investigation, read Adam Elmegirab, here)

Whatever your preference, one thing remains the same; the glass, a classic martini glass of course, should be chilled to ice cold before you begin. After that, the world is your olive.

The original Martini recipe (as far as I can tell) called for an equal mix of dry gin and dry vermouth, stirred gently and served with a single olive. Over time, the ratio of gin to vermouth has crept upwards, and passed two to three parts gin to one part vermouth in the 1940s (a Martini), five parts gin to one of vermouth in the 1960s (a Dry Martini) and up to eight parts gin to one part vermouth soon after that (an Extra Dry Martini).

The basic rule of thumb is that the greater the proportion of gin to vermouth, the “drier” the Martini – an old story claims that the driest Martini is made by pouring a large measure of gin and allowing “a sunbeam to pass through a sealed bottle of vermouth” and into the glass.

If I’m pouring myself a straight-forward Martini I will, by default, opt for a three:one ratio but it really is all down to personal preference:

  1. Chill your glass until it is frosty.
  2. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  3. Add the gin, then the dry vermouth and stir gentlyfor sixty seconds.
  4. Strain into the frosty martini glass and garnish with an olive or three (on a pick) or a twist of lemon peel if you prefer.

If you prefer a more complex drink add a sploosh of bitters (the more exotic the better), sweet vermouth, or an Islay whisky.

A Dirty Martini involves the soothing addition of a dash of olive brine, and a Gibson is a Dry Martini with a single pickled onion (a favourite of Roger Sterling).

The Vesper

Much Martini lore has evolved from James Bond’s supposed love of the drink. In Casino Royale, Bond even goes as far as to invent his own variation – The Vesper, named after the delectable Vesper Lynd.  The drink was actually created for Ian Fleming by his bar-tending friend Ivar Bryce. In the book, it is introduced thus:

Bond looked carefully at the barman. ‘A Dry Martini’ he said. ‘One in a deep champagne goblet…Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel…’ –Casino Royale, Ian Fleming.

Purists claim that a Martini should always be stirred as shaking will ‘bruise the gin’ – perhaps Bond was confident in the resolve of his gin, but his Martinis, ordered throughout the books, sometimes vodka, sometimes gin, were always shaken, not stirred.