tea berry-blue (teaberryblue) wrote,
tea berry-blue

In Defense of the Martini

On any weekday night, in any city in America, you can find a happy hour menu that includes a selection of “Martinis.” Chocolate martinis, sour apple martinis, blueberry martinis, lemon martinis, baby penguin martinis, and on and on. Perhaps the height of this martini craze coincided with the height of “Sex and the City,” a show that may have elevated the status of the Cosmopolitan forever. However it happened, martini is now the stand-in word for any cocktail served in a triangular martini glass.

These drinks are nothing like a true martini, neither in nature nor content. A “flavored” martini is often a fabulous concoction, requiring a scientific and complicated recipe. A flavored martini is also, most often, a vodka-based drink. Catering to drinkers who are more interested in pretty colors and fruity flavors than the complexities of a good liquor, flavored martinis are all about the flavorings added, not the base liquor. And that’s not to knock flavored martinis of this variety– some of them are very good, very tasty, very drinkable. But the similiarity to a traditional martini ends at the shape of the glass.

For those of you who are neophytes to bartending, a true martini is a simple paean to one of our most challenging beverages. Gin is created by taking a grain spirit (liquor made by distilling grain), flavoring it with juniper and other herbs, and then re-distilling it. It has a strong, distinct flavor that often evokes a visceral reaction: people love it or hate it. It’s like the horseradish of the bartending world.

A martini, a real martini, a drink whose roots are found in gold rush stories of 19th century America, has only two necessary ingredients: gin and dry (white) vermouth. Classically, a martini is served with a green olive or three in it, or a lemon peel garnish. Variations on the martini include the vodka martini, which substitutes vodka for gin, the dirty martini, which uses brine from the olive jar in place of or in addition to the vermouth, the Gibson, which uses an onion instead of an olive, and the Winston Churchill, in which you look in the direction of the vermouth bottle and fill your glass with dry gin.

Martinis are served in varying degrees of dryness. A traditional martini has about a half-ounce of vermouth. A “dry” martini has about half that, and an “extra dry” martini is one where you only coat the glass in vermouth, or put in a teeny-tiny splash of vermouth in the glass.

Technically, a martini is meant to be stirred, but a lot of people shake them in a cocktail shaker instead– including me.

Here is the martini recipe I use when making martinis:

3 oz gin
Splash of vermouth

1) Put ice in glass to chill
2) Add ice and gin to shaker and shake.
3) Remove ice, pour vermouth into bottom of glass. Swirl glass until coated, then pour out remaining vermouth.
4) Add gin
5) Add olives and serve

I don’t have anything against candy-flavored drinks– in fact, I quite like most of them, a long as they don’t have too many artificial ingredients. But a drink made with vodka and lots of fruity, candy-like flavorings, is just about the furthest thing from a martini as you can get. So the name is not only misleading, but it affects people’s expectations of what a real martini is. I have been out to dinner with people who see that a restaurant specializes in martinis and ask what “kind” of martinis the restaurant has. I’ve also people out with people who were surprised when they ordered a martini and got gin and not vodka. There’s a reason James Bond specifies vodka in his martinis– because the real thing doesn’t have vodka.

That’s not to say that you can’t improve upon or create variations on a martini! But I would argue that a martini variation should stick to a gin base and should keep the spirit of a martini intact, not just the glass shape. For example, I think it’s possible to have a sour apple martini– but it should be made with a tiny bit of sour apple whiskey, fresh ground cinnamon, and fresh green apples in an American gin like Bluecoat or Seneca Drums, not artificial sour apple mixer or Schnapps in a glass with vodka. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to two of my own variations on a martini which I think more suitably reflect the spirit of a martini.

Sugarplum Martini

Sugarplum Martini

Sugarplum Martini

3 oz Tanqueray Rangpur Gin (this is a gin infused with lime flavoring)
6 leaves plus one flower sprig lime basil
2 sugarplums
Splash of St. Germain (Elderflower liqueur)

1) Put ice in glass to chill and add ice to shaker.
2) Add 5 leaves lime basil to shaker
3) Cut up 1 1/2 plums and chop into 1/2″ pieces. Reserve one plum half.
4) Add chopped plum to shaker.
5) Muddle plum and lime basil with wooden spoon
6) Add gin and shake.
7) Remove ice, pour St. Germain into bottom of glass. Swirl glass until coated, then pour out remaining St. Germain.
8) Pour gin into glass.
9) Add 1 leaf lime basil, flower sprig, and half plum. Serve.

Lemon Martini

Lemon Martini

Lemon Martini

3 oz gin– I prefer a London Dry or a Swedish gin for this, like Bulldog or Right.
1/2 oz limoncello
6 leaves plus 1 flower sprig lemon sage
1/2 lemon

1) Put ice in glass to chill and add ice to shaker.
2) Reserve one leaf lemon sage.
3) Slice one thin slice of lemon and reserve.
4) Chop remaining sage coarsely and add to shaker.
5) Squeeze lemon juice from remaining half of lemon into shaker.
6) Muddle with wooden spoon.
7) Add gin and limoncello and shake.
8) Remove ice, pour into glass.
9) Add lemon sage and lemon slice and serve.

Mirrored from Antagonia.net.

Tags: bartending, cocktails, food and drink, gin, recipes
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