For a lover of Mixology, the Martini still has a few variations to make it ‘fun’ but what we are really talking about here is a combination of good gin and good vermouth, stirred with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass. There are a slew of drinks that have nothing to do with these ingredients, but share a common glass, as well as the suffix ‘tini’ – and they can be a lot of fun, but today, let’s talk about the Martini that has been giving stage actors something to hold for over a hundred years.
Gin is a clear spirit which derives its main flavoring from juniper berries, along with a shopping list of various botanicals, roots, and citrus. A young person, first embarking on the adventure of developing a palate for spirits, often has an unpleasant impression of gin that leaves a prolonged disregard for the category as a whole. This initial taste usually occurs when raiding the liquor cabinet of the absent parents of a friend – and usually ends poorly. Let’s try to forget about that experience, and give gin another chance with the cocktail that elevates the spirit.
Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine that has been flavored with spices, botanicals, and citrus. Originally a medicinal libation, vermouth acts as good stock when cooking – it balances the alcohol in a cocktail and rounds out the level of acidity. When we are talking Martini, we are talking dry, white vermouth from Italy or France. It is important to use fresh vermouth, to chill your opened bottles, and to replace them if they have been open for longer than you recall (or since last year’s holiday party).
Olives or lemon peel are the traditional Martini garnish. The green olive is really where we should focus our attention; it provides salty, bitter sourness and a bit of vegetal fat. Stuffed olives, filled with blue cheese, anchovies, pickled peppers are natural choices. You are adding a level of flavor that plays off of the cocktail and offers interesting taste variation on your palate as you consume the ice cold gin. If you don’t care for olive, a thin surf-board shaped slice of lemon peel will offer a freshness that is sure to please the palate.
Glassware is somewhat important – you need a V-shaped glass to hold the olives elegantly, and the glass shouldn’t be so large that you are consuming six ounces of gin per drink. You can also enjoy your Martini on the rocks, in a smallish well-weighted glass filled with fresh ice.
Martinis are meant to be enjoyed slowly, while chatting or conversing. Mixing perfect Martinis for your friends is still an intimate and appreciated skill that you should practice. Mixing – not shaking. Fill a cocktail glass with ice and a splash of water and let chill. In a mixing glass, measure out 4 parts gin and 1 part vermouth. Add plenty of fresh ice and stir for thirty to forty-five seconds. You are chilling the ingredients and diluting the cocktail. You can’t really over-chill the drink, but you can over-dilute it so pay attention during the time that the spirits are in contact with the ice. Empty the chilled cocktail glass of its ice-bath and strain the freshly mixed cocktail into the perfectly chilled glass. Skewer three olives and drop it into the glass.
Our Favorite Recipe
2 oz Martin Miller’s Gin
½ oz Noilly Prat Original Dry
Pimento stuffed Green Olives
Chill a cocktail glass. In a mixing glass, combine gin and vermouth. Add ice, and stir for 30-45 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with skewered olives.