Dear readers, I have a dark, terrible secret I feel I must tell you all. I’ve tried to keep it secret for a while now, but the pressure is too much, and I think now is the time to tell the truth. You see, despite being a self-proclaimed cocktail enthusiast, I have never had a Martini…
The Martini is without a doubt the most famous of all cocktails. Consisting of gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters, no one is really sure of its exact origin. The most likely I’ve read is that it is derived from the sweeter Martinez, which uses similar ingredients but with sweet vermouth and the addition of Maraschino. Whatever the origin, it is certainly over a century old, and since then has became the darling cocktail of the twentieth century. Stars as varied as Truman Capote, Cary Grant and Winston Churchill were all big fans, and it featured heavily in classic Hollywood cinema.
While the original Martini contained gin, vodka Martinis have become more and more popular over the past 50 years, in no small part thanks to James Bond and his penchant for shaken vodka Martinis. These days if you order a Martini at a bar you will more than likely end up with a glass of cold, shaken vodka, with perhaps a dribble of vermouth and certainly no bitters. For tonight however, I am concentrating on the original gin Martini.
I had never tried a Martini because, quite honestly, the idea of a gin heavy cocktail with just vermouth as a modifier didn’t appeal at all. I’d never considered myself a gin fan, and I imagined it to taste so strong that it would be difficult to drink. However, given how much I have enjoyed gin based cocktails like the Aviation, I decided it was time to step up and give it a try. So, armed with Plymouth gin and a fresh bottle of Noilly Prat vermouth, and with a small amount of trepidation, I made my first Martini…
- 2¼ shots gin
- ¾ shot dry vermouth
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Stir well with ice, strain in to a cocktail glass with lemon twist for garnish.
I’ve gone for quite a “wet” Martini, with a 3:1 gin to vermouth recipe. As the twentieth century progressed the Martini became drier and drier until it reached the point where people did silly things like glancing at a vermouth bottle while making the drink with just gin. If you want to drink cold gin then fair enough, but I wanted to try a more traditional Martini, and based on what I have previously read decided that 3:1 was a good starting ratio.
The Martini – like most drinks made solely of spirits – should be stirred, not shaken, despite what Mr Bond might say. This isn’t because of the ludicrous notion the shaking will bruise the gin, but because shaking introduces lots of air bubbles to the drink. This spoils the clear look of the drink (which does look very nice), as well as the texture when drinking. The time taken stirring the drink also adds a sufficient amount of water to the drink, which helps to take the bite out of the gin.
The Martini was a revelation to me. It didn’t taste nearly as strong as I imagined it would (though to be clear, it’s still a very strong drink), nor did it taste specifically of gin. Indeed, I found the taste very hard to pinpoint. It was a complex mixture of botanical and floral flavours which neither tasted of gin or vermouth, but did taste very good. It was a crisp, refreshing drink, but definitely quite challenging – certainly not a drink to serve to a cocktail newbie!
Of course this was just my first try, and I want to experiment with different ratios of gin and vermouth to find which I like the most, and also try different brands of gin. But to my great surprise, the Martini is definitely a drink I will return to…
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