The Martini. There is so much confusion and miss-information about the Martini that it can be hard for even professionals to get to the bottom of this stiff little drink.
The truth is though, it may be a very elegant drink and it may need some care in preparation, but in reality it is also beautifully simple. It is the terminology, history and mythology that elevates its status but also causes complete confusion.
A few quick points worth a mention:
The Martini is, was and always has been a gin cocktail. A vodka Martini is a recent and, in my opinion, a somewhat odd variation on this classic.
There is no such thing as a Martini glass. The Martini is served in a cocktail glass, originally with curved sides, but after the end of prohibition in the US, the sides of the glass were straightened to make a ‘V’ shaped cocktail glass. V for Victory!
Every Martini should be tailor made to suit its drinker.
The last point, about the drink being made for each individual, is the one that seems to cause the most debate. Many do not realise there is an option of how they can order it; the combination of gin, dry vermouth and garnish is all your choice.
Some might hear you order precise Martini instructions and think you are being fussy. However, a good friend once put it to me perfectly. He described a Martini as being like a cup of tea, everyone has a certain way they like it made, and no one ever thinks that this is making a fuss.
If you are not used to ordering a Martini, find a bartender who knows what he is talking about and go through the options. Taste different dry vermouths before choosing. See how powerful the aroma is from a twist by spraying the oils onto the back of your hand. With this information you can now work with your bartender to put together a recipe for you, then try and remember it so you can order it again. Once you have this recipe, you have a starting point from where you can make changes to suit your taste. You have already chosen a great gin in Beefeater but you can then experiment with less vermouth (drier), more vermouth (wetter) or a different garnish.
For me, the Martini is a drink not restricted to the role of aperitif; instead it is simply my drink of choice. How I like it served will change though, depending on how I feel, the time or perhaps the occasion.
Here is one of my preferred serves.
Rhubarb Martini – 2:1 Rhubarb infused Beefeater London Dry Gin: Lillet Blanc, dash of fruit cup, garnished with a rhubarb crisp
If there was such a thing as a “Daytime Martini”, then this would be it. In fact, maybe there is a better name for this recipe of mine after all?
The word Martini has been much misused in the cocktail world. In the late 90s and early to mid 00s it was a suffix used to describe any cocktail served straight-up in a cocktail glass or, as that glass is often referred to, a Martini glass. When it comes to this, I have been as guilty as anyone, writing hundreds of “Martini” recipes and throwing the word Martini all over menus I wrote for numerous clients.
Thankfully these days, we see the word Martini more often bears some resemblance to an actual Martini. So, keeping this in mind, please do not think that this is a sweet, thick and fruity drink served in a gargantuan cocktail glass. It is really a delicate, but stiff little drink.
Rhubarb has a fantastic flavour; it is a classic British ingredient and always works very well with gin. When it is in season, I take myself along to Borough Market, just a short trip from the Beefeater distillery in Kennington, and pick up a bundle; preferably the forced variety that is produced early in the year. Back at the distillery, I finely slice the rhubarb and add it to the gin.
One or two good sized stalks is plenty for a standard sized bottle of Beefeater. The alcohol does the rest of the work, ripping all the colour and flavour from the fresh rhubarb. Simply store it somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight; the fridge is perfect. Leave the rhubarb in the gin for a few days, until the rhubarb is white as bone and the gin is a pretty pink, then filter through as fine a mesh as possible. The fruity flavour and aroma, along with a little bitterness and zing all work in harmony with the gin without overpowering it.
Gentlemen reading this may be concerned about the colour of this drink. Well, there is no hiding the fact that it is a very delicate pink colour. However, take comfort in the knowledge that many of the world’s most potent concoctions are often pretty and also pink – the Negroni and Hanky Panky for example – so do not be put off!
So, if you see me in bar about London, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, you can now make a pretty good guess as to what drink I have in my hand.
One final word of warning from the late, great Dorothy Parker:
“I like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.”
By Sebastian Hamilton-Mudge: global brand ambassador, Beefeater Gin