It’s probably not surprising that we are so often asked what our favourite cocktail is. Marcus is a big fan of a pink drink and usually plums for a Cosmopolitan. I, on the other hand, like my martini drink in a very specific and traditional way: dry and served with three olives.
The reason I’m so particular about this is not borne out of some sense of superior knowledge on how drinks should be made. Rather, it’s based on several years of drinking martinis and learning what I like and what I don’t.
I like my martinis dry because while I like the herbaceous complexity of vermouth I don’t want it to overpower the subtleties of the gin. I like three olives because I enjoy how they develop the flavour of the drink over time…and also because I usually like the savoury tidbit after I’ve finished my drink. For this reason, I think that a well made dirty martini is the perfect aperitif.
How martinis should be made is often a source of debate among discerning imbibers. Shaken or stirred? Gin or vodka? Lemon or olives?
I’d like to say that there really is no right or wrong way to make a martini; that as long as it’s made with quality ingredients then little else should matter. However, when you delve into the subject you realise there is a lot to consider in making this most iconic drink. Most important of all is personal taste. I’ll admit to my heart sinking on more than one occasion at the sight of a bartender liberally pouring vermouth into a Boston tin and shaking up a soggy martini for me.
What Makes a Great Martini?
The ratio of vermouth to gin is always a hot topic but also to be discussed is the glassware, method, temperature and ice. Whole books have been written on the subject. Since reading “Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini” by drinks historians Anistatia R. Miller and Jared Brown, I always stir my martinis for 21 seconds. Now this could be testament to the power of suggestion but it seems to be spot on for chilling and diluting the drink. What the science behind this is, I do not know, but it’s true to say I rather like the ritual of it now.
What is surely common sense however is the need for quality ingredients. Miller and Brown advocate three important components for a good martini:
1. Good gin
2. Fresh vermouth
3. Quality ice
We always buy our ice rather than make our own. There’s a great benefit in having a good supply on hand of course but also the quality is better. Good quality ice will keep its integrity longer. This may sound bonkers but trust me ice is important business and is a favourite topic of conversation among many hospitality professionals!
Your choice of gin and vermouth is important too. Find a match to suit your palate! This really is where the journey of discovery begins because the myriad flavour profiles of the drinks create a world of possibilities. I like to think of it as a matrix of flavours to be worked through. But obviously not all on the same night.
Before the gin boom happened we would often drink vodka martinis. Purists out there will be rolling their eyes at this point, exclaiming “no gin, no martini!”. But for this we make no apology.
Follow the “rules” if you want or boss up on the science. Alternatively, grab your favourite gins and experiment. Once you’ve discovered what you like best, it’s a very special, personal drink. Whatever your approach, it’s hard to get bored with a martini.
Leave us a comment below and tell us how you like to drink yours…