Sunday, 17 July 2011

My Cocktail Hobby and Cocktails for Men #1: The Martini

Tools of the Trade
I was bought a cocktail mixer for christmas which was a bit of a surprise.  I like the odd cocktail but as a card-carrying member of CAMRA it was beer that was my tipple of choice.

In the cold, depressing months of January I discovered an old Cocktail book my wife bought nearly ten years ago and began to devour the history and culture that surrounded the invention of the cocktail in America in the 19th Century.  It didn't hurt that suddenly prohibition-era speak-easies became all the rage in London at places like The Experimental Cocktail Club and Purl.

I quickly began trying all sorts of recipes - helped by the fact that my wife doesn't really like anything that really tastes of spirits hence the requirement to make 2 at a time.  Every trip to Waitrose became just that little bit more expensive when that extra bottle of Vermouth or Cointreau snuck into the shopping basket.  Six months later I now have a pretty well stocked cocktail cabinet which is a significant investment in both time and money!  Luckily there are some items that you go through quickly and some that last for months - its mainly the base spirits like Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Brandy and White and Dark Rum that go quickly (or even more quickly if my father gets to them - and he drinks them neat...)

I recommend a good read of the 12 Bottle Bar website if you're looking to build up a cabinet - although you may have to adapt your bottles based on what you can find in your local supermarket.  If you want to go on a quest then I do recommend Gerry's on Old Compton Street which is a veritable treasure trove.  I had to go here to find Orange Bitters for instance.

Over time though I began to realise that I was gravitating towards the real classics; the Martini, the Manhattan, the Sazerac.  It was these pre-1930's flavours that really rocked my boat - especially anything with the addition of Bitters.

So onto the Martini - my aperitif of choice these days.   There are two main ingredients; Gin and Vermouth although the Vodka Martini is also popular.  Something you can live your life by though is that Gin is almost always better than Vodka :-)

I take my Martini dry - which means Dry Vermouth.  This seems to make the Gin sing more than a Perfect Martini (mix of dry and sweet vermouth).  I also take my Martini stirred not shaken (the distinction seems to be both aesthetic and to do with the level of dilution from the icecubes).  The key thing is to ensure that the glass and the liquid are both ice-cold.

Some people take their Martini so dry that only the ice get seasoned (otherwise known as an In-and-Out Martini).  On a whim I had a go.

Recipe for an In-and-Out Martini.

  • Fill Martini Glass with Ice and pour over a good dash of Dry Vermouth.  This 'seasons' the ice.

Vermouth-seasoned ice.
  • Fill an Old-Fashioned Glass with 4 or 5 icecubes and pour in 2 shots or 50ml of gin.
  • Stir the gin glass for a quick count of 100
  • Throw out(!) the 'vermouth-y' ice and strain the contents of the Old-Fashioned Glass into the the Martini Glass
  • Garnish with either a Cocktail Olive or peel a small amount of skin from a Lemon and drop into the glass.  Make sure to squeeze the lemon peel so you get to the oil locked inside.

An In-and-Out Martini

Verdict:  Not my cup-of-tea.  Gin-heavy with not much added by the Vermouth although I suppose if all you want to taste is the Gin then this might rock your world.

I'm going to stick with my favourite method - I'm afraid I do like to taste the Vermouth.

Recipe for a Dry Martini, stirred-not-shaken.

  • Fill a Martini glass with Ice and Water and leave to chill

  • Pour 50ml or 2 shots of Gin, 3/4 of a shot of Dry Vermouth and a dash of Orange Bitters into an Old-Fashioned Glass.  You can omit the bitters if you don't have them but I like the herby edge it gives the drink.
  • Add 4 or 5 icecubes to the glass and stir for a quick count of 100.
  • Throw the ice and water in the martini glass away and strain the contents of the Old-Fashioned glass into the Martini glass.
  • Garnish with squeezed lemon peel.
Dry Martini
It's also worth mentioning the gin I've started using.  Sipsmiths is a microdistillery launched in the last few years in London - the first new distillery in 189 years in the capital.  Given that London dry Gin is part of our heritage and this is a great example of the type I strongly encourage you to hunt it down and give it a go (I found it in Waitrose)

Sipsmith London Dry Gin


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