There are millions of tasty beverages served in bars around the world every day. Just one look at any bartender’s stash of mixes, liqueurs, liquors and garnishes, and your head begins to spin from the sheer volume of choices available. Much like a confectionary wonderland, you can find sugar-rimmed glasses filled with bright hues of red and blue, or scientific looking potions that beam a suspiciously neon shade of green. Yet, despite all the colours and fancy concoctions, there is still something to be said for keeping a drink simple…well actually, there is a lot to be said for keeping a drink simple.
Simplicity – that’s where the Martini reigns supreme. Gin. Vermouth. Ice. Three simple ingredients with a delicately placed garnish and you’ve got yourself the tasty staple of upper class society. Even Mr. Bond himself knows that simple is stylishly cool – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
It’s almost ironic how difficult it is to create a good martini from 3 simple ingredients, but all experts will tell you, it takes time, patience and practice to achieve that flavour which is at once bold, smooth and fragrant without being overpowering. One of the most important factors to take into consideration is that the drink’s base – gin – is extremely complex on its own and can vary with its botanical essences from brand to brand. With flavour preferences varying from person to person, one just has to ensure that the essential flavour of juniper berry is present, and the rest can be decided by your palate.
However, if you, like most folk, don’t have the most discerning palate then the following list of popular martini-approved gin brands will likely suffice.
Bombay Original Gin
Many people are enticed by Bombay Sapphires luxurious looking blue bottle, but the real pros know that Bombay Original is the true martini maker’s delight. Made with only 8 botanicals this bottle has a more subtle kick than the Sapphire, and is more preferred by expert bartenders for martinis.
As you may have guessed, this gin has a strong essence of juniper berry. If you like to taste your botanicals, then this is your pick.
With a subtle citrus flavour, Tanqueray Ten is an excellent choice for those seeking a refreshing flavour. Though the brand is often chosen for gin and tonics, it also makes a great martini.
Plymouth English Gin
Many refer to this as the ideal gin for the ideal martini. Subtle and elegant with crisp, lingering flavors of citrus and juniper, it has a perfect balance that traditionalists stand by.
This gin has been around for generations, so many connoisseurs swear by its historically accurate recipe which is simple with hints of juniper, coriander, orange and lemon peels, angelica, liquorice, almond and orris root.
Though gin is the muscle of this drink, one could argue that vermouth is the joint that holds it all together. Though most people aren’t really sure what vermouth is (it’s a red or white wine flavored with aromatic herbs in case you were wondering) they do know that it can change the flavour of a martini drastically, which is why you need to make sure you pick the right one.
Most purists swear by the French-made Noilly Pratt. As one of the orginal mass-produced vermouths from way back when, it is trusted, tried and true and is made with dry white wine – the origins for the makings of a ‘dry’ martini. Many also say the same of the Italian-made Cinzano. Both brands come with a wide variety of sweet, dry and extra dry varieties so just ensure that you choose the one that applies to your favoured taste profile. There is also Martini Rossi, but some say it has a much stronger flavour than the other two, thus should be carefully administered in small quantities.
Now comes the real kicker: Should you drink your martini shaken or stirred? Well contrary to popular secret spy belief, all martinis should be stirred – not shaken. The reason being that shaking can ‘bruise’ the gin and change the flavour profile of the botanicals. However, many people prefer the little shards of ice that come with the shaken version of a martini, so the final decision is once again up to you.
Also important, a perfectly chilled martini glass and bottle of gin, along with a really fresh garnish. The two most commonly used garnishes are a lemon twist, which should come from an unwaxed lemon, or a green olive, which should be pitted and unstuffed (however, many people prefer the aesthetic appeal of the stuffed olive).
Then, and only then, are you ready to make your perfect martini. Ready?
100 ml of gin
25 ml of vermouth (dry is the most common)
1 inch strip of peel from an un-waxed lemon or a pitted green olive.
- Pre-chill your shaker, glass, gin and vermouth.
- Once chilled, add ice to the shaker and measure in the required amounts of gin and vermouth. Shake or stir as required.
- Strain into your chilled glass and twist the lemon peel until it leaves a spritz of lemon oil on the surface of the cocktail. Or, poke the olive with a garnish skewer and place delicately in the glass.
- Serve holding by the stem.
Other Interesting Martini Facts
- James Bond always orders a vodka martini, which actually is not a martini at all. Gin and only gin for the purists. Sorry Bond.
- A dry martini uses a minimal amount of dry vermouth, where as a wet martini uses a lot of vermouth
- A dirty martini has additional olive juice or brine poured into it, giving it a cloudy yet flavourful taste.
- If you’re served a martini with a cocktail onion as a garnish, you are actually drinking a ‘Gibson’
So there you have it, while a rainbow coloured Bellini may entice your senses once in a while, the old classics will always have the upper hand. Why is that? Well simply put, simplicity is the essence of flavour – and you can’t get much better than that.
Come enjoy all martinis for just $9 every Monday at Gerard Lounge in The Sutton Place Hotel Vancouver.