The Gin Cooperative Martini GuideAs we look forward to World Martini Day on Saturday 19th June 2021.
Published: 15th June 2021
With a staggering number of variations and bar by bar versions of the Martini, for those looking to dip into the ice cold martini glass, it can be daunting. A good martini can set you up for life as an admirer. It’s hard to beat an ice cold martini bursting with the perfect balance of flavour between citrus and pine, mainly when you use a London Dry gin. The vermouth, the garnish, the ratio and even the temperature of the glass when your drink is served all contribute to the taste. Not all martinis are created equal, and even more so when you’re experimenting at home. You will have some ‘oh dear, what have I created?!’ moments when experimenting. However, with a little time and understanding, you will also have some ‘oh wow, what have I created?!’ moments. It’s part of the fun and the journey into the world of the Martini cocktail and with World Martini Day just around the corner, we’re delving into the different elements that you should consider on your Martini journey.
We’re only going to focus on four key martini styles – the Classic Martini, the Dirty Martini, the Gibson Martini and the Martinez. There are other variations such as the breakfast martini, the espresso martini, the fifty fifty and more. Still, to understand the Martini, you should start with the Classic Martini.
The Classic Martini is made using gin, vermouth and garnished with a twist of lemon. The Classic Martini is bright, bold, balanced and ice cold. Citrus and pine are the two key flavours most will discover in a classic martini when made using a classic London Dry gin along with some warmth and spice depending on the gin used.
The Dirty Martini substitutes the lemon peel found in a Classic Martini for an olive along with a subtle splash of olive brine. The Dirty Martini has a slightly saline, salty taste thanks to the use of brine and olive garnish creating a more savoury flavour profile.
The Gibson Martini is also a take on the Classic Martini, which substitutes the twist of lemon found in the Classic Martini with a pickled onion.
The Martinez is the precursor to the Martini and uses gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino Liqueur and orange bitters, garnished with a twist of orange. Although a London Dry gin can be used, for something a little sweeter and deeper, many use an Old Tom gin. Originally when this cocktail was created in the 1860s, the gin would most likely have been an old tom or the Dutch Genever.
The history and recipes for these cocktails are complex and the methods and evolution of each Martini has their own folklore and historical touchpoints from the likes of President Franklin D Roosevelt, who was said to have made the worst Martinis, or famous author Ernest Hemingway whose go-to cocktail was the Martini. Of course, probably the most well-known martini drinker was the British spy James Bond, the fictional character penned by Ian Fleming.
Dry or Wet?
Do you prefer a wet or dry martini? But isn’t it a liquid? Shouldn’t it be wet? Wet or dry refers to the mouthfeel and sensation you get from the drink. An example ratio of a dry Martini would be five parts gin to one part vermouth. An extra dry martini might only contain a few dashes of vermouth or even just used to rinse the glass before the gin is added. A wet martini by its very nature, uses a lighter ratio of gin to vermouth, three parts gin, one part vermouth for example. Dry or wet? It’s completely up to you and your own preference.
Shaken or Stirred
“The name’s Bond, James Bond.” It’s a phrase that thanks to Mr Bond’s big screen appearance, has been cemented in drinks culture and wider society. Although James Bond actually opted for the Vesper Martini, that substitutes the gin for vodka. The Vesper Martini was invented by author Ian Fleming and took its name from a fictional double agent Vesper Lynd who appears in the book Casino Royale.
As perfect and suave as 007 is in the books and on the big screen, it’s recommended that a martini should never be shaken but stirred. Stirring a martini helps the cocktail infuse and balance; it imparts temperature evenly and lets the drink mix slowly. Shaking aggravates and aerates the liquid. Although the shaking action can result in an icy cold liquid, the flavours can often taste lighter and diluted.
Alessandro Palazzi, head bartender at London institution Duke’s Bar, serves his Martinis extremely cold. The theatre of preparing each Martini has become an art in its own right. Alessandro opts to keep the gin in the freezer along with the glassware. It means when the drinks are poured, there’s no dilution from the ice. The drink and glassware can come to temperature at approximately the same time.
If you have the space, we suggest you keep your gin in the freezer and where space is limited, you can always decant gin into a smaller bottle and keep in your freezer as your unique Martini Gin along with your favourite Martini Glass. And talking of glassware…
You order a Martini and are presented with a glass the size of a swimming pool. This quickly results in a Martini that has warmed too quickly and can feel like a chore to finish. In our opinion, smaller is better. A smaller glass can often mean flavours are amplified, the glass can stay colder for longer and it means you’ll be able to sensibly enjoy your Martini. Martinis are strong and can catch the uninitiated off guard, so go small and go easy. With a decent glass you should be able to hold it by the stem, helping to keep the drink as cold as possible.
Gin and Vermouths
This is the fun bit; the liquids. There are countless opportunities to experiment and discover the perfect balance of gin and vermouth. Our advice is to explore and seek out the style and flavour profile that appeals to you. Don’t feel you can’t use this vermouth with that gin or vice versa. Some Vermouth brands we suggest make a great starting point include Dolin, Quady Winery, Sacred and Asterley Bros.
A classic London Dry gin is the best place to start. A gin that features a lot of juniper and citrus can provide the best Martini experience and help provide a recognisable and pleasant gin flavour profile; nothing too wild or intimidating. Of course you can experiment with Navy Strength gins if you feel like you need the bigger, stronger flavours normally found in a well made Navy Strength Gin. Some Scottish Gins we suggest make great Martinis include Isle of Harris Gin, Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin, The Secret Garden Distillery Lemon Verbena Gin, William Kerr’s Borders Gin, Mackintosh Mariner Strength Gin, Crossbill Highland Dry Gin, Highland Liquor Company Fisherman’s Strength Gin, SOS Gin and Inshriach Navy Strength Gin… to name but a few!
You can delve as deep into the drink as you like. Scratch the surface and enjoy the occasional Martini tipple or delve so deep you end up with a dedicated Martini freezer; everyone has their own process and theatre when getting to know the martini. Experiment. Taste. And enjoy responsibly.
Discover our range of London Dry Gins here.
Learn more about the creators of World Martini Day here.