There are few drinks that so completely represent gin as the Martini. For a drink with such an ambiguous background, Martinis have developed into almost endless permutations from extra dry to dirty and shaken and stirred.
A popular story on its origins involves its invention in New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel by famous mixologist Martini di Arma di Taggia. Another asserts it was a brand-inspired drink named after Martini and Rossi Vermouth in the mid 1800s. Yet another insists that bartender “Professor” Jerry Thomas used his ground-breaking cocktail techniques to invent the Martinez in 1887 in San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel; a drink that slowly morphed into the Martini.
On the theme of the Martinez, a final theory posits that the precursor cocktail actually came from Martinez in California; when a gold prospector struck big and walked into a local bar with a request for a bespoke drink appropriate for the celebration. From these murky stories we learn one thing for sure: the Martini has been a staple of the cocktail tale since the dawn of drinking time.
The classic gin martini
The classic gin Martini recipe is a simple beast. The simplest of which being made up of only gin and vermouth. This is usually garnished with lemon peel or a single fat olive. The serve of vermouth tends to depend on the heavy-handedness of the one pouring. Personally, I side with Noel Coward’s description of the drink: “a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy”.
While many cocktail classicists will insist on one particular recipe being the only recipe, there are as many ways to make a Martini as there are to skin a cat.
One memorable night out saw me drinking one called a Bikini Martini and it was the approximate colour of an under ripe blueberry. Like any drink, the Martini can be tweaked completely out of shape and still retain its original glamour.
The perfect martini serve
I’ve done some generous experimenting on the Martini and I may have come up with the perfect serve. Using our Eden Mill Original Gin, I added just a touch of a dry German Vermouth (sorry Noel) known for using high quality wines from Baden as its base.
With just a trickle of olive brine, and the olive itself, my Martini was nearly ready – bar one show-stopping ingredient: one fresh sprig of rosemary. The drink smelt like a Mediterranean pasta dish but upon tasting it opened out into a salty, slightly spicy herbal wonderland, the seabuckthorn in our Original softening the sometimes sharp flavour of the brine.
And the best thing? The olive at the bottom was a great after-drink snack.