The Martini is a drink I simply adore. It was the very essence of grown up sophistication to my teenage self who one day imagined, hoped and grafted to one day move to the big city, listen to hot jazz and drink ice-cold gin. Such guff gets written and said about the wonder that is a Martini: no doubt because if in wine there’s truth, in hard spirits there’s a muddled mess.
I suppose it’s because the most simple things are the most likely to be the most complicated. A blend of vermouth and gin, ice-cold, and garnished with, and this really is non negotiable, an olive, is easy to write down on paper. But to mix these just so, that is the labour of Hercules.
There’s a school of drinking which demands that the drink should be overwhelmingly gin. And gin it is, no vodka thank you very much. Field Marshal Montgomery took his at 15 measures of gin to 1 of vermouth, Winston Churchill, depending on who you quote, had his gin sort of wafted towards an unopened bottle of vermouth, and Noel Coward orientated his jug of mother’s ruin in the general direction of Italy.
Frankly, I am amazed that they were able to stand let alone win a war. I do not much like the idea of necking neat gin anymore. One memorable party stands out where I did just that and of which the least said the better. Beyond leading to deeply, deeply regrettable decisions, deeds and actions a jug of cold gin doesn’t seem to me to make a much of a drink either.
Though I suppose much must depend on the gin, and for what it’s worth the whole craze leaves me exhausted. I just want a bright, clean, juniper led spirit. In the ideal world a little citrus brightness, and some more interesting aromatics are of course welcome, but I do not wish or desire to taste the rainbow.
The vermouth is vital to soften the hard spirits. Gone are the days when there was a wide and varied and immediate choice for a vermouth, but the big brands are at least consistent. There’s now smaller and more interesting producers coming on-line too and that I think is no bad thing, because my Martini is wetter than those imbibed by those mid-century giants.
I sometimes wonder whether or not the ice is the most important thing of all. For the drink really must be ice cold and to achieve without diluting the final cocktail is no mean feat. I have thought that keeping the gin in the freezer might be a good idea, but living as I do in space squeezed London that is not an option.
So, take a jug and fill with large cubes, pour in 4 good measures of good gin, followed by an extremely generous measure of vermouth. A grain of salt is a good addition. Stir vigorously until the jug feels very cold to the touch. Pour into a glass, jab a cocktail stick into an olive, plop that into the glass. Drink quickly, ideally listening to hot jazz, Sons of Kemet are quite good, and feeling like a grown up.
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