The Martini -- B&B Classic Cocktails

Discussion in 'The Speakeasy' started by castlecraver, Mar 5, 2009.

  1. castlecraver

    castlecraver Moderator Emeritus

    Well, here we are. Chapter 3 of the B&B Classic Cocktails, and this one is the classic. The Martini. This is a relatively straightforward drink, so I think I'll also take this opportunity to include some of the more esoteric points on cocktail mixing that I'd like to empart.

    Notice I didn't qualify it by calling it a "gin martini?" That's because martinis are made with gin -- period. As far as my cocktails are concerned, I'm actually fairly flexible. There are only a few things I'm strictly canonical about, and the crazy imposters masquerading as martinis these days are one of my biggest pet peeves. Dump any silly, fruity concoction (invariably made with a vodka base) into an "up" glass and you might barely get away with calling it a ____-tini. But don't call it a "martini," Certainly, there are a lot of variations. And very few of them are worth discussing, unless you're as cool as James Bond. And its important to note that the "James Bond" martini is another one of these imposters -- its made with 3:1 gin-to-vodka, and a half measure of Kina Lillet. (The closest you can get these days is Lillet Blanc), and its actually known as a "Vesper."

    The Martini gets its name from a somewhat aprocryphal drink known as the "Martinez" which preportedly originated sometime around the gold-rush days. Certainly the apertif wine used in those days would be long gone by today, but the Martini (as it came to be known) gained popularity over the years and has amassed an unparalleled tradition and mythology surrounding the drink. Indeed, the Martini has become a symbol for the nightclub scene in general, and although it is rarely seen these days amongst this generations' incarnation of the nightclub crowd, retains immense popularity and credibility in all refined drinking circles.

    So now, without any further adieu, gather your ingredients:


    Ice, chilled cocktail glass, Gin, Vermouth, Olives, and your trusty shaker.

    Tonight we'll be mixing with Boodles British Gin (which we discussed as our first Spirit of the Month selection way back when) and Noilly Prat Vermouth. Hundreds of variations are possible, but this happens to be my current favorite. White specific Vermouth apertif compositions are often closely-guarded secrets, however the most ubiquitous varities, Gallo and Martini & Rossi, are available just about everywhere. I hightly recommend seeking out the Noilly Prat, however, as its generally the "martini purist's" vermouth and IMHO, tastes orders of magnitude better than the aforementioned two. However, brands of gin and vermouth are highly subjective and personal -- definitiely feel free to experiment.

    First, fill your shaker with ice. Be generous.


    And add the vermouth.


    Notice I'm not giving you measurement directions? That's the beauty of this particular cocktail, if you decide to take it the modern, dryer direction. Winston Churchill preferred to simply "look at [the vermouth] from across the room," and a certain Queen of England preferred the vermouth to be only hovered over the shaker oh-so briefly. Common ratios for those who like to add an appreciable amount of vermouth range from 3:1 to 6:1, and pre-prohibition Martinis in the USA were known to consist of equal parts, but by the method which was taught to me by my favorite bartender several years ago, I simply pour in a measure of vermouth, give the shaker a few gentle shakes to coat the ice, and then pour it out.


    This is the one instance where I'll use the holes built into my shaker for their designed purpose. Giving 5-6 shakes and dumping out the vermouth (for me) seems to leave just enough in to empart the faintest sweetness (which I don't get if I strain out the vermouth at this step... I've tried).

    Here's the coated ice:


    Then pour in your gin. This is where you determine the strength and volume of your drink. As I have a pretty good idea of what sort of volume is appropriate for my glassware and taste in an after-dinner cocktail, I just pour straight from the bottle without measuring. Perhaps the first few times you might want to measure, but part of the excitiement of the Martini for me is that its one of the very few drinks I can make start-to-finish without measuring a drop, with certainly adds a bit of flash. Some pre-coat the glass with vermouth, which I think is silly if you own a proper shaker. You do, don't you?


    Then pop on the lid and give ~8 firm, yet not violent shakes.

    Yes, I shake my martinis. Half the purists are moaning right now, something about "bruising the gin" or whatnot, but in my opinion, the small bit of dilution emparted by shaking rather than stirring really "opens the drink up" and liberates the junpier flavor better than stirring. Its not so much a matter of cold vs. really cold, as I don't usually shake as much as most bartenders might. Just enough to see the faintest bit of frost towards the bottom of the shaker:


    Then pop the lid off...


    And strain into your glass:


    (Did I mention how badly you really need a proper cocktail strainer to do this? Get it all out of there without any additional ice-rattling.) :tongue:

    And you'll have something that looks a little bit like this:


    Some folks like their martinis completely clear, out of the shaker. You generally get closer to this when you stir, but I like the slight bit of cloudiness for the first few minutes. If you can see visible ice chunks, you've probably shaken too long and/or hard. The mirror-shine on (my) perfect martini is one those little things that keeps me enamoured with this drink -- notice the reflections of my wall hangings?

    Plop in your olive (I've been using the bleu-cheese stuffed ones lately, although I'm not really an olive person and will probably go back to the small, unstuffed ones or nothing when I'm done with this jar... and don't get me started on "dirty" martinis), and you're done!


    Garnishing with a cocktail onion makes the drink a "gibson." I'll leave the "onion soup" jokes out of this because I've never actually ordered one, and I can hardly be arsed to buy a jar of cocktail onions when olives are a bit of a stretch themselves. :tongue:

    Bitters are optional, although many devotees (and even some self-described purists) demand them. There's nothing wrong with experimenting here though (orange bitters are most common), and a certain someone here even suggested I once add a drop or two of scotch to my martini. It was interesting and enjoyable. But in general, I like the taste of gin, and like my Martinis "sharp" and more or less unadulterated.

    Hope this inspires you gents to mix yourselves some classic cocktails! Cheers!
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2017
  2. Scotto

    Scotto Moderator Emeritus


    Apparently Noilly Prat is changing its formula, and people aren't too happy. There was an article in the WSJ not long ago.

    Personally I detest gin, no matter how hard I try and like it. Such is life - more Manhattans for me.
  3. castlecraver

    castlecraver Moderator Emeritus

    Very interesting. Perhaps I'll stock up, but I'll give the new formulation a chance. The comparison to Lillet is actually a tad encouraging.

    I also forgot to add to the main post that Vermouth is like most other wines, in that once opened, the flavor will start to turn. To delay this, keep your vermouth in the fridge rather than room-temp. This will usually give you a few good months out of a bottle.
  4. Perfect, Pat. Just perfect. :thumbsup:

    That's exactly how it's done! I'm into one right now.

    I'm also glad you left the skewer/toothpick out of the olive. All that does is give the cat a means of getting to the olive without drinking the gin. (Seriously. My brother's cat will resort to drinking a martini if he has to in order to get himself an olive. It's not pretty.) :a54:
  5. I like the Rat Pack Martini.

    You fill your shaker with ice and Gin. Then you have a truck load of vermouth drive past the bar, pour the now cold gin into a glass, and drop in a few olives so you look classy.

    True story, I saw a Rat Pack documentary the other day and that was one of the quotes from one of them.
  6. Doc4

    Doc4 Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    :mad: ... why is it that B&B is a constant source of information on reformulations?? :eek: Why can't the people who make The Good Stuff (whatever it happens to be) just leave it the way it is?? Sigh.
  7. AGREE!! I think Jeffrey Morgenthaler said it best here

    Now, I know a lot of people think that a layer of ice floating on top of a drink is a mark of excellence, but I think it makes a drink look and taste like sh#%. In fact, I would fine-strain all of my drinks through my tea strainer if I had the time. I think drinks should be Arctic cold, and totally homogenous from start to finish. That little layer of ice chunks at the start of a drink sounds neat, but ice doesnÂ’t taste like anything and I see it as a chunky little barrier before you can enjoy your cocktail.
  8. TimmyBoston

    TimmyBoston Moderator Emeritus

    Brilliant work, Pat :thumbup1:
  9. Great work Pat!
  10. Its the Blue cheese stuffed olives that got me...didn't you know as well as printing money the UK government has started issuing ration cards.

    That is tantamount to hardcore olive porn sir.
  11. Isn't it called a Paisly when you add scotch? I havn't tried it yet, but might this weekend.
    My standard is 3 Gin to 1/2 Noily Pratt. I'm still on my Gordon's kick but I can't find Boodles to save my life.

    I tried a Vesper recently, but find I prefer the standard Martini, as a happy side effect Lilet on the rocks with a curl of orange zest is now my favourite aperatif.
  12. Doc4

    Doc4 Moderator Emeritus Contributor

    Many years ago I was able to find tins of green olives stuffed with anchovie paste ... delicious in pasta, I tell you what! I wonder how they'd go in a martini?? :tongue_sm

    ... I do likes me some cocktail onions, though. :w00t:
  13. Nice write up! Images are fabulous.

    I don't buy into the premise of bruising the gin. If you want to bring the aeration of the gin to its absolute minimum, why not keep your gin in the freezer and ready to go?
  14. Jac


  15. Add some distilled water to the bottle in the freezer?
  16. Jac


    Killjoy. :tongue_sm

    I suppose you could do that, but... Well, for one thing, it would screw up your ability to fiddle with the proportions (if your Martini was too weak and you wanted to add some more gin, you'd be adding more water, too).

    Also, that would kill the ritual, which, for me at least, is one of the best parts of cocktails.
  17. I get what you're saying but making it the traditional way you're always going to have a varied strength end product unless your timing is perfect, your ice cubes are always the same surface area and beginning temperature, and your gin is always stored at the same temperature, which it never is.

    And yes, I agree that the actual process can be a worthwhile part of the whole experience.

    tl;dr - I am the heathen who keeps his gin in the freezer.:tongue_sm
  18. letterk

    letterk Moderator Emeritus

    Ditto. Although I am hanging onto this recipe for those that come to my house that may want a martini.

    Great writeup again!
  19. castlecraver

    castlecraver Moderator Emeritus

    Not long ago at all I encountered a new variation on the ubiquitous bastardizations of the word "martini" -- the Jalapeni (or whatever the hell they called it). Anyway, it was garnished with a dried Jalapeno and a Jalapeno-stuffed olive, and apparently had some Jalapeno juice in it as well.

    Trying to understand the reasoning of the person who'd actually order such a thing is a baffling proposition.
  20. Muy bien,
    however a vermouth spray is a great thing to have. Just a quick spray (a kiss of noilly prat) plus 6 oz of gin, that was my favorite measurements until i had to cut on alcohol consumption to 4 oz.
    When pouring into a Martini glass the cocktail should fill it to the rim, the 6 oz measurement always did it on my martini glasses.
    Very few places pour a good martini, I would not even go to those martini places that offer 40 flavors of martinis like Howard Johnson ice creams. I remember the Casablanca in Harvard Square where many years ago there was a bartender that made very good martinis and he was reponsible for my deep affection for the cocktail.

Share This Page