Not stirred and definitely NOT shaken!
“I’m not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube. I’m talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight.. comfort; redemption and absolution. I’m talking MARTINI.”
So, Mr Bond, it seems you weren’t so sophisticated after all. The way to a perfect dry martini is not to shake it at all. Any cocktail barman worth his or her salt knows that drinks involving transparent ingredients must be prepared correctly in order to maintain clarity and texture. Shaking introduces air bubbles into the mix, resulting in a cloudy appearance and a slightly different texture on the tongue compared to a stirred or poured drink. It’s all about technique.
Right, having cleared that up, I should confess I knew nothing of this until last night, when I learnt from a master, none other than Richard Ehrlich, who knows about these things. I signed up for the Guild of Food Writers member’s workshop when I found out that Richard’s Martini Workshops are always an instant sell out at The Abergavenny Food Festival.
“It’s quite simple. I don’t talk for long and get them tipsy,” Richard told me with characteristic modesty. In fact he gives a very interesting talk about how to make the perfect martini and yes, of course he provides samples to try. <
So, this is what I learnt:
There are five ingredients in making a Classic Dry Martini
London Dry Gin or vodka. Not any old gin – it must be of a good quality. We used a high strength (46%) gin from Berry Bros & Rudd, called No3 after their address in St James’s Street since 1698. They only use six botanicals, which is unusual as some gins list up to 14. Costly but gorgeous. Another favourite is Chase gin.
- Three fruits: Juniper, from Italy, not only gives gin its name, but also the unmistakable gin taste of pine and lavender. Sweet Spanish orange peel gives freshness in the form of clean, crisp citrus, and grapefruit peel to give an extra lift of citrus.
- Three spices: Angelica root adds an earthy quality and helps to make the gin dry. Moroccan coriander seed releases a lemon flavour during distilling as well as adding a spicy, slightly peppery finish to a well-made gin. And cardamom pods which add a spicy, aromatic, yet warm bite.
- Good quality vermouth. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive, good old Dry Martini is fine
- The third ingredient is the glass. It needs to be the correct size martini glass. Not too large, not to small.
- The fourth (and vital) ingredient is coldness. You cannot make a good martini without it being icy cold. Making something cold is about taking the heat out. You need to freeze the spirit for at least six hours before you are ready to mix your cocktail. Then you need to ensure well chilled glasses.
- The fifth ingredient is the garnish, lemon zest, orange zest or an olive.
Once you have your ingredients assembled you can decide on your technique. For the strongest, purest Martini Richard advocates the pouring method. This is when you simply add the vermouth to the chilled glass and pour on the frozen gin. Take a properly zested piece of lemon (ie, very thin with no pith) and squeeze onto the martini and drop into the glass. This gives the coldest, purest martini.
We sampled two different styles made to this method, a very dry version made with a ratio of 10 parts gin to 8 parts vermouth and 10 parts gin to 6 parts vermouth. The majority of people at this workshop preferred the stronger, drier one. This gives the strongest, clearest and purest Martini of them all.
The stirring method, as shunned by James Bond, means putting a bar spoon into a mixing glass and filling it with ice. Stir gently until the glass is cold. Then add your vermouth and stir gently and then add the spirit and mix to stir. Strain into individual martini glasses.
Those who are not overly fussy can use a cocktail shaker with a lid for the shaken method. Simply place your vermouth and spirit into the shaker with ice. Shake vigorously to chill then pour into cocktail glasses.
Classic Dry Martini
- 1 tsp Dry Vermouth
- 85ml London Dry Gin or vodka
- 1 lemon
Method Pour the Extra Dry Vermouth into a frozen martini glass (either 7oz or 5.5oz glass) and coat in a circular motion. Top up the glass with ice cold No.3 gin. Pare the rind of a lemon finely and give it a twist to extract the oils into the glass.
Very Dry Martini for those who like their martinis “heroically” dry. That is you simply swirl a dash of vermouth around a chilled glass and discard. Pour the frozen spirit into the glass and add a twist of lemon. Famous advocates of this method were Winston Churchill and Noel Coward.
Churchill famously said the only way to make a martini was with ice-cold gin, and a bow in the direction of France.