While there is some serious shittalking and muckraking done on a regular basis in the name of food—proper seasoning etiquette, rare vs. well-done, etc.—it’s arguable that the only thing people get more riled up about than how their steak is cooked is their booze.
Bourbon or Scotch, lager or ale, gin or vodka, Mickey’s or Colt 45. There are as many fair arguments to be made as there are taste buds in your eat hole. Perhaps there is no booze related argument more heated, though, than what constitutes a “correct” martini. Dryness and the proper inclusion of vermouth being the chief sources of these arguments. A classic martini calls for a whopping table spoon of dry vermouth stirred with 2oz of quality gin, a delicious and acceptable recipe. On the other hand, noted martini enthusiast Winston Churchill’s recipe called for ice cold gin served by a bartender who had glanced at a bottle of vermouth while shaking the drink. All other recipes fall somewhere in between, save for the inverted or “upside-down” martini which calls for 2oz of vermouth shaken with half an ounce of gin. Yum?
My personal history with this most iconic of concoctions is checkered at best. The first few times I tried this at home I wound up with a glass full of no-thanks and a long held belief that gin was just the most worst thing ever. A gin-and-tonics phase, and gin better than Tanqueray, helped erase that erroneous belief, but the martini still left me cold. Gin, basically on its own, is a bitter, pungent, astringent quaff that falls squarely in the learn-to-like camp with Scotch. Slowly I warmed to the idea of a glass of icy-cold gin, nudged along by my introduction to Hendrick’s. (Occasionally derided by “purists” as “novelty” gin as it’s distilled with cucumbers and rose petals, there is, in fact, no gin governing body or—please forgive me—Gin-eva convention regarding the production or ingredients of gin. Gin is basically defined as neutral spirits flavored with juniper berries and other botanicals. What those other botanicals are is left to the distiller’s imagination.)
With my interest in martini’s renewed I began playing around with the basic ingredients again. My initial results, while not amazing, were on the right path. With due diligence I continued to experiment and finally reached some common ground with the martini. While I certainly like and understand the appeal of both the classic and dry martini, they are almost painfully simple. Gin. Vermouth. Two notes that sound fine together but need to be supplemented in order to form a chord (metaphor courtesy of Alton Brown). And so it is with great pride and pleasure that I present to the world the Liver Punisher Tonic-less G&T Martini:
- 2oz good quality gin
- Splash dry vermouth
- 1 dash bitters
- Generous wedge of lime, about 1/8-1/12 lime
- Fill glass with ice and water, set aside to chill
- Fill a mixing glass with ice
- Pour splash of vermouth into mixing cup and swirl to coat ice and sides of cup. Pour off excess vermouth
- Add one dash of bitters and a generous squeeze of lime to the mixing cup, then add gin
- Stir for about thirty seconds
- Empty chilled glass and drop in spent lime wedge
- Strain drink into chilled glass and enjoy!
This martini, like most great drinks, is a pleasure for both the mouth and nose. The pine-y pungency of the gin is well balanced by the bold citrusy nose of the lime, while the subtle hint of the vermouth and bitters and the sour bite of the lime balance the ultra assertive taste of the gin. If made correctly the aftertaste should be very similar to a well balanced gin and tonic. And that’s one of the things I found most appealing about this recipe, the result yields a drink where taste evolves as each sip passes over the palate and down the throat.