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The Martini

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I am very fond of all kinds of "brown liquor", but I do not know much about gin. I like the occasional gin and soda or gimlet, but that is the extent of my knowledge. It is time for me to learn more of this interesting alcohol. And what better way to learn than with the quintessential cocktail - the martini. So, I am asking for you to help me make a classic martini at home (I know the recipe, just don't know about the quality of the ingredients).

For starters, what is a good, middle-of-the-road, not overly-expensive gin? I am aware of Beefeater, Tanqueray, Bombay, Hendricks and Plymouth but wouldn't know the difference between them.

How about vermouth? All I know is Martini&Rossi.

Is it okay to use jarred cocktail olives? Indeed, would any other olives even be appropriate?

I've heard that a dash or two of orange bitters may be fitting. Thoughts?

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I believe, almost more strongly than I believe in my family and my country, that any martini consisting of any liquids other than gin and vermouth must have a modifier appended to it: vodka martini, dirty martini, whatever. (Appletinis and sakitinis are abominations and should not be mentioned) But, since I believ strongly in my country, and the freedom that rings there, put a dash of bitters in. Just call it a "bitter martini" or something. My first successful mating with a martini-like substance was made with gin, vermouth and just a smidge of scotch and served on the rocks. It was called a silver bullet, and like that first taste of junk backstage with Kurt at the Playpen, it sent me down a path that changed my life, and not always for the better.

I'm a Bombay man, myself. Very Gin-y, ie strongly juniper. Hendricks is a new-wave gin, engineered for the vodka crowd if you ask me but well done, lots of "botanicals," and bit of cucumber. Good for a martini, probably too subtle for a G&T.

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Bombay Dry Gin, or Tanqueray in a pinch. I favored Tanqueray for a long time, but it tastes too...something. Floral, maybe. I prefer lemon to olives, but cocktail olives are appropriate. Noilly Prat vermouth.

I like Hendricks, but not for martinis. Tanqueray Rangpur makes a good martini, but only with lemon. No bitters.

I think I'll go have one right now. :lol:

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Found some tasting notes from a freelance piece I did -- in the sense of writing, not in the sense of selling -- on gin.

O, hell, who am I kidding. I just ran over to Timberlakes and had ate eithg eigjt nine martinis.

I'm sure others will have different opinions.

Old School

Bombay: Still the benchmark gin to my taste. Lots of juniper, aggressive herbs, slightly exotic nose…not for the timid. Stands up to any mixer.

Boodles: Lots of lemon and a sandlewood fragrance. At first sniff if seemed flat and uninteresting, but chilled and backed with a bit of vermouth, it acquired a floral nose and an almost sweet taste. A true velvet hammer.

Tanqueray: The most popular premium gin. Crisp, clean, citrus-y, probably the perfect base of a great gin and tonic.

Plymouth: Clean, sweet but with a full juniper nose, but lost its way once chilled and diluted. For martinis only.

New Age

Hendricks: The best argument yet for pulling back on the juniper and letting the other flavors shine. I’m not sure if it’s the cucumber and rose petals, or the other, less sexy botanicals that give this gin its depth and complexity, but it avoids the sometimes resinous taste of traditional gins without losing its soul.

Bombay Sapphire: More than just a toned-down version of its big sister, this gin is sweet, assertive and floral, but with a spicy undercurrent and a personality of its own.

Tanqueray No. TEN: Tanqueray lite: simple, straightforward, lemony, delicious. Where is the juniper?

Junipero: “Made by hand” in San Francisco, this struck me as less subtle than bland. While the juniper is geared down, in deference to contemporary tastes, nothing really steps up to take over. Nice package, though.

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I don't drink Martinis very often, but when I do I want Boodles. M&R or NP vermouth. Twist and an olive.

Boodles makes a smooth G&T, too. "The velvet hammer" describes it perfectly.

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I don't drink Martinis very often, but when I do I want Boodles. M&R or NP vermouth. Twist and an olive.

Boodles makes a smooth G&T, too. "The velvet hammer" describes it perfectly.

drop everything and go to Citronelle. Have Derek make you a Martini. You'll never look back. If I wasn't sick I'd join you for one.

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I prefer a Beefeater Dry Gin Martini - up with a twist.

Best Ever: in NYC at the infamous "Milk and Honey" - truly an incredible beverage in an old school martini-appropriate setting!

:lol:

"Make it with a layer of ice this time! It's Martini Time!"

--The Reverend Horton Heat

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drop everything and go to Citronelle. Have Derek make you a Martini. You'll never look back. If I wasn't sick I'd join you for one.

Derek was actually kind enough to help out on my unpublished gin article -- he impartted wisdom and created a cocktail that was quite good, though not a martini. As I recall, he uses a more classic gin/vermouth ratio than most 4-1 or so, and spikes it with something odd. Lillet?

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I prefer a Beefeater Dry Gin Martini - up with a twist.

This is my gin of choice as well but Hendricks when I can get it/afford it runs a close second. I really didn't care for the Junipero, the flavor seemed muddled but maybe it was just me :lol:

I really despise Tanqueray in a g&t and will resort drinking vodka if that is the only other choice. I think Tanqueray is way too sweet.

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Regular Tanqueray doesn't bug me like that, but Tanq Ten is much too sweet. That's a gin for someone who "doesn't like" gin. Hendricks is great in cocktails but not my favorite for martinis. It makes a delicious Pegu Club, as I discovered tonight.

Derek's martinis are excellent and IIRC Waitman is right about the Lillet.

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I prefer a Beefeater Dry Gin Martini - up with a twist.

If I were gay I'd ask you out, so true does this ring to my own sensibilities on this important matter.

Somebody mentioned "old school" without mentioning Beefeater. With respect, this was an error. Beefeater, and perhaps also Plymouth, is the classic martini gin. And Bombay I actually think of as rather soft; the slogan, "the gentle gin," is accurate. It also occupies the intermediate position in proof among the big three, Beefeater being the lowest and Tanqueray the highest. If Beefeater is not available--which I've encountered in a surprising number of otherwise reputable establishments--Bombay is just fine.

Ironically, Sapphire, Tanqueray Ten, and other such marks are more expensive versions of their progenitors but actually are more appropriate for those accustomed to lemonade or Sprite. Their treacly and mawkish overtones tire a sensitive palate far before inebriation begins to set in. And what's the point of that?

But despite my stodginess, I love Hendrick's. It's a marvelous gin with oysters, which tend to have the same cucumber and briny overtones that are so prominent in this Scottish gin.

Incidentally, the only alteration to gin and vermouth that I think is worthwhile is the martini favored by Luis Bunuel, which was flavored with a few drops of pastis, such as Ricard or Pernod. Any martini-lover who hasn't tried this variation owes it to himself to do so.

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I like Vodka martinis. Ketel one. Dirty. Loves me those olives

That's very nice, but vodka isn't a martini. Gin is a martini. What you describe is just vodka on the rocks with some nasty olive juice in it. BLECHHHHHH. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, just don't call it a martini.)

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Ironically, Sapphire, Tanqueray Ten, and other such marks are more expensive versions of their progenitors but actually are more appropriate for those accustomed to lemonade or Sprite. Their treacly and mawkish overtones tire a sensitive palate far before inebriation begins to set in. And what's the point of that?
Wow. Extremely well said.

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Corduroy (like brother, like brother), the Mayflower.

Lots of places, if you're willing to walk them through it, though that gets awkwarder and awkwarder ("no, more vermouth, no, don't shake it, got any orange bitters?").

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so i see that citronelle has been mentioned as a great place to get a great (real) martini. are there others?

The Palm for a classic version.

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Pooh-pooh it as you might, but the original Martinez called for Old Tom Gin which was a sweet gin, not a London dry. Tanqueray is probably a pretty good fit from what is currently available, although I've seen some recipes call for a mix of Tanqueray with Dutch Genever. As for the sweet (red) vermouth, I've had a hard time using anything but Carpano Antico since Derek Brown showed it to us at one of the pre-opening Agraria events.

More on Martini history here. Jerry Thomas' original recipe here, along with a typical modern redaction.

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More on Martini history here. Jerry Thomas' original recipe here, along with a typical modern redaction.
Interesting, but I am having a hard time imagining drinking one of those before dinner. Maybe for brunch. The pastis variation sounds intriguing.

I like Bombay for the almond notes.

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If I were gay I'd ask you out,
I truly hope he would turn you down. But, I am actually a bit too scared to ask him whether he would choose a martini over me (and, I don't know if he could deal with me without the martini).

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While I agree with most of what you have written about Martini's, I have to disagree with the following:

But, since I believ strongly in my country, and the freedom that rings there, put a dash of bitters in. Just call it a "bitter martini" or something.

Prior to the Second World War, only drinks that contained bitters were considered cocktails, all others were just mixed drinks. The original martini recipes (and its already mentioned predecessor the Martinez) were made with a dash of orange bitters. I find that a martini made with a few dashes of bitters to be a more complete drink than just Gin and Vermouth.

As for Gins, I am a big fan of No. 209 for martini's, it is a full flavored gin, with a nice balance of juniper. As for dry vermouth I really like Vya, it is the most drinkable of any vermouth I have ever tried.

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Somebody mentioned "old school" without mentioning Beefeater. With respect, this was an error. Beefeater, and perhaps also Plymouth, is the classic martini gin. And Bombay I actually think of as rather soft; the slogan, "the gentle gin," is accurate. It also occupies the intermediate position in proof among the big three, Beefeater being the lowest and Tanqueray the highest.
While I agree with much of what you say, I don't think you've got this quite right. I believe Bombay is 86 proof, Beefeater 94, and Tanqueray 94.6. Bombay Sapphire is 94, but rather a waste. I don't have an array of gin bottles handy, but I think these numbers are correct. Junipero, which I happen to think makes a lovely martini, is a hefty 98.6 proof.

That said, Beefeater is my preferred martini gin. Vya dry vermouth is the best dry vermouth I've ever had, and is excellent in a martini, although I usually use a bit less of it (about 5-1) than, say, Noilly Prat (the runner-up, mixed 4-1) because it's so assertive. Too bad Vya isn't more widely available. Of late, I find myself favoring the Gibson cocktail over the classic martini-with-olive. I've started making my own cocktail onions, which are terrific. More about that here.

Some of the cheap gins aren't bad. Gordon's is probably the best of the major brands. Calvert-Woodley's 94-proof house brand is really quite good, especially for $12.99/1.75L. Pour it into a Beefeater bottle for your next party!

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I truly hope he would turn you down. But, I am actually a bit too scared to ask him whether he would choose a martini over me (and, I don't know if he could deal with me without the martini).

It'll be our secret!

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While I agree with much of what you say, I don't think you've got this quite right. I believe Bombay is 86 proof, Beefeater 94, and Tanqueray 94.6.

That's exactly what I thought, too, but then I checked a few pictures online, and they show "40%" on the Beefeater bottle. Yet I also remember Beefeater being higher proof than that. Could Pernod-Ricard, who I believe distributes Beefeater, have changed the proof recently?

ETA: This may shed some light on the proof confusion. It appears the US export version is 94 proof, the UK version 80.

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If I were gay I'd ask you out, so true does this ring to my own sensibilities on this important matter.
Uh...thank you...I think? That's quite an...ur...flattering statement...
I truly hope he would turn you down. But, I am actually a bit too scared to ask him whether he would choose a martini over me (and, I don't know if he could deal with me without the martini).
Now, now. To quote one of the great drinking enthusiasts of the 20th Century:

"Twas a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the courtesy to thank her for it."

-- W.C. Fields

Is it happy hour yet?

Lunch hour?

Anyone...anyone?

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