Articles Tagged: Martini


A Proper Martini?

The book has been written on the martini. Actually, several books. But today I found myself shocked by the number of drinks being called martinis in Slate’s recent martini brackets a la March Madness of martinis.

In an alternate world, this could stand for Martini March Madness.

Interestingly enough, I came to wonder at which point do I draw the line when deciding to call a drink a martini. Surely, the line is far away from the Applebees/TGIFriday model of serving adult koolaid in a martini glass spiked with vodka and calling it a “rocking-TINI” [or something similar]. But some of the drinks challenged me. Is a “perfect martini,” as in a Perfect Manhattan a Martini? Sure, I’ll buy that. But what about half a shot of St. Germain? What about dashes of Absinthe? Then what about a dash of Absinthe and Maraschino? 

I mean this is hotly contested ground we’re entering. I know, I’ve always stood by the idea that adding a couple dashes of orange bitters made a martini [and a good one]. I’ve always believe a dash or two of something aromatic and you’re still in martini country.

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Gin Reviews

Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin


With the Olympics ramping up, I thought it would be a good time to take a brief break from the stateside focus and give some press to the still active distillation scene of London. Gilpin’s Westmorland Extra Dry Gin is a London Dry style gin that is actually pot distilled within the London City limits.

The Nose is rather classic in character. Notes of juniper and citrus. Lemon predominates and it clearly states its position as a dry gin right up front. The taste is sharp and piquant with an emphasized drying sensation. It does indeed taste a bit more of its strength on the palette, there is a pronounced alcohol burn, although tightly bound between the initial juniper burst and the dry earthy tail. The gin has a silky, oily character and each of the clearly dilineated botanicals takes a moment in the spotlight. Begins with juniper, before shifting to citrus. That’s where the burn comes in and  a faint hint of borage, then it leaves you with a coriander spice and an earthy character indicative or Angelica.

Overall, it has a nicely balanced character which would likely suggest it for any number of cocktails.

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Cocktails By Consensus: The Ballantine Cocktail

Waldorf Astoria Cocktail BookCocktail Gin1/2 oz1.5 oz3/4 oz Dry Vermouth1/2 oz3/4 oz.3/4 oz Absinthe1 dash Pastis1 dash1 dash Orange Bitters2 dashes1 dash2 dashes Garnish InstructionsShake w/ ice and strain

We’re going back a little bit further, pulling a gem out of the Waldorf Astoria Cocktail Book called the Ballantine Cocktail. The general gist is take a martini and add some orange bitters and a dash of a strongly aromatic liquor.

Firstly, for the uninitiated the difference is rather subtle. The additional ingredients don’t add a ton the traditional martini formula. But for those tuned into their liquors, you may appreciate the touch of bitterness added from the new ingredients.

Absinthe or Pastis? This appears to be the biggest difference of opinion between our three sources. I’m positing that the reason  for Pastis in the more modern recipes is because Absinthe was not very common or accessible in the states until rather recently. The Absinthe revival, will probably restore that liquor’s precedence in this recipe, as I’m assuming based on the sources that the original source is the Waldorf Astoria’s Cocktail Book.

The ratio of Gin:Vermouth in the original resembles the early 20th century ratio which was closer to equivalence than we see in the modern bar where often times a “wet” martini is 5:1 gin: vermouth.

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Pink Gin w/ Death’s Door Gin

The Pink Gin was boozy spoonful of sugar designed to help sailors keep the seasickness medicine down. But I wanted to see if something could be done to perfect the beverage. So rather than shaking with ice and diluting the gin, I put my bottle of Death’s Door Gin in the freezer for a few hours prior to making the cocktail. I chose Death’s Door gin, because I felt that the notes in the Death’s Door would not have been too overwhelming, and would allow the Angostura’s flavor to really come through. Unlike sailors, I want to taste the bitters.

So here’s how it turned out. The cold gin really allowed the cocktail to shine in a boozy fashion. This was no easy-going cocktail. The coriander and juniper notes of the Death’s Door were still overpowering and were the only notes that really came through in the final beverage. I suppose that for one to really taste the bitters, perhaps more generous dashes (or more of them) may be necessary. I really felt like I was drinking a straight gin martini. Sure it was cold, sure it was gin, but I was hoping for just a little bit more.

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Behind the Bar with Bluecoat Gin

My old college roommate, and great friend (another reader of the blog, so consider this a “shout-out!” and an invite to be a guest writer one day?) bought a bottle of Bluecoat Gin a while back. He was not as much a fan as I am. So he bequeathed the bottle unto me, and I excitedly took it home. I already was well aware of its limitations and proclivities. Having been enjoying Manhattans as of late, and being fresh out of whiskey, I decided to put my bitters to work in a subtle variation on a martini.

Setting the Scene: I had broken with the traditional Manhattan recipe in one important way. I am a huge fan of the Bitter Truth’s orange bitters and had been putting them to work quite liberally in an array of cocktails.

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Gin Reviews

Glorious Gin [at time of review, Breuckelen Gin]


I have been excited to try this gin since the day I read that two gin distilleries were opening in Brooklyn, NY.  The New Yorker in me was thrilled that a craft, seemingly regulated out of existence in urban areas, was coming back to the city I lived in.The gates opened this past spring, and a short couple of weeks ago I finally picked up a bottle.

The first thing I noticed was the lovely bottle complete with a classy wax-sealed top. Anxious to try, I  grabbed a knife, slit the wax and poured myself a gin and tonic. The first thing that I noticed was the powerful scent of citrus. The bottled smelled noticeably more of citrus than many other gins I’ve tried – but it wasn’t just the smell, it was the components of the smell, and Brecuklen is the only gin I know of where grapefruit stands so boldly.

The grapefruit is hardly a secret, nor are any of the other botanicals in this gin.  Brad Estabrooke, the distiller himself, told the Village Voice that in addition to juniper and lemon, rosemary and ginger are also in there.

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The Bees Knees

The Tom Collins is a classic standby for me when in someone’s house. Its easy to make, nearly any kitchen at any house has all of the ingredients. Its a drink I also avoid when out, because there still exists the kind of bar out there that will drown your sorrows with the dreaded yellow kool-aid better known as “sour mix.” Ugh!

So the other day reading up on my cocktails, I stumbled across the Underhill Lounge’s historical investigation of the cocktail known as “The Bees Knees.” The drink is a simple enough cocktail: replace the simple syrup in a Tom Collins with honey, shake and serve.

The honey can be rather cloying and sweet, but it lends a certain gravity to the drink. Whereas the Collins is essentially sippable, the Bees Knees tastes thicker and feels more satisfying. Its the gin drinker’s answer to “sooth your sore throat with a tea and honey.” (unless you fancy a hot gin Toddy, which in that case I’m curious to hear how well that works for you)

Another take on the Bees Knees is held by Jeffrey Morganthaler. He advocates making a simple syrup out of the honey (more Tom Collins like), but he also says that white rum makes an acceptable substitute.

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Gin Reviews

G’vine Floraison


I’ve reviewed Nouaison by G’vine previously, but my first G’vine gin love was Floraison.

There is no more fragrant gin on the market. When you open the bottle of gin or take a sip of a drink with Floraison in it, the floral and fruity aroma hits you in the face. No, I’m serious. Its unmistakable- the blend of scents that reminds strongly of grapes (which is not coincidental, as the base is made from distilled grapes) and the taste hints of sweet baking spices and spring flowers, that linger. Floraison has a long refreshing finish that is unique among gins that I’ve had.

It is hardly traditional. The Juniper is hidden, almost not there. If you carefully savor it you can detect a slight hint of it in the background. This is one of those gins that I’ve served non-gin drinking friends- and they loved it. Its interesting like an exotic flavored vodka and complex like a port or whiskey.

It is great in a gin and tonic. Stay clear of the lime though, this gin does not need nor demand citrus accompaniment. Also, use a better tonic water as the sweet taste of more inexpensive waters drowns out the subtle complexities.

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Gin Reviews

Tru2 Organic Gin

tru2 gin

Loftily billed as the first “100 % Organic Gin,” Tru2 doesn’t look like your average gin. It has a brownish color that looks more like watered down whiskey. The scent is only vaguely gin like. Drinking it straight it reminds me of Chartreuse: Overwhelmed by a blend of herbs, some of them very pungent. As I poured myself a drink I wondered “is there any juniper in here?”

In Gin and Tonic, the herbal combination overwhelms the tonic water. The Quinine doesn’t quite compliment Tru2 gin properly, though it is somewhat more palatable when mixed with ample fresh lime. But, because the herbs are center stage in Tru2, this gin does not lend itself well to mixed drinks. Unless you’ve felt your Tom Collins or Gin Fizz was missing the strong aroma of constituent spices, I’d recommend drinking it straight as a Martini.

But this gin is not for everyone. It may not even be for your usual gin drinkers. I highly recommend it for those who like a strong herbal component to their gin. To use an analogy: this is not the subtle rose in Hendrick’s, this is the Grapes in g’vine.

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