Learning to appreciate the Martini: Part 1

Martini-057

When I think of the most sophisticated beverage, the classic Martini is the first thing that comes to mind. It conjures images of James Bond, Marilyn Monroe, and Grace Kelly and it just seems to ooze classic glamour. It’s even been called “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” Well, I can tell you from experience that I’m not very glamorous when a drink triggers my gag reflex by the second sip. Honestly, it’s hard for me to reconcile my idea of the martini with the actual taste and I end up trying to dilute the alcohol flavor with tons of olive juice…classy I know. Regardless, I continue to want to like the iconic drink and occasionally give it another chance…if only for the experience of holding the glass and looking elegant.

So when Nathan brought up the idea of making our own Martinis and experimenting with a variety of recipes at home I was excited by the idea (despite previous experiences). The basic premise of our Martini endeavor was to buy the basic ingredients, research recipes, and play with the ratios and garnishes until we hit on something we liked…pretty simple. However, when we went to our local liquor store we received an extemporaneous lecture from the man behind the counter on the complexity of martinis and, more specifically, the variety and diversity of gin. Basically, saying ‘gin’ is kind of like saying ‘wine’…there are endless nuances, flavors, aromas, etc. etc. We realized that this first foray into the Martini world is just scratching the surface and we’ll continue to experiment as budget (fancy gin is expensive!) and time allows.

I have to admit that Nathan has been the driving force behind this multi-week experiment. I made a little Katryn-sized glass on the day that we made our first test martini and then after that I was more than satisfied with taking a little sip of Nathan’s martini and then working on perfecting my cosmo recipe. Typical.

Find some of the recipes that we tried and Nathan’s thoughts on them below.

Martini Close Up 3 - Small

Basic Martini Reciples:

For our first round of experimentation we decided to get basic liquor: Gordon’s Dry Gin, Smirnoff Vodka, and extra dry vermouth.  Since almost all of the flavors come from these three ingredients we plan on buying different ones at a later date and see how they compare to this first round.

Classic Martini

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce vermouth (1 to 4 ration with gin)
1-3 olives or lemon twist

For the gin martini we found that the slightly sweet, grassy flavors of the gin worked well with the lemon twist but did not combine well with the saltiness of the olives.

Vodka Martini

2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce vermouth (1 to 4 ration with vodka)
1-3 olives or lemon twist

We liked the vodka martini a bit better than the gin martini as the vodka didn’t impose as much flavor on the drink as the gin.  I liked olives in my martini and Katryn preferred a lemon twist.

Dirty Martini

2 ounces gin or vodka
1/2 ounce vermouth (1 to 4 ration with vodka)
Dash of olive brine (to taste)
1-3 olives

Neither of us cared for the dirty martini as with either the gin or vodka it just started to taste like burny salt water after a while.

Vesper Martini

1 ounce Gin
1 ounce Vodka
1/2 ounce vermouth (1 to 4 ration with liquor)
1-3 olives or lemon twist

Apparently the favorite martini of James Bond this was a great medium between the flavors of the gin and clean flavors of the vodka.  I really liked this one but decided to mix it with the 50-50 to create my own super-tini (see below).

Gibson

2 ounces gin or vodka
1/2 ounce vermouth (1 to 4 ration with vodka)
1-3 cocktail onions

This was our least favorite variation on the martini.  The cocktail onions that we bought were pickled and then brined in sweet vermouth.  The sickly sweet/sour flavors of the cocktail onions permeated the drink and made me think of Chinese take-out duck sauce as I was trying to finish the martini.

50-50 Martini

2 ounces gin or vodka
2 ounces vermouth (1 to 1 ratio with liquor)
1-3 olives or lemon twist

If you don’t like your drinks super strong you should start with this variation as it takes the edge off of the liquor by increasing the amount of vermouth.

Our favorite variation: 50-50 Vesper

1 ounce gin
1 ounce vodka
2 ounces vermouth (1 to 1 ratio with liquor)
1-3 olives

I mixed up this concoction after our experimentation with the other variations and this is my favorite so far.  Like the Vesper, the gin and vodka balance each other well and the additional vermouth from the 50-50 makes the drink a little less intense.  I still get mine with olives and Katryn adds a twist of lemon.

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