Why June 19th has been designated as the day to quaff Martinis and have an excuse other than thirst to be doing so is a question that an archive somewhere in the internet can surely answer. Here at DrinkUp.London we're just happy to be chatting about one of our favourite drinks. A drink which a lot of people actually don't like when they first try it. Like olives and wine and mushrooms, this is a taste you aquire. The way to do that: drink more of them. After the third you'll be merry as all hell and waltzing about pretending you're James Bond.
To basics: what's a Martini and where did it come from?
A Martini is the perfect blend of spirit and vermouth, to be specific it's gin or vodka (there's this whole debate between vodka and gin - and you can argue for each side till you're proverbially blue and black in the face - we here at DrinkUp prescribe to the 'however the hell you like it' ethos) and dry vermouth. The only variables come from which spirit brand you use, how much vermouth you like on a scale of wet to dry to bone dry to doffing your cap in the direction of France dry, and your garnish from a citrus peel to an olive, or ordering a Gibson with a pickled onion. Except, of course the Dirty Martini with its olive brine addition. Martini purists abhor this version but, like all twists on the classic, it has its believers.
So we now know a Martini = spirit + vermouth + garnish.
Because it's basically straight booze stirred down until it's icy cold there's a few out there who find the Martini way too punchy. Fair enough. There's also people out there who think a Martini is anything served in a Martini glass, from Espresso Martinis to Apple Martinis. Those are not, have never been and never will be Martinis. Doesn't mean you shouldn't drink them, it simply means they're labelled incorrectly.
A true Martini has its origins in several cocktails and certainly developed alongside the Manhattan. Originally made with Old Tom gin (a sweet style of gin) one of its forefathers is the Turf Club which called for 1:1 Old Tom to red vermouth, popular in the early 1880s.
By the end of that decade the Martinez had risen to prominence, made using bitters, maraschino, old tom gin and vermouth. The shift to the Martini happened for two reasons, firstly consumers started to demand drier drinks and the sweetness of Old Tom became uncouth. Secondly London and Plymouth dry gins found their way to market.
It’s unclear by whom, or exactly when, the first true Dry Martini was mixed, that is to say a cocktail using Plymouth or London dry gin with French vermouth and no syrup of any kind. However, it did happen and by 1900 the Dry Martini had managed to eclipse all other versions.
World Martini Day
Let's celebrate! Martinis on a Sunday afternoon (or just as some point this weekend) sounds like an excellent idea. Few bars make a truly exceptional Martini - make a night of three of the best in Mayfair or pick any of these, the very best in London:
1. Dukes Bar
2. The Connaught
3. American Bar
4. The Gibson
5. Happiness Forgets
6. Zetter Townhouse
7. Dry Martini
8. Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar & Hawksmoor Knightsbridge
Not sure how you like your Martini? Here are some suggestions from our favourite gin and vodka brands:
Plymouth: 10 parts Plymouth gin to 1 part Dolin de Chambery dry vermouth, garnished with a lemon twist.
Portobello Road: 50mls Portobello Road Gin, 12.5mls dry vermouth, garnished with a twist of pink grapefruit.
Tanqueray No. TEN: 6 parts Tanqueray No. TEN gin to 1 part dry vermouth, garnished with a grapefruit twist.
Sipsmith: 6 parts Sipsmith gin to 1 part dry vermouth, garnished with a lemon twist.
Fords Gin: 5 parts Fords Gin to 1 part dry vermouth, garnished with a lemon twist.
Caorunn: 1 part Caorunn Gin to 1 part dry vermouth, 2 dashes angostura orange, garnished with a lemon twist.
Grey Goose: 5 parts Grey Goose vodka to 1 part dry vermouth, a dash of orange bitters and garnished with a lemon twist.
Belvedere: 6 parts Belvedere Vodka to 1 part dry vermouth, garnished with a lemon twist.
Absolut Elyx: 6 parts Absolut Elyx to 1 part Dry Vermouth and garnished with a lemon twist.