Written by Suzie // June 7, 2020
The classic Martini is, in my humble opinion, an incredibly underrated and powerful classic. It is synonymous with elegance and style – James Bond, Marilyn Monroe, Jay Gatsby, Clark Gable, Frank Sinatra; whether fictional or real, Martini drinkers seem to ooze sophistication. And yet, walk into any cocktail bar today, and the likelihood is the martinis topping the cocktail menu are Espresso or Pornstar Martinis (my local even does a mocktail version called the Softcore Pornstar – oh how I just love hearing my ten year old order one of those to accompany her Sunday lunch!). The only similarity these drinks have in common with a classic Martini is the glass! And what a glass it is! I’m a firm believer that any bar should be able to make you a good Martini. In fact, I’ve even heard friends in the industry insist that it is the first cocktail a server should learn to make. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and I have had some dire versions over the years!
The Martini itself is incredibly simple – two ingredients. Two! Just gin and dry vermouth. However, due to its adaptability how you have your Martini is where complications lie. Plus you need to know your Martini vocabulary! I apologise in advance if you are easily offended. Many a time have there been sniggers in the background when I’ve described my ideal Martini to a waiting bar person.
A Masterclass in Terminology
I’m a firm believer that a day without learning is a day wasted! So, time to go back to school!
Dry – perhaps the most common serve of Martini, ‘dry’ simply refers to the amount of vermouth you have in your drink. The most common ration for a Dry Martini is 6 parts gin to one part vermouth. (Oh, did I not mention that these are not drinks for the faint-hearted?) Other versions include the ‘extra-dry’ with just a splash of vermouth, or even just rinsing the glass in vermouth.
Wet – if we think of ‘dry’ as being at one end of the scale, it stands to reason that ‘wet’ appears at the other! The more vermouth you add, the wetter your Martini becomes! It really is all down to taste!
Dirty – another element to the equation is whether or not you want your drink sullied with olive brine. Again, this is a matter of taste! I don’t mind a dirty Martini. However, friends have often referred to this as my ‘dishwater drink’. My friends are, in the main, gin and Martini heathens. I love them, but have learned over the years not to listen! They know nothing! The addition of olive brine can, depending on the gin, really bring out the flavour of the botanicals. Depending on how much you like your brine, you can order it ‘filthy’ if you so wish! Other dirty Martinis include a Dirty Lemon Martini (favoured by my favourite female TV chef) where a dash of the brine from a jar of preserved lemons is used instead. However, as we’re thinking of Kemsing for our Martini here, we might want to consider the next option.
Clean – like wet and dry, the polar opposite of dirty is clean! Yup, you guessed it – no brine! This is your virginal Martini – no adulteration whatsoever! In my opinion, this is a fine drink, elegant, clear, a thing of beauty!
Stirred – the ideal method of preparation, experts suggest stirring the gin and vermouth with ice for a minimum of 45 seconds. This is a matter of taste – the more you stir, the more the ice dilutes your drink so I would always advise tiny tastes as you go along until you find the level of dilution that suits. Tiny tastes! You don’t want to find you’ve polished off your drink before the stirring time is up!
Shaken – wannabe 007s will make this mistake, just as Bond did himself. Heathen! Shaking the Martini over ice can result in bruising the botanicals within the gin and thereby altering the taste. Also, as you shake, shards of ice break off from the cubes and result in a more diluted drink. Stirring your drink will keep it smooth. Of course, like every other step with Martini preparation, this boils down to personal preference and has been a hotly debated topic for decades!
Garnishes – so, you’ve made your drink, now you want to enhance it both taste and appearance-wise. So, first up, you have your olives; probably the most obvious choice for a Dirty Martini, but they also add a savoury element to a clean Martini. The other obvious garnish is a twist of lemon rind. The oils from the citrus peel can bring out the botanicals in the gin. The other common serve is a Gibson. This entails adorning your Martini with a cocktail onion. Each to their own, I guess!
Smoky or Burnt – one interesting variant is rinsing the glass with a smoky single malt before building the gin and vermouth. Personally, I love this one, although a friend once likened the aroma to the time the Poundstretcher burned down in our town. Honestly….
The Kemsing Clean
Kemsing is a fabulous Martini gin. It is smooth with a clarity that make for a gorgeous cocktail. Personally, I think it works best as a clean dry Martini, but it is also great with a splash of lemon brine. I’ve specified my own quantities below, and added a dash of Orange Bitters, but with tasting and testing, you’ll find your ideal Martini.
60ml Kemsing Special Craft London Dry Gin
10ml dry vermouth
Dash Orange Bitters (optional, but it does bring out the citrus botanical notes of the gin)
Step 1 – chill your glass in the freezer or by filling with ice and water while you prepare your drink.
Step 2 – add ice to a shaker or mixing glass. Remember, you’ll need to leave enough room to get a spoon or other stirring device in here. (I use a bar spoon now, but a metal chopstick used to be my stirrer of choice!)
Step 3 – add your gin, vermouth and bitters if using and stir (45 seconds, checking as you go).
Step 4 – bring your glass out of the freezer or get rid of the ice and water, and double-strain your Martini into the glass. Double-straining using the cocktail shakes strainer and a small sieve or tea strainer helps to remove any tiny shards of ice that may have cheekily made their way in.
Step 5 – garnish! I like a strip of orange peel to complement the sweet clementine botanicals, but if you hadn’t picked up on this already, its down to personal choice!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Martini overviews. As always, if you make your own version, take a photo and tag Kemsing Gin on Social Media!
Part Two of Classic Cocktails coming soon – The Negroni!