A great cocktail to start with is the martini.
The word has become ubiquitous, and commonly refers to almost anything that you shake. That is not how I use the word here. As much as I revere James Bond, a martini does not have vodka in it. When I say martini, without some modifying word before it, I refer to gin.
The principle is simple, but some nuance is what makes it shine.
For the most part, this is a good kick starter drink and a one-and-done cocktail. After one of these, it is probably best to switch to something else unless, perhaps, it’s a Monday.
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How to Make a Dirty Martini
Firstly, make your martinis one at a time. In the old days, people made them by the pitcher but mass production will invariably diminish quality (my apologies to Henry Ford).
Add about a teaspoon of olive brine. The brine is what makes it “dirty”. I think it is also what makes it much better.
Fill the shaker with ice and shake it until the shaker is so cold it becomes uncomfortable to hold.
The next step is to strain it into a chilled glass.
Once this is all done, throw in three large olives skewered by a toothpick or short cocktail pick.
Do I really need to chill the martini glass?
The key to a memorable martini, and this cannot be overstated, is temperature. A room temperature martini is swill. The rascal has to be absolutely frigid.
The glass should be chilled before use in the freezer.
How do I chill the martini glass?
I have a shelf in my freezer for martini glasses, which is where they live when not in use.
If you don’t have permanent space to dedicate in your freezer to martini glasses, chill the glasses in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before making the martini.
Some recipes may recommend you that you put ice in the glass for a while to chill it, but this is a far inferior method to use and leaves your glass wet. The ice method can be used if you run out of glasses in the freezer, since anything is better than using a room temperature glass.
What are the best martini glasses?
I recommend a crystal martini glass. This is not based on any notion of snobbery, but on pure thermodynamics.
The thicker and heavier the glass, the more cold it will hold, and the longer it will keep your martini chilled. If it happens to present more elegantly, that is a happy bonus.
Should I use gin or vodka in a martini?
This drink can be made with vodka, but much is lost in the translation. Vodka is largely tasteless and the martini benefits from the bouquet of the gin.
As to gin, your choices are myriad, but I have never found one I liked any better than Tanqueray, the first gin I ever had.
Do I need vermouth in a martini?
There are many jokes in the bartending folklore about how dry the martini should be to the point of skipping vermouth all together. I do not espouse this point of view.
The vermouth improves the flavor of the martini and adds to its volume. This drink is strong enough as it is, and doing away with 25% of its dilute volume is not advisable.
- 3 oz gin
- 1 oz dry vermouth
- olives + brine from the olive jar
- Measure three ounces of gin and 1 ounce of dry vermouth into a small shaker.
- Add about a teaspoon of olive brine.
- Fill the shaker with ice and shake it until the shaker is so cold it becomes uncomfortable to hold.
- Strain it into a chilled glass.
- Add three large olives skewered by a toothpick.