Toasting the Martini

The Martini – It’s a James Bond favourite, a synonym for sophistication and a classic cocktail amongst consumer and trade audiences alike. 

World Martini Day is this Friday, June 19, and so in it’s honour, I decided to dive into the drink (not literally, though I wish I could). Because while in theory it should be a simple cocktail of just a few ingredients, the Martini has many recipes, many twists and many techniques that give it versatility to become so much more. 

It’s for these reasons that there is no one ‘perfect’ way to make a Martini.

Earlier this year, Bars and Clubs spoke to one of the world’s most famous Martini makers, Ago Perrone of The Connaught Bar in London, who said: “there is no absolutely perfect Martini.”

Instead, there is the ultimate Martini for the person who is to consume it. As Perrone described: “Each and every Martini is only perfect according to our guests’ preferences: from the spirit base, to the aromatic bitter and the garnish.”

It’s a sentiment that rings true for bar professionals on our shores too. That versatility that lets the spirit shine and be enjoyed is what makes it a popular choice at Australian venues, including Melbourne’s Black Pearl, according to their General Manager Matt Linklater. 

“I love how it is infinitely customisable. Gin, vodka, dry, wet, dirty, filthy, Gibson, Astoria, bitters, naked, shaken, stirred? It’s not just a martini, it’s your martini,” Linklater explained.

These reasons make it a favourite at Sydney’s Gin Lane too, where Founder and Head Mixologist Grant Collins said it suits every occasion. 

Collins said that the Martini is: “Simply the best way to savour many of our 200+ Gins. If guests select a vintage or boutique Gin we often recommend it’s best to be sampled in a classic Martini.

“The simplicity of the drink showcases gin’s botanicals, with only the addition of dilution and vermouth rather than tonic, sugar, soda or juice. The flexibility of the drink also makes it a favourite at Gin Lane. It’s the perfect pre/post dinner or celebratory drink if made correctly.”

Despite the Martini’s ability to suit a range of consumers, there still remain tricks and tips to do it the best way possible. As with any recipe, it’s never as simple as throwing the ingredients in the glass and hoping for the best. But the nature of the Martini means that the smallest considerations can have an impact on the final product and it’s general enjoyment. 

This is something that was pointed out by Michael Nicolian, General Manager of Sydney’s Continental Deli Bar and Bistro, who said it all starts at the base.

“The Martini is the king of cocktails. Full stop. It’s simplicity leaves no room for the ingredients to hide, so provided the gin and vermouth are good, you’re in for a great time,” Nicolian said.

“There are lots of tips and tricks, essentially if the booze is good and it’s as cold as possible before freezing that’s really what you want to achieve, so quality of ingredients, the amount of dilution and the temp [are key].”

At the ALIA Bar of the Year 2019, Maybe Sammy, getting the perfect balance in all these areas is of the utmost importance in creating the ideal Martini experience that people think of when they order. 

Director Stefano Catino told Bars and Clubs: “When you think about cocktails or draw a cocktail on a piece of paper, the V shape of the classic Martini is the one that comes to mind. Movie stars, hollywood glamour and James Bond – they all have a Martini in their hand.”

“We believe [creating the ultimate Martini] has a lot to do with a quality spirit and most of all the correct vermouth or blend of vermouth according to the base spirit.”

Quality is front and centre at Gin Lane too, where Collins said it’s the first step towards the ultimate Martini. 

“As with cooking it’s all about using the best base ingredients. In this case a great gin (or vodka) and vermouth. The rest is all down the temperature and dilution and fresh zesty twists and quality olives for a classic Martini,” Collins said. 

Linklater’s thoughts from Black Pearl are similar, in that the quantities of ingredients and how they’re put together are just as important.

He said: “Achieving that fine balance between temperature and dilution is what will make or break a Martini. That sweet spot is what it’s all about.”

At Continental Deli meanwhile, they don’t take chances in finding that sweet spot. One of the iconic features of their drinks menu is the Martinny, a cleverly named Martini in a can, that is diluted when canned to maintain the perfect levels every time. 

“At the Deli, instead of stirring ours down, which uses melted water from ice cubes along with guesswork from the bartender or person making the drink for when the correct amount is diluted, we just measure out the perfect amount of water from filtered taps. So the quality of the water is better and you get the perfect balance every time. Store in the freezer and pour them out straight from the bottle or like us, the can,” Nicolian said. 

So while there is no one agreed on way to create a Martini, there seems to be a consensus that what matters is to consider every element and how they work together – from the ingredient and method itself, to the techniques that bring them together. 

 And just like any area of the industry, trends influence the Martini along the way. 

As Linklater said: “The current trend is for a little bit of seasoning! A touch of sweet and sour, a pinch of salt, and in the case of gin – not shying away from dilution. A bit more water helps bring out all those delicate botanicals.”

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