Monday, October 12, 2015

Martini Mondays - Interlude

Hey, it's a holiday, so drink whatever you like.

I'm using this off-week to talk a brief second about glassware. Some folks get really tweaked about glasses in general. I'm a little more "come as you are" on the glassware front. Whatever gets it into my mouth does the job. But within that parameter, there are endless variations.

You find coupes, cocktail glasses, giant birdbaths and everything in between. My two thoughts on glasses for your martini:

First, giant oversized glasses may look like a circus trick and allow you to pour in an eight-ounce martini, but they tend to be unstable and drinks that large go tepid before you usually drink them. I prefer my martinis, no matter the recipe, to be well- chilled.

Second, pack your glass with ice ahead of time. That way, the chill on your drink lasts longer.

Like wine glasses, cocktail glasses are stemmed so that you don't have to hold the vessel itself, thus using your own body heat to warm a drink that usually isn't served with ice.

Simple, right?


Monday, October 5, 2015

Martini Mondays #4 - Choice of Poison

I have a martini and I feel, once more, real.
  --Anne Sexton

As with the proverbial manners that maketh the man and accessories that crown the outfit, so too with ingredients sealing the deal in cocktails. Lord knows a lot of other deals have been sealed based on a well-made cocktail. Using high quality, specially chosen ingredients is the hallmark of gastronomical success and selections from behind the bar are no different. While perhaps this column should have been the first in the series, I held off for two reasons.

First, without some basic knowledge and drink recipes under your belt, you may be hesitant to embark into a world of complete nuance and personal taste, which leads to--

Second, I don't want to give the impression that I'm a snob about this stuff, as if there's only one way to drink and it's based on some arcane knowledge only the privileged few possess.  I have my opinions about things, but they are the opinions based on my own palate and preferences.

My preferences are informed ones.

The picture to the left is from a recent gin tasting I had the good fortune to attend. You can see ten different bottles of gin (and seven kinds of bitters) sitting on this counter, and that wasn't all the gin we had in the house. This line-up was inspired by vacation finds - from somewhere other than our neighborhood liquor stores - that a few of us brought together for an evening of tasting and mixology.

Quite simply, the more you taste and try, the more you're able to narrow down your own opinions and preferences. There are no wrong answers when someone asks, "what do you like to drink?" Drinking is an inherently pleasurable act and if there's no pleasure involved for you, you're doing it wrong. That isn't to say your taste can't change over time as you, yourself, change. In my youth, Beefeater on the rocks was my choice at the bar. With more experience and interests, I tasted everything I could get my hands on. For now, my favorite martini variation, with specific and somewhat challenging ingredients to source, is as follows--

My Favorite Martini ( 10/5/15)

2 oz. Bluecoat Barrel Aged American Gin
1 oz. Carpano Bianco Vermouth
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Lemon Twist

Gently stir all liquid ingredients in a beaker over large ice cubes. Strain into a chilled coupe and twist in the lemon peel.

The Taste

In the glass, the barrel aged gin gives a lustrous golden color to the drink. It's redolent of honey, oak, wildflowers and juniper. The aging lends the gin more heft and roundness in the mouth than standard bottlings and this feels like a more substantial drink than the classic martini, with the oak and juniper pairing nicely to the dried-fruit notes of the vermouth. For me, this is an easy-drinker and it offers an over-abundance of simple pleasures. Especially after two of them.

The main trick with ingredients, of course, is discovering what you like, and in what combinations you like it. The martini is endlessly flexible in this regard, and endlessly forgiving.

So, be bold. Taste everything. Experiment. Most of all, have fun.

Next Week - On Being a Pro