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What is a martini?


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#61 baubel

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 09:25 AM

"Out West" is a big-ass place, ain't it? I tell people that Southeast Montana is closer to Texas than where we live in Northwest Montana but they don't believe it until they look at a map.



It would seem both cruel and unusual to drive for 8+ hours and still be in the same state. :twitchsmile: Which makes a dose that much more medicinal and refreshing. ;)

A little technological fix to a spiritual problem.


#62 ejellest

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 10:47 AM

[...]
I think that something that some of the classic cocktail buffs forget that a heck of a lot prohibition era cocktails were born out of crappy booze, and need to hide the spirit's flaws.
[...]

That's an old saw some folks like to throw out, but to be honest, it really hasn't been shown to be true.

While there may have been a few cocktails created during (US) prohibition, the vast majority of cocktails in the classic repertoire were created before 1900.

Others more well read than I have tried to track down cocktails which were specifically created during prohibition and come up pretty empty handed. The list of suspects I can make up is probably less than 100, and very few of them are still in circulation. The fact is, most of the creative bartenders at that time either moved to Europe to tend bar or left the trade. Became soda jerks and the like.

~Erik
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#63 leopold

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 11:56 AM

Poor choice of words on my part. I should have used the word "popularized" instead of "born".

Turn of the century, things were worse. Yes, they may have had perfectly balanced cocktails using the finest spirits available at place like the Savoy or 21. But how many Americans could afford to drink there in 1900? Bitters were an entirely different proposition in the middle of nowhere USA.

You can see the same thing today, except it's not quite so exaggerated. You aren't going to have the same cocktail at the Pegu Club as you are at TGI Fridays or most US bars. Crappy, fake flavors that are intended to mask rather than showcase. Think about all the Jagermeister freezer-dispensers on the backbars of US bars.

Or how about the summer of the Appletini in NYC? One of the greatest cities in the world, with access to any ingredient imaginable, and what is "all the rage". Fake apple lime green liqueur made with corn syrup and flavored garbage. And you'd find the stuff at some of NYC's very finest restaurants. Lame.

Bartenders throughout the US at the turn of the century weren't using the finest ingredients across the board....that's all I'm saying. Half the time, and I'm being generous, bitters were used like ketchup smothered on a lousy cut of meat. The idea that all bartenders and barowners back then were all shining examples of humanity and good eats is a bit silly, in my mind.

And fwiw, I think that bitters can make the most dazzling cocktails out there.

#64 ejellest

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 02:15 PM

Fair enough.

Really, there is no reason to expect that the ratio of great bartenders to poor bartenders has particularly changed through history.

One of my favorite part of barbooks from the 19th century, including Jerry Thomas', is that they often include a section on how to create imitation spirits.

For example, from "Cocktail Boothby's American Bartender":

French Brandy

To every gallon of pure spirits add one quart of the kind of brandy which you wish to imitate, two ounces of loaf sugar, half an ounce of sweet spirits of niter, add a few drops of tincture of catechu or oak bark to roughen the taste if desired, color with burnt sugar.


Really, in the 19th century, you'd be lucky to get "brandy" when you ordered brandy...
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#65 Wilson

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 05:07 PM

There may have been some wonderful spirits availble in the 1800s but how many people had the money to drink the best stuff? Probably about the same ratio as today. Maybe less than today. How many bartenders were serving up the great drinks of the century? Maybe 3 or 4 in each major city, max. That's just a guess, but I doubt I am very far off.

#66 leopold

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 05:51 PM

...... How many bartenders were serving up the great drinks of the century? Maybe 3 or 4 in each major city, max. That's just a guess, but I doubt I am very far off.


Which is why, speaking both as a distiller and a customer, you hold on to the places with good bartenders like grim death. :cheers:

May fortune shine on every single one of them!

#67 speedle

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Posted 13 July 2008 - 07:17 PM

"Out West" is a big-ass place, ain't it? I tell people that Southeast Montana is closer to Texas than where we live in Northwest Montana but they don't believe it until they look at a map.



It would seem both cruel and unusual to drive for 8+ hours and still be in the same state. :twitchsmile: Which makes a dose that much more medicinal and refreshing. ;)


Not that I'm bragging, or anything, but Ironwood MI to Detroit, MI:

599 mi – about 10 hours 32 mins

A trip I would find any excuse to never have to make.

Carry on.
- cogito ergo louche

“I lost some time once. It's always in the last place you look for it.” - Neil Gaiman

#68 Wild Bill Turkey

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 01:08 AM

If you used vodka instead of tequila, would it still be a margarita? Nope.

Right. More like a Kamikazi.

I'd like to put up a link to Chris McMillan's thoughtful presentation on the Martini, on YouTube, which describes his observations about the wants of two different types of Martini drinkers.
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#69 Robert (DrinkBoy) Hess

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 12:19 PM

Leopold, you raise many great points, and a few cans of worms as well :->

As we all know, there are six base spirits... Brandy, Rum, Gin, Whiskey, Tequila, and Vodka.

Of all of those, people are regularly known to drink all of them "neat"... except one. Gin.

I drink gin neat. And so do others I know. It just isn't part of the normal pattern at bars. And frankly, I don't really think gin (in its current form) should be promoted as a spirit to sip neat. I feel that of all of the base spirits, gin is the one that just sings to be mixed with something.

Likewise I don't think blanco tequila should be taken neat. It struts its stuff however when properly mixed in a cocktail.

Aged gin? Now that would be a different story.

As a producer of gin, you SHOULD feel like people aren't fully experiencing your craftsmanship when they mix a cocktail with your gin. It's your baby. It's sort of (note I am saying "sort of" here), like being a butter producer and feeling like people aren't able to truely appreciate your product if they don't taste it straight.

Gin is also usually the one base spirit that most people say they don't like.

When folks invite me over for dinner or something, they often ask me to be in charge of the cocktails. I will ask them if there is a particular spirit that they don't like, and therefore should avoid. More often than not, this is gin. Which is then exactly what I bring, and spend the entire evening making up gin cocktails for them which they all LOVE.

I was at a wedding party once, and a friends wife was drinking vodka-cran... I asked her if she'd ever tried a gin-cran... Gin!! She hated the stuff... So I had the bartender make me a gin-cran, and gave her a sip... She LOVED it, and that is all she drinks now.

Most people hate "gin" Martinis because they are usually straight gin. In order to like this sort of drink, you need to have acquired a "gin palate", which few have taken the time to do. To be a "Cocktail" however, means for the bartender to play the role of "Chef" and produce a balance of ingredients in the glass. This means taking the gin, and balancing it against other flavors. Vermouth (either sweet or dry) works very good in this regard. Traditional gin has sharp and lively botanical flavors in it, while vermouth has more subdued and relaxed flavors. The two blend together quite well. Properly made, a gin martini will be one where you can't quite tell where the gin stops, and the vermouth begins. It is neither gin, nor vermouth, but a culinary balance of the two.

Bitters then plays a very crucial role. It is like salt in a soup. If a soup tastes salty, then you put too much salt in it, however if you leave the salt out entirely, something is missing. Bitters are just providing that blending agent, the slightest hint of spice which does the final binding and accentuating of the flavors in the drink.

We are just now getting a chance to return to the "culinary cocktail" as was seen in the pre-prohibition days. That is not of course (as you point out) that all pre-prohibition cocktails that people were drinking were "art in a glass", there was a lot of dreck as well. Just as with any cuisine, at any point in history, the majority that was being served was dreck. Only those who could afford to eat the finest available, would. Today we have McDonalds, Chili's, AppleBee's, etc. serving mass food to mass markets. Similarly there are "rank and file" bars which will serve your "call" gin with bargain tonic, and gladly take your money.

-Robert

#70 Jonathan D.

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 12:30 PM

Damnit this thread always makes me want to fix up a martini :cheers:

I had a couple the other night, I have been so used to drinking mainly absinthe lately that I had forgotten how sloshed a couple generously sized martinis can get you.

That's one thing I really do appreciate about absinthe, it's not only a cerebrally fulfilling beverage, but when properly diluted it's a nice level of potency that doesn't wreck you even if you elect to have 4 or 5. If I had 5 large martinis I'd be so very done.

But I have always loved the herbal flavors of gin, I think that's why absinthe intrigued me as well. I'd certainly consider sipping gin neat before I'd sip vodka, as sipping vodka seems counter-intuitive to me.

#71 Robert (DrinkBoy) Hess

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 12:49 PM

Doctor, the problem that many people get into, is buying their "Martini" glasses at someplace like "Crate & Barrel", who seem to sell nothing smaller than a 10 oz glass.

Take a moment to think about how much "Absinthe" you are putting into your glass, and it's alcohol percentage. From that, you can determine how much "alcohol" is in that drink. Now look at your gin, and do the same calculation, but in reverse, and figure out how much gin you should use in order to make a similar strength Martini.

You'll thank me in the morning.

Myself, I love glasses closer to 4 ounces. Which is about the size that you'd find a proper cocktail served in prior to prohibition. You can have a great time at antique stores picking up a random set of glasses which look absolutely stunning, and cost next to nothing.

-Robert

#72 Jonathan D.

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 01:07 PM

Well bars have also contributed to this to some degree, they would rather sell you twice as much booze for twice the price because it doubles their profit! They might break even on the people who would have ordered two small drinks anyway, but they increase the minimum buy-in for those one-cocktail types.

#73 leopold

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 01:10 PM

I drink gin neat. And so do others I know. It just isn't part of the normal pattern at bars. And frankly, I don't really think gin (in its current form) should be promoted as a spirit to sip neat. I feel that of all of the base spirits, gin is the one that just sings to be mixed with something.......

As a producer of gin, you SHOULD feel like people aren't fully experiencing your craftsmanship when they mix a cocktail with your gin. It's your baby. It's sort of (note I am saying "sort of" here), like being a butter producer and feeling like people aren't able to truely appreciate your product if they don't taste it straight.

.............. Traditional gin has sharp and lively botonical flavors in it, while vermouth has more subdued and relaxed flavors. The two blend together quite well. Properly made, a gin martini will be one where you can't quite tell where the gin stops, and the vermouth begins. It is neither gin, nor vermouth, but a culinary balance of the two.

Bitters then plays a very crucial role. It is like salt in a soup. If a soup tastes salty, then you put too much salt in it, however if you leave the salt out entirely, something is missing. Bitters are just providing that blending agent, the slightest hint of spice which does the final binding and accentuating of the flavors in the drink.

We are just now getting a chance to return to the "culinary cocktail" as was seen in the pre-prohibition days. That is not of couse (as you point out) that all pre-prohbition cocktails that people were drinking were "art in a glass", there was a lot of dreck as well. Just as with any cuisine, at any point in history, the majority that was being served was dreck. Only those who could afford to eat the finest available, would. Today we have McDonalds, Chili's, AppleBee's, etc. serving mass food to mass markets. Similarly there are "rank and file" bars which will serve your "call" gin with bargin tonic, and gladly take your money.

-Robert


:laf: Ack! See......remember how I stated above that you should hold onto real bartenders who actually think about their ingredients like Grim Death. Now you all know why!

Very eloquently stated, and you know what? I can't argue with you. At all. Especially re: the buttermaker metaphor (where'd you come up with that gem of a metaphor?), which had me laughing my *ss off. Yep. You're right. It does call out for mixing. Much more so than Vodka, IMHO. That doensn't mean that I'm not going to ask a bartender to try Leopold's chilled neat. I'm stubborn.

A couple of points, though.

You wrote that 'Traditional gin has sharp and lively botonical flavors in it, while vermouth has more subdued and relaxed flavors. The two blend together quite well.".

I don't make London Dry Gin.....I make American Gin. Which, as you know, means absolutely nothing, save to say that I don't use the same process, and the result is different. I distill each botanical separately......a run of juniper, a run of orris, etc. And when I make the runs, I cut like you would a whiskey wash. Juniper, as an example, gets more and more acrid as the hearts have been passed. It tastes like a pine tree. This is the very biggest reason that people are turned off to Gin, IMHO. I know because I've been asking them for years now out in the field.

Orange peel, on the other hand, gives up its glory closer to the start of the heart. I cut the Orange run much sooner.

Well, this process allows me to use more juniper, more orange, more orris....without making the Gin a big overpowering mess. And the biggest difference? Because of where I cut the juniper run, the natural sweetness of the juniper berry comes through, making the Gin rounder, and (barely) sweet....pretty much the opposite of London Dry Gin.

It makes it (wait for it) really stand out in cocktails. :laf:

Whooo. Butter, eh?

Heh. Drop me your address in the PM thingy (I'm really good w/computers, as you can see). I need to send you a bottle of my butter.

#74 Wild Bill Turkey

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 04:32 PM

Well bars have also contributed to this to some degree, they would rather sell you twice as much booze for twice the price because it doubles their profit! They might break even on the people who would have ordered two small drinks anyway, but they increase the minimum buy-in for those one-cocktail types.

Dale Degroff would argue this with you, saying in "the Craft of the Cocktail" that when he switched from 8oz glasses to 5.5 oz glasses at the Rainbow Room, his check averages increased because more people felt free to order more than one drink, and so there was no need to worry about wringing as much as possible out of the one-drink folk.
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#75 brennivin

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 06:51 PM

Myself, I love glasses closer to 4 ounces. Which is about the size that you'd find a proper cocktail served in prior to prohibition. You can have a great time at antique stores picking up a random set of glasses which look absolutely stunning, and cost next to nothing.

-Robert


We actually have a set like that, silver tray, tall skinny pitcher, and six fancy little glasses of matching shape, but varying etching and color (which we bought at that West Seattle antique store). Though honestly we rarely use it as we know we'll want seconds, so we just start larger :laugh:

#76 Joe Legate

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Posted 30 September 2011 - 08:22 PM

This is a thread worth of revisiting from time-to-time.

Vermouth? Ponte, Boissiere and Dolin are my personal favorites for a martini. Vya is alright and so is Noilly Prat but the recipe change a few years ago broke my heart. M&R? No thanks.

#77 Père Ubu

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 12:07 PM

Can you help me?
To make a tasty Martini Cocktail with Voyager, what should I choose at (my local store) Spec's?
Vermouth:
DOLIN BLANC VERMOUTH [DUBLIN] 750ML 15.78 178.74 [12]
DOLIN DRY VERMOUTH [DUBLIN] 750ML 15.78 178.74 [12]
DOLIN SWEET VERMOUTH [DUBLIN] 750ML 15.78 178.74 [12]
Would these bitters do?
FEE BROTHERS BITTERS * ORANGE [USA] 4 OZ 6.41 72.44

I have never used bitters.

#78 Brian Robinson

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 12:13 PM

DOLIN DRY VERMOUTH [DUBLIN] 750ML 15.78 178.74 [12]
FEE BROTHERS BITTERS * ORANGE [USA] 4 OZ 6.41 72.44

Good combo.

If you can find Regan's Orange bitters, it will be even better.
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#79 Père Ubu

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 12:22 PM

Thanks, I'll keep the Regan's in mind for future reference.

#80 Brian Robinson

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 12:38 PM

:cheers:
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#81 fingerpickinblue

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 05:48 PM

If you're not going to be drinking a lot of these, I'd buy the Dolin Dry in the 375ml bottle. Be sure to fridge it after opening.
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#82 thickasabrick

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Posted 07 August 2012 - 08:21 PM

I agree. Unless you drink a lot of vermouth, small bottles are the way to go.

Even when refrigerated, I think it's best to use up a bottle within a few weeks. It's still drinkable for quite a while after (I've had bottles that were months old), but some unwanted qualities come out.
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#83 AiO

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Posted 09 August 2012 - 05:05 AM

You can stretch out larger bottles of vermouth by decanting them into smaller bottles (fill to the tippy-top). Cork and refrigerate.

I'd also recommend using a Vacu-vin or other vacuum sealer on opened bottles with airspace inside.
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#84 Père Ubu

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 03:42 AM

The weekend at the beach sure was filled with gin. Voyager, straight, G&T, and Martini was on the out lap, and Leopold navy strength, in the same variations was on the inlap. A virgin bottle of Leopold American gin went to Nola with my dad. He believes gins like Silvertip, Voyager, and Leopold should get nothing, but maybe a little ice. In 4 days I only had two clownsize glasses of BC. A big glass GnT with 1:1 navy strength gin to Q tonic, knocked me on my a$$.

#85 Père Ubu

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 03:45 AM

Thanks for all the advice, now I own a (cheap) cocktail shaker. Did I just take another red pill?

#86 OMG_Bill

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 06:53 AM

It truly is all about choices. :dev-cheers:
Some folks may cringe each time I use the term "Booze" regarding these high quality drinks.
I mean no offense. There are bottles of extraordinary booze out there. I've tasted a few. Relax.

#87 Bluewolf Pete

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 11:58 AM

... Did I just take another red pill?

Hehehe ..... oh, baby! :dev-cheers:
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#88 OMG_Bill

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 12:28 PM

It's the blue ones that get the attention. ;)
Some folks may cringe each time I use the term "Booze" regarding these high quality drinks.
I mean no offense. There are bottles of extraordinary booze out there. I've tasted a few. Relax.

#89 Père Ubu

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Posted 13 August 2012 - 12:45 PM

That navy strength gin is dangerous. Thank you USN. :)

#90 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 19 August 2012 - 08:17 AM

That would be thanks to the RN (British Royal Navy). "Navy Proof" is 57% ABV. The Royal Navy required this high proof because it wouldn't ruin the gunpowder and keep it from igniting if it happened to get wet.

One can only presume that on some occasion a barrel or more of gin was damaged in battle, spilling its contents and ruining all the gunpowder, resulting in catastrophe, and thus prompting the "navy strength" standard.

Thanks for all the advice, now I own a (cheap) cocktail shaker. Did I just take another red pill?

Keep in mind that a proper Martini is stirred, not shaken.

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