Champagne December: Finding Delicious Things for Special Occasions

Pictured: Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial bottle.

Week 3 of Champagne December was a sliding scale, on all fronts: of different price points of champagne, of different sweetness in my bubbly, and in first impressions.

I chased into the higher end of the market, and mostly remained underwhelmed as I lingered over bottles, trying to puzzle out the secret of their prestige. I drank champagne so dry that it seemed to desiccate my soul as it passed my tongue, and bubbly so sweet that I feared for both my teeth and the integrity of any resulting champagne cocktails. How much can the sweetness of a champagne skew the taste of a Death in the Afternoon, or a French 75?


Brut geared at the American market is especially guilty of this over-sweetening. The so-called California Champagnes, in my opinion, should be fined for lack of truth in advertising, as the sweetness of their Brut bubblies creep toward moscato.

Even with these pitfalls, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a winner to my palate. The first glass brightened my day immediately as its complex flavors chased each other across my tongue. The second glass made me laugh, and by the third, I knew I’d need to keep a few bottles stocked in my liquor cabinet for special occasions, though it would be an investment.

A good champagne, like any other liquor and like good art, should make you pause and think on it. It’s not enough to find a booze that’s merely passable, unless you’re only looking for a go-to bar choice to survive social outings. A good drink makes you contemplate its flavor profile, what exactly you’re tasting, and why it’s having a good effect. Preferably, the thinking starts the moment it hits your mouth, and lingers well past the swallow. I’m partial toward those that provide layered taste profiles that evolve as they move across your palate.

While this is simple for me to find with gin, rum and beer, finding this in champagne can be a unicorn indeed. Champagne is at its core a white wine, its flavors light and fickle, and the heavy carbonation increases and confuses its volatile taste. Others may disagree, but for me, finding my true north in champagne is an uphill battle. Thus, finding one that immediately delights me is worth holding on to, indeed.

#ChampagneDecember on Bad Days: If You Don’t Pour Something In This F*cking Glass

It’s Champagne December, but it’s also been a long, unforgiving day. You pinched a seriously painful nerve in your right arm fixing things too far above your head. The traffic was awful, the stores crowded, your patience left frozen outside in the winter night as you navigate crowded aisles. Only to return home to a full sink of dishes, and an unrepentant Siamese cat rolling in a pile of stolen Christmas tree ornaments.

Oh, was that not your day? Am I projecting?

Regardless, there will be some days. Let me pause and stress that: there will be some days, where your need for a simple, stiff drink will supersede your need for the finer things.


Roll with it. Don’t waste good champagne on days where you’re steps from sticking your head in the freezer and screaming.

It seemed like a good day to pick through some of my sparkling odds and ends, such as this sparkling rose from Monetto, and experiment with a few cocktail combinations.

Rosé Champagne is a thing, though not common, as it was originally marketed as a cheap alternative to American markets with sweeter tastes. Higher end varieties do exist, such as Moët & Chandon’s Rosé Imperial.

If you’d like to add a bit of color to your sparkling, or as a base for delightful champagne cocktails such as a Raspberry Fizz, this is a great way to go.

That’s it for today, folks. The Week 2 check-in on Champagne December is here, for those who missed it.


Brut, Demi-Sec and Other Meaningless Distinctions After 15 Days Straight of Champagne

Pictured: Veuve Clicquot, Louis Roederer, and Nicolas Feuillatte champagne bottles

It’s Champagne December, guys! I’m pursuing my dubious goal of filling my glass with champagne this month as easily as one would Coors Light.

This post is part Week 2 check-in, and part irreverent guide to making the most of your local champagne choices. After this much champagne, a bit of extra laissez-faire is necessary in my tips.

The second week has gone smoother than the first. At two weeks, I can claim the increasingly outrageous achievement of enjoying champagne each night for a solid 15 days straight. What was learned in the second week? Mostly that my original estimates were right – even after stocking my liquor cabinet quite well, my original inventory lasted me exactly halfway through the month.

This is not terrible news. I certainly exhausted some of the original choices I’d made, and had a few labels I was ready to perhaps never see again. I also had some that I could re-purchase with new appreciation, and some exorbitantly-priced labels that, after several glasses, I could lean back and think, Wait, that was it?


As usual, there will be no label or brand dragging, here. My palate is entirely different than yours. Run out and find, and stick to the labels that delight you. The purpose of Champagne December is to be delighted.

Still, if you’re finding yourself overly dismayed with the taste of champagne or other bubbly, the quickest fix may concern its dryness. Too sweet? You may want to instead try Extra Brut or Brut. A word of warning: if you’re mainly consuming American champagne or other sparkling wine produced in the low to mid-end U.S. market, even varieties labeled Brut can come off a little sweeter than their international counterparts. The higher end of the American market or French champagne may suit you better.

If in general, you find most champagne to be too dry, or mouth-puckering with not enough sweetness, yet another word of warning – the majority of modern French champagne is produced on the dry side as Brut, a journey in shifting trends that has taken more than a century. Still, you may be able to find labels in the Sec, Demi-Sec, or even Doux varieties, with a little bit of hunting.

If extensive hunting is not available or out of your pocket book range, you may want to try out popular Italian sparkling instead. Some varieties such as Moscato d’Asti or Asti Spumante can run quite sweet, indeed. If you want to stick with champagne, another quick hack may be to add a dash of simple syrup or powdered sugar to your glass – but not to your bottle! If you like to live dangerously, go ahead and try it – with the bottle in the sink, preferably, or with a few towels handy. Science is fun.

Now run off, and enjoy your weekend! As always in Champagne December, this post has been brought to you by, and under the influence of a healthy quantity of champagne. Life your best life.



Champagne December 101: Tips, Tricks & Hacks


Pictured: Glass of champagne, in front of a Christmas tree.

Committing to Champagne December took some planning. It’s Day 8, and I can boast the dubious achievement of having enjoyed champagne each night so far. While having champagne every night is not necessary, arranging any kind of champagne campaign, occasional or frequent, still requires logistics. What’s your budget? Will you enjoy a bottle with friends, or savor a glass or two per evening? How do you save champagne from going flat?

What defines the term champagne, anyway?

Let’s start there. Essentially, as noted on VinePair, the definition of champagne boils down to this:

For a bottle of sparkling wine to be labeled Champagne, it has to be made in Champagne, France and produced using the méthode champenoise.

Champagne is subject to a protected designation of origin, similar to the protection for Italian olive oil and wines. Still, if you’ve been of drinking age for a decade or so, you’ve probably seen champagne bandied about in quite a few ways on bottles that were distinctly not French.

Pictured: Moet & Chandon Imperial Champagne label, with glass of champagne in background

Champagne from the French region of Champagne will be clearly labelled.

Champagne is rather strictly regulated internationally, and over the last century, there’s been a lot of legal back-and-forth. I recommend the full VinePair article for a detailed account of this label war, but to summarize: a few non-French labels have been reluctantly granted permission to use terms such as California Champagne on their labels. The most recognizable of these brands are Korbel, André, and Cook’s. These brands have become some of the most popular, affordable go-to grabs for Americans on special occasions, namely New Year’s Eve.

Pictured: a Cook's bottle and a Barefoot bottle, both of which bear California Champagne on their title.

Common examples of California Champagne.

Especially in North America, the term champagne has become ubiquitous with sparkling white wine, and this is not as great a travesty as some would have you believe. In a blind taste test, many would fail to discern champagne from a similarly produced sparkling white from another country, or even another French region. The shelves abound with great contenders as well, some of which will be sure to point out that they follow either the méthode champenoise or méthode traditionelle of fermentation and production as true champagne would. Close sparkling relatives such as asti spumante and prosecco spumante hold Italian protected designations of their own, and occupy the same shelf as champagne in many stores.

How closely you define it depends on your familiarity with champagne, your passion or indifference as a purist, and most importantly, your wallet. Cruising through several liquor stores, I was unable to find a bottle of French champagne under $35, while most hovered near $60 or higher. Depending on your budget and your value perception, this might be an acceptable price range for a special occasion, but a terrible idea for Champagne December or other off-the-cuff indulgences.

So what’s your budget?

If your budget is wide open, the sky is the limit. Follow the path your curiosity takes you on all levels of champagne and related sparkling wine. Remember, other French sparkling wines, top-shelf Italian sparkling, California champagne and many Napa Valley bubblies are produced by many respected vineyards and brands.

Pictured: Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Limited Edition bottle.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve Limited Edition

If you don’t have the budget now, or prefer to build up a quality collection incrementally, there are some great ways to do so, and even champagne-of-the-month clubs, if you’d prefer a more seasoned professional to introduce you to different varieties.

For low to mid-range adventures, it may be best to stick to the more loosely defined sparkling wine category, which prominently features California champagnes, asti, prosecco, and other sparkling delights. Investments in high-end French champagne can be occasional splurges, which can help sensitize your sparkling palate. The advantage to this is flexibility, and most importantly, an abundance of size options. The single-serve market has really picked up for bubbly, especially in the low to mid-range.

Pictured: a 4-pack of Cook's 187 ml bottles, and Bollicini 187 ml cans.

187 ml bottles and even cans are available for many low to mid-range sparkling varieties. 375 ml options also abound.

While you can find 375 ml bottles of Moët, I wouldn’t put much faith in this option for the high end of the market. So how do you enjoy your champagne if you’re a solo drinker, or quite sensibly not willing to polish off a full bottle at a time?

Champagne stoppers. Some champagne stoppers even claim to keep carbonation intact for up to a week. Do your research, and this is a time to really pay attention to reviews to ensure that your stopper does what it claims on the tin.  It’s also recommended to try it out on a bottle of inexpensive bubbly first. There are no tears like those shed when you realize your $75 bottle of champagne has went flat overnight. Here are three stoppers to shop:

Champagne December, The First Seven Days: I’m Not Hiccuping. You’re Hiccuping.

Pictured: Moet @Chandon Imperial Champagne label, with glass of champagne in background

This blog is intended for adults, so please always Hermit Safely.

Descend with me, into a journey of the outrageous: an entire month devoted to champagne. Welcome to Champagne December. This was my first seven days.

The Goal

While I was not required to enjoy champagne every single day, I realized my curiosity over different champagnes and my excitement to mix my favorite champagne cocktails meant I did indeed end up having champagne every day during the first week. Go big or go home, I suppose.

Shut up liver, you’re fine

The Research

I spent quite a bit of time researching champagne for this expedition. Online. In liquor stores. Contemplating a dozen bottles of sparkling, I watched patient liquor clerks evolve from suspicious to exasperated as I hovered near shelves, comparing labels. I asked questions over French regions that left store owners’ eyes crossed. Still, I made sure to buy a bottle in each store even if I didn’t find what I wanted, to ensure their time and labor was not in vain.

The Stock

I quickly filled the rather modest liquor cabinet I owned, as I calculated just how much champagne it would require to consume it as casually as Coors Light, my goal for the month. I began to stack it atop bookshelves, and in the fridge. When I finished, I realized I truly only had enough to last a little over halfway through the month.

Once while driving, I felt something warm in my pocket and, assuming it was my phone, realized it was my wallet. Thinking of the sheer quantity of champagne I’d purchased so far, I burst out laughing and laughed all the way home.

The First Days: When Bad Champagne Happens to Good People

It happens. Despite the best research and with the best champagne diversification, you’re bound to end up with a label you don’t like. Still, there will be no naming names, here. I will not drag labels. One man’s poison is another man’s… well.

I recall one of the summers I spent at my Granny’s house, as a child. Being the astutely frugal woman life demanded, she dictated that all outfits must be worn at least twice, before qualifying for the wash. However, I was not the brightest child in those days, and slightly spoiled. I wore each outfit two days in a row, mourning the indecency to any who would listen. It never once occurred to me that I could set each outfit aside and return to it later, after wearing other clothes.

The first few days of Champagne December were like this.

Once I realized that one of the brands I’d stocked wouldn’t work for me, I grew determined to prove my versatility. After all, lackluster champagne is easily rolled into many decent champagne cocktails. I actually wouldn’t recommend wasting good champagne on these cocktails. Thus, I focused my efforts on making good use of bad champagne, and drank it exclusively in the form of cocktails.

However, my enthusiasm for the craft of vintage champagne cocktails, such as Death in the Afternoon‘s, Gloria Swanson’s, and French 75’s, along with a rather dismal champagne to launch the month, nearly did me in. I had some true Groundhog’s Day moments, as the one-two punch of stiff champagne cocktails throwing my nights into disarray, combined with the promise of more bland champagne the next day, left me sighing into my pillow each morning.


The way out is through. I finally realized the futility of giving my time to a champagne that didn’t agree with me. I then had a few theories to test, such as:

How Much Champagne is Too Much In One Night?

Look, folks. As an ex-sailor, I’ve taken out life insurance on my liver long ago. With a rather strong tolerance, I was curious to see if one full bottle of champagne was still enough to do me in as easily as it had a several years before. A full bottle was previously reserved for lazy weekends, where a well-timed nap helped stretched a bottle throughout the day.

The answer is, yes. Not because my tolerance had went through the floor, but via the old adage drilled into me during culinary school and bartending certification – yes, carbonation does indeed speed up the digestive absorption of alcohol. This means in general, a full bottle of champagne can have you walking sideways, whereas several stiff martinis might not. Lesson learned, battle lost.


So how do you overcome this, if you’re not sharing a bottle with a friend every night, or enjoying individual glasses on the town? With some damn good champagne stoppers, to help preserve your bounty.

Finding My Footing

After ditching the marathon cocktails and the bottle experiment, I took a break by enjoying some of my favorite label. Effervescent and crisp, light and wonderful, it reminded me of what I’d originally embarked upon – sensual enjoyment of one of my favorite beverages as a way of living my best damn life. It’s the end of 2017, afterall. Though it may not seem that way, we’ve survived a lot.

Live your best damn lives, people. I’ll see you next week.

Death in the Afternoon: Hemingway’s Ode to Absinthe & Champagne

Pictured: vintage cocktail glass of absinthe and champagne on a desk.

Absinthe topped with champagne, in the Hemingway fashion.

A day off work is great opportunity to deep-dive into a decadent, beguiling champagne cocktail for Champagne December.

For our next feature this month, which we’ve dedicated to self care in the form of playful indulges such as champagne, we’ll be covering Death in the Afternoon, a cocktail reputedly invented by Earnest Hemingway.

This cocktail is featured in an ultra-rare book of cocktails from the 1930s, titled So Red The Nose or Breath in The Afternoon by prominent authors of the time, including Hemingway, and has these instructions provided by Ernest:

Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.

Some later recipes also suggest floating the absinthe upon the champagne, as some brands of absinthe can accomplish this feat. Either way, three or five of these potent drinks should leave you in quite a state. Here’s the original recipe within its anecdote:

Pictured: scan of original recipe from out of print edition

Original recipe in So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon, Cocktail Recipes by 30 Leading Authors. Source.

Absinthe was legalized once more in the United States in 2007, so we can now enjoy this recipe in its full splendor. With a quality absinthe, topping it with champagne (or any fluid with a higher water content than pure grain alcohol, for that matter), should result in an immediate cloudiness.


Pictured: vintage cocktail glass of absinthe and champagne in front of a window.

Quality absinthe, when mixed with higher water content liquids, should cloud.

Whether it will also have a greenish tint relies upon your type of absinthe.We’ve invested in Kübler Absinthe, which boasts as having been produced in the Val-de-Travers region of Switzerland since 1863, a region known for its absinthe production. Kübler is a Blanche, or la Bleue absinthe, is bottled immediately after distillation and reduction, without the additional steeping of extra herbs, which would result in a Verte (“green”) absinthe. Many cheaper productions of absinthe will artificially color their absinthe to achieve this vivid green, and the style you choose is ultimately up to you.


Pictured: Bottle of Kübler Absinthe Superieure absinthe on a desk.

Kübler Absinthe Superieure, a la Bleue or Blanche absinthe without the green tint.

So how does it taste? Having created this cocktail with at least four different brands of absinthe over the years, most notable is a pleasant tingling that will fade to soft numbness in your mouth. The absinthe does a fine job drowning the effervescence of champagne, so if you’re looking for a bubbly presentation, you will be disappointed.

Also noteworthy is how the combination of the two ingredients produces a distinct salt on the palate, which may take some getting used to. To offset the shock of these flavors, many recommend adding a cube of sugar or bitters to the mixture. Some may even substitute the absinthe with Pernod, or another in the pastis family.

Whichever way you choose to go, this is a fine cocktail suitable for languishing through the afternoon into the evening.

Champagne December: Live Your Best Life.

Pictured: glass of champagne.

Many of you prefer your champagne in flutes, but I love a good vintage coup. You do you.



2017 has aged like a grease fire.

I’ve taken a notable break from documenting my cocktail and culinary adventures over the past year or so. During this time, I’ve experimented with many things, including, most recently, an extended no junk, no booze diet. When it completed, I came to one conclusion.

Champagne is delicious.

Thus, I decided to dedicate an entire month this year to its deliciousness. Its sumptuousness. For 31 days, I will keep my cabinet stocked with champagne. I’ll reach for champagne like I would a goddamned Bud Light. 

Let’s stick a pin in that thought and rewind a little further, to the beginning of 2017, when I idly stumbled across a profile of Queen Elizabeth II’s drinking habits. They included this snippet:

According to Margaret Rhodes, the Queen’s cousin, HM’s alcohol intake never varies. She takes a gin and Dubonnet before lunch, with a slice of lemon and a lot of ice. She will take wine with lunch and a dry Martini and a glass of champagne in the evening.

The Queen is imbibing a glass of champagne before bed, as a matter of routine. A drink whose connotations largely imply decadence and celebration is treated with the same attention as the ritual of brushing one’s teeth. A titillating factoid at first, this anecdote lodged in my mind as I navigated through the ensuing months, resurfacing in a question that refused to sink:

Why am I not living my best life?

I can see that there’s already someone in the audience raising their hand, ready to decry the economic barriers to living like a damn Queen. You’re reading me wrong. Let’s deep dive into this.

Champagne has, over time, built up a well-deserved role as the designated beverage for celebration. For achievement. To congratulate yourself or others when some great hurdle has been vaulted. It is not only champagne we treat this way. Our human minds, seeking order, rationale, and justification, are constantly divvying up life’s pleasures into separate categories: Guilty pleasure. Secret indulgence. Major holiday. Special occasion. Reward.

Thus, for a large portion of the population, champagne has become the drink to toast a small subset of events in our lives. Got the job, a promotion? Champagne. Wedding, anniversary? Champagne. New house? New baby?! Break out the cigars, the champagne! Let’s celebrate!


We create a moment where it becomes acceptable to indulge in a true indulgence, to celebrate and briefly cherish ourselves. Yet on a regular Wednesday, when your only accomplishment was commuting home in rush hour without leaning on your horn and screaming, when you didn’t break down over the latest news, or burn dinner while juggling literally everything else? You crack open your usual cold one. Pour that glass of red, or white. Your usual martini, rum and coke, gin and tonic, whiskey neat.

A typical day, its colors well-washed and watered out, fades to black and white.

Let’s return to the idea of champagne. Champagne is not a drink so much as it’s an idea of celebration, and permission for self-celebration. Of self-care. By reframing champagne, as the Queen has done, as a treat one deserves on a nightly basis, we too can reframe the extraordinary into the ordinary, and as a side effect, raise our personal standards of self love and self care. Of what we as individuals deserve on a regular basis, without rolling over and performing a trick for it. The goal posts for exceptionalism will keep moving. We can ensure that even if no one else concurs, we dish that loving attention upon ourselves.

Champagne December isn’t just champagne. It’s all those other items or actions squirreled away in your mind for special occasions only. That little black dress, or amazing suit you’d shrug into, if you only had a somewhere to go. That recipe, those flowers you pass in the market everyday (but who buys themselves flowers for no reason?), that restaurant. That vinyl record, that playlist. Those heels, that tube of Givenchy Le Rouge lipstick that’s far too outrageous to wear to just work, and yet sits aging in your makeup box. That project you’ve been waiting to tackle, the book you’ve meant to start, the promotion talk you’ve been stalling with your boss.

For every box you haven’t checked because you’re waiting until you’ve accomplished another box, this is your Champagne December.

If you’re still looking for a reason to justify Champagne December, you’ve got one: it’s the end of 2017. You fucking made it. Live your best life.


As always advised on Distracted Hermit, be sure to hermit safely.


St. Patrick’s Day Favorite: Dublin Coddle

img_20160317_142528.jpgDublin Coddle – a nourishing stew of sausage, potatoes, and bacon to warm you up.

I was looking for a new dish to try this St. Patrick’s Day, having thoroughly exhausted my usual corned beef hash in years past. Flipping through The Irish Pub, a relatively lightweight cookbook I found during the Borders bookstore liquidation, I came upon a recipe for Dublin Coddle, which sounded perfect for my cold, snowy St. Patrick’s day.

Looking at the simple ingredients, I was expecting to have to doctor this recipe up, but I was surprised at the delicious flavor. The heavy seasoning of black pepper during assembly really contributes to the personality of this dish.

The stew is essentially just sliced sausage, bacon, leeks, potatoes, and onions, with herbs and garlic tossed in for good measure. These are all layered in an oven-ready casserole dish after browning the onions and sausage and roasting the bacon, covered with chicken stock or water, and braised. I strongly suggest chicken stock, as even though the ingredients will impart wonderful flavor, the boost of a good, gently seasoned stock will do wonders.

As with most recipes here, my measurements are more ballpark than precise. What’s most import is to base your proportions on your casserole dish. Eye your baking dish, and visualize what it will take to make layers with these ingredients:

  • Good quality pork sausages, bratwurst-sized (and style). I used bockwurst.
  • Diced onions, enough to line the bottom of your casserole dish
  • Thick-cut bacon, 5 to 10 slices
  • Rough-chopped starchy potatoes, such as Russet
  • Leek green tops, coarsely chopped
  • Ground black pepper
  • A few garlic cloves, chopped
  • Herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, sage, and dill, finely chopped
  • Lightly seasoned chicken stock, at least 5-6 cups (enough to cover ingredients)
  • An oven-proof casserole dish with a lid (or foil), and pans for browning of ingredients


  1.  Brown your sausages on both sides in a pan. Allow to cool, slice width-wise into roughly 1-inch pieces, and set aside.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and roast your bacon until cooked. Set aside bacon fat for later, do not discard. Allow bacon to cool, and dice into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.
  3. Dice your onions. On the stovetop, saute the onions in some of your saved bacon fat until tender. Line the bottom of the casserole dish with the sauteed onions. Season with black pepper.
  4. Add up to a third or half of your chopped bacon in a new layer. Save the rest as a garnish for the end.
  5. Add the sliced sausages as the next layer in the casserole dish. Season with black pepper as well.
  6. Add the coarsely-chopped leek green tops, the diced garlic, and finely chopped herbs as the next layer.
  7. For the final layer, cover with a layer of roughly-chopped starchy potatoes. Season with black pepper.
  8. Pour enough chicken stock to cover all ingredients. Braise uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce oven heat to 250 degrees, cover casserole and braise until the potatoes are tender and have thickened the stew with their starch.
  9. Remove from oven, stir well, salt to taste, and cover the stew with a garnish of the remaining chopped bacon.

img_20160317_142405.jpgMy pot of Dublin Coddle, ready for a cold day.

Book Essentials: The Martini Companion.


Book Review: The Martini Companion.


Here begins a review of books that will appeal to both martini aficionados and vintage cocktail lovers alike. It’s best to begin with a book most practical:The Martini Companion (Regan/Regan, 1997, Running Press). Small enough to tuck under your arm or slip into a handbag, The Martini Companion  answers the question: I want to make my own martinis. Now what?

Despite its own declaration of “A connoisseur’s guide,” The Martini Companion will walk you through martini self-sufficiency from the first step, from glassware to garnishes, and the ever-present debate of shaken vs stirred. Lovely photographs by Steve Belkowitz grace each section, displaying a gorgeous selection of vintage glassware to fire even the most spartan imagination. Since vodka martinis are just as popular as gin martinis, this book divides evenly between the two liquors and then vermouth, covering history, basics on their creation, and a selection of brands to try.

It is here, in the brand reviews, where The Martini Companion proves its worth. The history and production of each mentioned brand is thoroughly covered, before tasting notes and recommendations are given. If you are floundering on where to start with gin or vodka and vermouth, which brands are respected standards, or which taste personality might appeal to you, then this book can be a godsend without overwhelming you. The reviews are by no means comprehensive, but it’ll certainly get you on your feet and on your way to defining what kind of martini drinker you will be.

It is after this point that this book will either outlive its usefulness, or carry on, depending on your personal tastes: the general martini recipe section. Since this book was penned in the late ’90s at the height of the x-tini cocktail boom, the authors give a (perhaps reluctant) nod to the many variations cropping up in bars worldwide. It is here that a classic martini enthusiast will flip through many eyebrow-raising variations (or corruptions) of the martini, from the La Serre Tequila Martini to a Skyy Diver Martini (made with peppermint schnapps). As vodka is a more neutral spirit for such wild experimentation, you’ll also note that the majority of these recipes are made with vodka, not the classic gin of the original martini recipe.

Still, there are some variations that even I, vintage gin martini curmudgeon, would love to try, such as the the Gotham Martini from the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, whose beautiful accompanying photo displays the slightly darkened mix of vodka, blackberry brandy, black sambuca, and a blackberry garnish. I’d be most inclined to substitute gin for vodka… but still.

The Martini Companion is available in hardcover for about $25 on Amazon, but I picked up a very good used copy from the Marketplace for less than $5. After two years with this book, I can say it’s well worth any price you find it for.

Gin Tasting Notes: Magellan Gin


Magellan Gin

The requisite amount of time was spent suspiciously eyeing this gin on the shelf and examining its contents under strong lights to determine that indeed, this gin is blue. Fear not, this isn’t merely a marketing ploy involving Blue Lake #1. Magellan Gin is perhaps the world’s only naturally colored blue gin, owing its exotic hue to the iris flowers that grace its bottle. These flowers are steeped in the gin, contributing both a vivid blue and a distinct floral note to its flavor. Subtle notes of spice are also pleasing to the palate.

Well enough, but how does it stack up in a dry martini? Although at least one other reviewer doesn’t recommend Magellan for a decent martini, I find that this gin holds its own well, as long as it isn’t forced to compete with the higher vermouth ratio in a vintage gin recipe. Magellan Gin benefits from a more modern, austere gin to vermouth ratio, anywhere from 5:1, 8:1, or even the fairy-touch spritz of vermouth that I would normally spurn. Like a delicate hothouse bloom, Magellan Gin is best appreciated in the most spartan recipe possible, but might also provide intriguing notes in complex cocktails with bitters.

If you’re simply searching for a better blue martini recipe than those involving blue curacao and sugary additions, this gin will fit the bill while cutting the fluff. Its deep color, barely diluting in the most generous recipes, will certainly draw some attention as a conversation piece. As a sipping gin on its own, its light floral and spice notes will engage the tongue without overwhelming, leaving your mind free to wander while pondering its blue depths.