Menu

Results for category "Reviews"

5 Articles

Book Essentials: The Martini Companion.

41YUWzRRsQL._SX291_BO1,204,203,200_

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

wp-1455321513623.jpg

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.

Tasting Notes Bourbon Edition: Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon.

11537614_10206242810646517_1402113971448117194_o

Jefferson’s Ocean Bourbon

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Gin Tasting Notes to bring you a special Bourbon Edition. I’ve finally gotten my hands on something I’ve long coveted, Jefferson’s Ocean, an extremely small batch bourbon aged four years out to sea in barrels over 10,000 miles. The regular movement of the ocean allows the bourbon constant contact with the barrel wood, while imparting a subtle brine from the salty air. I’ve some Bulleit’s bourbon for contrast, a decent drink for enjoying a good cigar. Verdict: Jefferson’s is absolute ambrosia on the nose, and that’s where you’ll pick up most hints of brine. It makes Bulleit’s smell like paint fumes in comparison, and you can bury your nose in the glass indefinitely with no risk of singeing your nose hairs. It’s rich and complicated on the palate, lingering in the mouth while constantly evolving. Certainly worth the steep price tag. But if any friends swing by and I let you try some, you’re putting out at the end of the night.

No, seriously. Just mentioning the price has me almost swallowing my tongue. Gotta recoup somehow.

Gin Tasting Notes: Hendrick’s Gin.

10155705_10203101564637330_6603331094104114382_n

Hendrick’s Gin, Scotland

It’s gin sampling day again, and I have finally acquired the top shelf gin, Hendrick’s, from Scotland (and now reason #479 to visit Scotland). This is the magnum opus of gins. With eleven botanicals, including an infusion of Bulgarian rose petals, it puts the army of gins I’ve tried to absolute shame. By itself in my glass, it’s a pure epiphany from the first drop, as in a what-have-I-been-drinking-before-this revelation. In a clean 4:1 martini, it’s genius; in a dirty martini, it’s brilliant. Usually strong personality gins make terrible martinis, but this is a remarkable exception. It’s Tchaikovksy’s 1st symphony.

As usual, the bottle of Noilly Pratt is there to remind any martini enthusiasts that if they’re still mixing martinis with Martini & Rossi vermouth, pour that crap down the drain, and get serious.

 

Gin Taste Tests for Martinis.

1507063_10202838073970228_991715954_n

Gin Taste Tests for Martinis.

Another gin taste test for martinis. Although Noilly Prat reigns supreme for French vermouth, gin choices aren’t so easy. Even though it lacks prestige, New Amsterdam makes a smooth martini, in the style of the newer, “smooth” gins. It comes off a little too sweet for my taste, and requires a lower percentage of vermouth. Beefeater competes and comes recommended by the Regans (The Martini Companion), but Bombay Sapphire is completely unsuitable for martinis. Next time I’ll try Gordon’s before moving into top shelf.