The very first Martinez that I tried was at the Donovan Bar in Brown’s Hotel, London, and it set a benchmark that remains to be surpassed. Perhaps taking inspiration from the opulent setting and clandestine atmosphere, they take the extra step of ageing the complete Martinez mixture in a small wooden barrel that nestled on the back bar, providing an ever-present visual temptation. Whilst creating a excellent dramatic element to the serve it also seemed to give a mellowed warm to the flavour, and I was absolutely hooked on the finished product. And so, here’s a long overdue recipe and guide to making your own, along with a healthy dose of its story for good measure.
There are many cocktails that claim to be ‘classics’, however the Martinez can definitely have a seat at that table. The supposed predecessor to the ubiquitous Martini, the Martinez appears in O.H. Byron’s The Modern Bartender in 1884, although sweet and dry versions exist and almost certainly pre-date Byron’s description. I prefer the dry version and enjoy the recipe given in The Savoy Cocktail Book for a true hit of nostalgia.
The contended origins of the drink, followed by a number of revivals, re-imaginations and regional preferences has led to a range of recipes and styles of Martinez. The cocktail works well with a few permutations of London Dry vs Old Tom gin, sweet vs dry vermouth, and a choice of bitters. I’ve listed my favoured combination, but experimenting with different brands is perfectly justified research!
The Brooklyn gin that this recipe calls for is a new favourite of mine, and as neither a London Dry nor Old Tom it may be a choice that many-a-purist argues to be an unsuitable, but it’s my favourite combination so far.
A quick note about the choice of bitters – Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s Bitters originally date back to 1828 but the company was closed in the 1920s as a result of Prohibition. Thankfully, a recipe from 1853 was discovered as is used to create the modern variety and is the perfectly authentic choice for this cocktail. Many modern recipes use Angostura, Orange or Peychaud bitters which are more widely available.
For the recipe below, I’ve given the ingredient followed by the pictured variety in brackets.
50 ml gin (Brooklyn Gin)
20 ml sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso)
5 ml Maraschino * (Luxardo Maraschino)
2 dashes of bitters (Boker’s bitters)
Orange peel and / or maraschino cherry (for garnish)
Place your glass in the freezer – if you have a martini glass then great, even better if you have a lovely coupette, however any small glass will do. No ice goes in the finished drink (hence the freezer part) so a small glass seems to suit the volume of liquid.
Add all of the liquid ingredients to a mixing glass (you can use the glass portion of a cocktail shaker) and fill will ice cubes. Stir quickly for roughly 60 seconds to both chill and dilute. If you have trouble using a bar spoon for this, a great tip that I was once given is to use the wrong (flat) end of the spoon – no idea why this helps, it just seems to be easier!
Strain the cocktail in to your now frosted glass and garnish with a small twist of orange peel. Use a sharp knife to slice a thin strip of orange peel (or use a peeler), and also slice off a small orange penny (small disc of peel) to spritz over the drink. This is a tiny step, but really adds to the drink as you get a huge waft of sweet orange oils as you raise the glass to your mouth. If you have the time and inclination, you can wrap the orange peel strip around a muddler (or similar shaped utensil) and then position over the rim of the glass.
For a final flourish add a maraschino cherry if you wish – if you’re feeling luxurious or perhaps don’t enjoy the usual supermarket variety, Luxardo produce fantastically high quality cherries in a delicious syrup.
*Use a bar spoon if you have on, and carefully fill until you have a ‘level’ amount of liquid (as opposed to brimming the spoon so that the liquid is only prevent from spilling by surface tension). Alternatively use a smallish teaspoon, I’ve never found the odd millilitre too much to cause any trouble!
Guest writer: our resident lover of libations, Matt