So I popped down to Gerry’s Wines and Spirits recently to get some new ingredients and expand my repertoire. It seems less common for people to make complex cocktails at home in the UK than it is in the US, perhaps because alcohol is generally more expensive here, so there aren’t a ton of stores that are really well-stocked. Gerry’s is the best in London as far as I can tell. The staff are really helpful, and I incidentally learned the correct way to pronounce ‘Tokaji’ when another customer was gently corrected (it’s Tok-eye).
Among other things, I picked up some Old Tom gin, a style of gin popular in the 19th century, made obscure by the rise of London dry gin, and resurrected in the last decade or so. I bought it specifically to make a Martinez, an old relative, and supposedly the predecessor, of the Martini. I tried a Martinez for the first time recently at Bar Américain. It’s very different from a Martini, and not the easiest thing to drink, but it really stuck with me. It’s complex and bittersweet, featuring Old Tom, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and orange bitters. I definitely couldn’t drink it every day, but it feels like a real, grown-up cocktail, with flavours that hold your interest.
Before I made the Martinez, I wanted to get a feel for the Old Tom gin, and tasted it along side Sipsmith’s London dry to see how different the two styles are. You can see the difference in the glass – the Old Tom is thicker and oilier, and hangs around longer on the side of the glass. It smells and tastes obviously sweeter than Sipsmith’s zingy juniper, and on the finish there’s none of the usual dry citrus tang. I’m interested to try it in a Tom Collins later, another drink designed with Old Tom in mind, and see how it balances the citrus. But for now, the Martinez!
There seems to be no clear consensus about how to make a Martinez, owing to some confusion with the original publication (a good history and various recipes can be found here). Clearly there should be gin and sweet vermouth and some kind of orange flavour, but proportions and how to introduce the orange vary. I’m following the Serious Eats recipe, as I do for most of these cocktails. Other recipes can be considerably heavier on the gin, with a 2:1 gin to vermouth ratio, but I’m happy with this slightly less boozy version, which turned out just like my Bar Américain Martinez:
- 1.5 oz Old Tom gin
- 1.5 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Lemon twist, for garnish
Mix the gin, vermouth, maraschino and bitters over ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over the glass then drop in for garnish.