THE MARTINI —

AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL

In January 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the constitutional amendment ending Prohibition in the United States. Afterwards, he promptly made a pitcher of icy cold Martinis for all those present in the oval office. Such is the place the cocktail holds in American society.

These are heady times for cocktails in general and Martinis specifically. The American-born libation is once again the undisputed king of cocktails, atop the list of drinks that every bar and aspiring mixologist must excel at making. A trademark Martini doesn’t have to be elaborate just well conceived and skillfully executed.

Make every Martini you serve a work of art. Involve others in your efforts of devising a signature Martini or two. Once the winners have been selected, don’t keep them a secret. Great Martinis are meant to be shared. —RP


MARTINIS AT A GLANCE

• DIFFICULTY OF PREPARATION: 4.6 OUT OF 10 — The little preparation involved making a Martini is neither difficult nor time-consuming. They’re typically served in one of two ways. The traditional method is to stir the drink with ice and serve it straight in a chilled cocktail glass. The other approach is to serve the drink on the rocks, in which case the ingredients are stirred and strained it into iced tumbler. That’s it.

[Scale 1– 10: A drink with a value of 5.0 or lower means it’s quickly and easily prepared, while one with a value closer to 10 indicates that several days and an advanced engineering degree are required.]


• UP-SELLING POTENTIAL: 9.7 OUT OF 10 — The Martini is an ideal example of a cocktail with tremendous up-sell potential. First and foremost there’s the fact that the better the gin or vodka, the better cocktail. Secondly, boosting sales of premium brands makes good business sense. They command higher prices and yield bigger margins.

Indeed, committing premium gin or vodka to a Martini isn’t sacrilege it's creative genius.  When setting out to devise a top-shelf version of the cocktail, choose a recipe with a minimum of ingredients that may obscure the enhanced quality of the light spirit. Also, to best accentuate the spirit, the cocktail should be served straight up rather than on the rocks.

In addition to enhancing the quality of the gin or vodka, you can also upgrade the quality of the modifier from pedestrian vermouth to a premium brand.

[Scale 1– 10: A drink with an up-selling potential of 5.0 or higher means it’s a financial thoroughbred, a cocktail tailor-made for top-shelf spirits. A cocktail rating below 5 signifies a drink in which the brand of spirits used are of secondary importance compared to the overall effect looking to be achieved.]


• ALCOHOL POTENCY — A Martini served straight up is more potent than one served on the rocks. Stirring the drink with ice adds some water into the mix, yet the resulting cocktail is still relatively potent. Similar to the Manhattan, the classic cocktail typically only contains ingredients with alcohol.

[As a general rule, 1 1/4-ounces of distilled spirits is equal in alcohol to 4-ounces of wine and 10-ounces of beer.]


• PORTIONING CONSIDERATIONS — Most Martinis are prepared using three parts gin or vodka to one part modifier, typically vermouth. More specifically, the gin or vodka portions usually range from 2 to 3 ounces, while most recipes call for 1 ounce of vermouth. When setting out to devise a Manhattan masterpiece, it’s a good idea beginning with equal parts of alcohol to mix. From there making the drink stronger or more citrusy involves little more than a minor tweak to the recipe.


• SEASONAL ORIENTATION AND TRADE PERIOD — Martinis are as promotable in May and June as they are in fall or during the holidays. As a classic cocktail, they are most often served as aperitifs before and during dinner. By the time dinner winds down, guests’ thoughts tend to gravitate to more traditional postprandial concoctions.


• GLASSWARE OPTIONS — Martinis served straight up require a cocktail glass with a minimum of four-ounces of capacity. There are a wide variety of shapes and sizes from which to choose, so pick a style that best epitomizes the cocktail’s personality. Serving the same cocktail on the rocks requires a glass with a minimum capacity of seven-ounces. Here again, there are numerous styles of tumblers and specialty glasses designed for iced cocktails. Choose the one that best showcases your efforts.


• ALCOHOL-FREE OPTIONS: 1.0 OUT OF 10 — Try as we might, our brains couldn’t quite conceive of how to prepare an alcohol-free Martini.  However, that said, we still gave it a rating of 1 out of 10 because we’re still thinking.

[Scale: The rating of 1.0 out of 10 indicates that alcohol-free variation of the Martini still eludes us.


CREATING MARTINI MAGIC

A commonly heard question at bars and cocktail is what has the Martini become? The reason for its relevancy is the explosive growth of Martini variations, many of which bear little resemblance to the original recipe. Traditionalists contend that regardless of their burgeoning popularity, cocktails sporting such ingredients as cream, cordials, juice and confections cannot be presumed to be Martinis. Others suggest that changing drinking habits have naturally led to an evolving definition of what sort of libation can be called a Martini.

If change and individuality are at the heart of the Martini’s mystique, then where does one impose creative limitations? In other words, when is the drink so severely altered that it stops bearing resemblance to a Martini and begins to more resemble something entirely different?

Purists typically balk at the inclusion of any ingredient in a Martini other than the vermouth, liquor and a garnish. They’ll suggest that if you want to be creative, get a box of Crayons, but don’t mess with perfection. While their point is well taken, change is an inexorable force and the Martini is not immune to its effects.

If the cocktail is delicious, easy to drink and difficult to grow tired of, then what difference does it make it it’s called a Martini or a Buick? Good is good.


• FINEST CALL SWEET & SOUR MIX — There are more drinks in the lexicon of American mixology made with a lemon-forward sweet & sour than all other drink mixes combined. FINEST CALL SWEET & SOUR MIX is a blend of all-natural lemon, orange and lime extracts. Sweeteners are added to throttle back some of the citrus exuberance, resulting in a delectably flavorful drink mix.

Its naturally tart character provides the all-important foundation for the following specialty Martinis recipes.

Appletini Martini (Finest Call Sweet & Sour)

Blue Pacific Martini (Finest Call Sweet & Sour)

Gummie Bear Martini (Finest Call Sweet & Sour)

Raspberry Martini (Finest Call Lime Sour Mix)


• FINEST CALL FRUIT PUREES — Created to deliver a concentrated blast of fresh fruit flavor, Finest Call Fruit Purees are indispensable when preparing creative variations of classic Tiki drinks. Our purees are made entirely with premium varieties of fruit sourced from preeminent growing regions. Exacting specifications are maintained throughout the process to ensure uncompromised quality and that the fruit is at peak ripeness.

Our unbeatable range of premium purees includes FINEST CALL RASPBERRY PUREE, FINEST CALL STRAWBERRY PUREE, FINEST CALL BANANA PUREE, FINEST CALL MANGO PUREE, FINEST CALL PEACH PUREE and FINEST CALL PASSION FRUIT PUREE.

The following drink recipes feature a Finest Call puree.

Gummie Bear Martini (Finest Call Peach Puree)

Raspberry Martini (Finest Call Raspberry Puree)


• FINEST CALL PREMIUM FLAVORED SYRUPS — Sometimes a splash or two of flavor is all that’s necessary to propel a drink into the extraordinary range. To that end, we’ve created a line of flavored syrups developed specifically for use in cocktails and drinks, such as the following:

Gummie Bear Martini (Finest Call Cherry Syrup)

Huckleberry Martini (Finest Call Huckleberry Syrup)


FINEST CALL FRESH

The Mojito and Old Fashion are illustrative of how to best incorporate fresh ingredients on a per cocktail basis. In their preparation ingredients such as cut limes, oranges or fresh mint sprigs are muddled, thus releasing their succulence and essential oils. Sugar is added to balance out the acidic pith. The cocktail is then ready to receive the spirits and various modifiers that make it a singular creation.

Increasingly mixologists are reaching for the bar muddler when constructing their specialty Martinis. Examples abound, such as muddled fresh blackberries and basil, or muddled English cucumbers and finely chopped parsley. The application of the century old drink making technique has elevated craft Martinis to fresh new heights.


• INFUSED AND ENTHUSED — Infusion jars are unrivaled at creating singularly brilliant spirits that the competition can’t duplicate. When you create a winning infusion, there’s only one place to get it. You can turn virtually any spirit into something extraordinary by infusing it with everything from kiwis, melons and pepper to vanilla, cucumbers and sun-dried tomatoes. Steeping spirits is straightforward and uncomplicated. The process involves marinating fresh fruit, among other things, in large, airtight containers filled with spirits. Several days to a week later, the fruit will infuse the chosen spirit with flavor, color, aroma and loads of appealing character. Consider promoting a signature Martini made with lemon-infused gin, pepper-steeped tequila, vanilla and cherry-infused rum or pineapple vodka. The possibilities are endless.


MARTINIS — TIPS FOR PROS

The nation’s finest mixologists have been tweaking the Martini into glorious new incarnations. While some of these drinks may bear similarities to other cocktail styles; one can still see the genetic footprint of the Martini in their formulation. Is it possible to be overly enthusiastic and lead a Martini too far off the path? Perhaps, but why dally in the theoretical? If the cocktail looks and tastes delicious and you’re holding the glass, does it really matter?

Ah, but a word of caution about our friend, the Martini. It is the most often returned drink at any bar. Use too much vermouth and the drink will get returned. Not enough and it’ll come back. Shaken, not shaken, too watery, not sufficiently chilled and the Martini will be coming back. Yeah, they’re that touchy. The only viable precaution is to make certain you clearly hear the guest’s drink order and prepare the cocktail like you were working with nitroglycerin.


• SHAKING VS STIRRING MARTINIS — In the day, if you shook a Martini you were said to have “bruised” the poor drink because of its cloudy appearance. The cloudiness results when a Martini prepared with a significant proportion of vermouth is shaken, thus rendering it extremely cold. Slight cloudiness aside, a shaken Martini is still eminently healthy and robust.

Nevertheless, violently agitating a cocktail comprised solely of a spirit and aperitif wine might be construed as overkill. While shaking a drink will quickly render it cold, the practice will also highly aerate the cocktail and cause more ice to melt, thereby risking over-dilution. Stirring the cocktail takes a little longer to achieve the desired serving temperature, but it is generally presumed a more civilized approach. With deference to James Bond, most Martini aficionados prefer that the cocktail be treated more gently.

So, what’s really important when mixing a classic Martini? The primary objective is dropping the temperature of the ingredients to serving temperature. While only the genuinely obsessed would bother sticking a thermometer into the drink to ensure that it is sufficiently chilled, the proper serving temperature for a Martini is around 37-38˚F.

Thoroughly mixing the various ingredients into a homogenous cocktail is next on the list. Distilled spirits have specific gravities lighter than water, while ingredients such as fortified wines and liqueurs are heavier than water. The gentle act of stirring is sufficient to mix the various ingredients into solution.

The last and rarely acknowledged purpose behind stirring is to add a healthy measure of water to the cocktail. It is the unheralded member of Team Martini. The water seamlessly melds with spirits and modifiers. It softens the blend and further dulls the edge of the liquor. For that reason it’s advisable to only use quality ice made from spring or mineral water. The taste of the water will play a part in the finished cocktail.


• CREATIVE VERMOUTH-ING — As mentioned, vermouth is what renders the Martini gloriously smooth. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that since vermouth is comparatively inexpensive that any brand will do. The difference between a great vermouth and one that’s merely adequate is enormous. Select your vermouth with exacting care.

It is also the ingredient whose use requires the most care. Vermouth is typically produced in two distinctively different styles —French and Italian, which are also known as dry and sweet vermouth respectively. It is the dry, French vermouth that is the featured performer in the Martini.

Over the course of the last century the trend was to use increasingly less vermouth in the cocktail, thereby making a progressively drier Martini. Early versions of the drink called for 3 parts gin and 1 part vermouth (3:1), however, over time, the 7:1 dry Martini became the accepted norm. It’s said Winston Churchill made his Martinis by pouring gin into a pitcher and glancing briefly at a bottle of vermouth across the room, which by definition is the epitome of an Extra Dry Martini.

Today, however, a steadily growing number of mixologists are reverting to the classic style of using more vermouth when preparing Martinis. This trend comes with a caveat. Vermouth is a complex, sophisticated wine, one that is difficult and laborious to make. Suffice to say, the better the vermouth, the better the resulting Martini.


• THE FORTIFIED DIFFERENCE — A time proven avenue for creating delectable signature Martinis is to substitute one of a number of aperitifs for vermouth. There is a natural affinity between spirits and fortified wines. These wines—venerable products such as Lillet and Dubonnet, Fino sherry, Oloroso port, Madeira—are imbued with tremendous flavors and lavishly textured bodies, making them incomparable ingredients in Martinis. Today’s practitioners are continuing to explore and redefine the boundaries of this magical pairing.

The list of viable candidates must surely start with Dubonnet and Lillet. Both are French aperitif wines fortified with grape spirits and flavored with proprietary blends of herbs, spices and fruit. They are unsurpassed in Martinis and add greatly to the cocktail’s exuberance.

Next would be Iberian greats Sherry and Port. Sherry is a fortified wine produced in Jerez de la Frontera, the famed wine growing region in southern Spain. Of the two styles, the dry, delicate Fino Sherry is most frequently used instead of vermouth to invigorate Martinis. Fino Sherry admirably highlights the distinguishing characteristics of each and every one of the botanicals in gin.

Ports are fortified wines made primarily from red wine grapes cultivated in the Upper Duoro Valley of northern Portugal. The style most often recruited for use in making cocktails is Tawny Port, which is a blend of older wines, pale in color with a distinctive amber edge. While Ports are most often paired with whiskeys, it is not unusual to see it featured with super-premium gin or vodka in Martinis.

With such a diverse cast of aperitifs to choose from, one wonders if there are enough days in the week for fully exploring the possibilities.


• RAISING THE BAR — The sustained popularity of super-premium gins and vodkas has strapped a booster to the Martini boom. While some may see committing the world’s finest spirits to cocktails a sacrilege, others see it as an act of creative genius. As was the case with vermouth, the better the liquor, the better the Martini. The cocktail’s uncomplicated and unfettered structure makes it an ideal vehicle for showcasing the enhanced character and unsurpassed quality of top-shelf spirits. Flavored vodkas are also frequently recruited for use in signature Martinis. They offer flavor without sweetness, which in many recipes is advantageous.


• MODIFIER BONANZA — A splash or two of a liqueur contributes four invaluable things to a Martini. It adds a blast of flavor, texture and heft to the body, a welcome touch of sweetness and gives the cocktail an alluring hue.

Inspired modifiers are not limited to liqueurs, however. For instance, add an effervescent dose of champagne in your Martinis, or heat things up with a few dashes of jalapeño juice. Splash in fresh lime juice, or use any one of the many flavored syrups on the market. There are no boundaries on creativity.


• IMPROVING ON PERFECTION — Garnishing a Martini isn’t an obligation or act of embellishment; it’s a creative opportunity. In a cocktail consisting of little more than a spirit and aperitif wine, the garnish essentially becomes another source of flavor and dimension. Pimento-stuffed olives do not circumscribe the garnishing possibilities. This point cannot be stressed enough.

Embrace the freedom and live a little. Consider your options, a partial list includes prosciutto-stuffed olives, speared lychees, orange zest spirals, anchovy-wrapped olives, fresh picked strawberries, bleu cheese-stuffed olives, spearmint sprigs, kiwi slices, pickled green tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and watermelon spears. A thoroughly engaging garnish ensures that the Martini will be as visually appealing as it is delicious.


FINEST CALL MARTINI RECIPE

MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Gin

1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth

Stir and strain

Garnish with olives


FINEST CALL SIGNATURE MARTINIS

APPLETINI MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Vodka

3/4 oz. Finest Call Sour Apple

3/4 oz. Finest Call Sweet & Sour

Stir and strain

Garnish with a green apple slice


BLUE PACIFIC MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

1 1/2 oz. Gin

1 oz. Absolut Citrón

1/2 oz. Finest Call Blue Curaçao

1/2 oz. Finest Call Sweet & Sour

Stir and strain

Garnish with a lemon twist


DRY MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Gin

1/4 oz. Dry Vermouth

Stir and strain

Garnish with olives


DRY VODKA MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Vodka

1/4 oz. Dry Vermouth

Stir and strain

Garnish with olives


EXTRA DRY MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Gin

2-3 drops Dry Vermouth

Stir and strain

Garnish with olives


EXTRA DRY VODKA MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Vodka

2-3 drops Dry Vermouth

Stir and strain

Garnish with olives


GUMMIE BEAR MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

1 oz. Midori

1 oz. Finest Call Peach Puree

1/2 oz. Finest Call Cherry Syrup

1 1/2 oz. Finest Call Sweet & Sour

Shake and strain

Garnish with skewered Gummie Bears


HUCKLEBERRY MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Vodka

3/4 oz. Lemoncello

3/4 oz. Finest Call Huckleberry Syrup

Stir and strain

Garnish with a lemon slice


RASPBERRY MARTINI

Cocktail glass, chilled

Pour into an iced mixing glass

2 1/2 oz. Absolut Raspberry Vodka

1 oz. Finest Call Raspberry Puree

3/4 oz. Finest Call Lime Sour Mix

Stir and strain

Garnish with a fresh raspberry

Difficulty of
Preparation

Upselling
Potential

Alcohol-Free
Options