I look forward to Poland’s rise on the world stage. I’m not much of a vodka drinker, but when I do drink vodka, Polish is my favourite. When someone says “flavoured vodka” they are either referring to chemical trashy flavours such as strawberry or chocolate, or they are talking about the real deal: the traditional Polish flavours. I’m somewhat of a traditionalist, but if you offered me a pineapple flavour vodka from a factory or a… Let’s say oak flavoured vodka from Poland, there is no contest in my mind. The classic, traditional flavours win hands down. The Poles are also excellent at nibbles to accompany drink. Pickled herring, pickled cucumber… Perfect. I love pierogi, but I think they might be a bit heavy to serve with a martini. Have them later!
For the purposes of martini and of this blog, please allow me to present two Polish themes. The first is the humble gherkin as an accompaniment. I slice them and serve them as a nice, natural counter-balance to olives. Green, crunchy and sharp, they just go well in my opinion.
The second theme is what I call the “mini martini”. It is prepared in the same way as a standard martini, but in a shot glass and garnished with only a thin sliver of lemon peel.
A shot glass you say? Yes some people might be appalled at this, but as I said, I am a traditionalist so rest assured, this is not some gimmicky concoction. It is an idea inspired by the traditions or Poland, a land where alcohol is respected and a great deal of care and attention goes in to making a good drink.
The mini-martini is ideal for guests who would like to try a martini but who don’t want to drink a lot. It is inspired by the frozen glasses used in Bar Polskie, a favourite little place of mine near Holborn tube station in Central London. It’s tucked away down an olde-worlde alley but it’s worth it!
I keep tall shot glasses in the freezer. When serving, rub the lemon peel inside the glass then trim it with a knife so that it’s just a thin sliver. Pour in the vermouth then the gin or vodka to make the martini itself. Zubrowka vodka works very well in a Polish-themed martini although I would be tempted not to mix such a drink with vermouth. I would just drink it neat, especially if it’s in a small quantity such as in a shot glass. Also it goes without saying that the alcohol used should be stored in the freezer in advance of serving.
I garnish the lemon peel sliver either by dropping it into the drink, or by dipping it in the alcohol then using the wetness to stick it to the outside of the glass.
Finally, I admire the tradition of Polish storytelling and speeches to accompany a drink. Similarly when drinking a martini you want to be stimulated and mentally engaged in something intense and entertaining. Good banter or a good story is essential so make sure you prep this in advance!