The Fiery Ginger Martini

   
Serving a cocktail in a martini glass and adding a -tini suffix to the end of its name does not make it a martini.

   
A real martini should contain a small amount of vermouth and a large amount of gin or vodka. If you start messing around with this too much you no longer have the genuine article.

   
Acceptable variations include the dirty martini, served with olive brine, or the Gibson martini, served with pickled onion instead of lemon or olive. These are very simple alterations to the classic. 

 

The above Rosemary Martini uses no syrups or fruit juice. It is the same alcoholic strength as a classic martini but with a sublime taste and aroma of a rosemary herbaceous border. It’s a little bit more fancy than a classic but I still consider it essentially a martini.

  

I sometimes blog about certain cocktails if they have become accepted into popular martini culture as having a -tini suffix (the Appletini perhaps, the above Espresso Martini or the Breakfast Martini for example).

   
Otherwise though, I like variations to the classic martini which involve only the tiniest, most subtle alterations. Above, the humble caperberry can turn a classic martini into a full blown filthy martini.

  
With this simplistic philosophy in mind, I wanted to make a martini very close to a classic, but which incorporated the sharp and fresh essence of ginger. I subsequently tried scouring the Internet for existent recipes.

  

Indeed, a ginger martini recipe already exists (it’s referred to as the ‘zen-tini’) but I was disappointed to find that it involved quite a lot of preparation, it was far to complicated, and the finished product, using syrup, wasn’t nearly as strong as a classic martini.

  

Such fuss is hardly my idea of ‘zen’.

  

So I had a think, and decided to put together my own recipe.

After much thought, I came up with something very simple, even comparable to a dirty martini.

The crucial difference is that instead of olive brine it’s made with the juice of freshly grated ginger.

  
Grate a thumb-sized piece of ginger then squeeze the pulp to release the liquid.

   
Take a teaspoon of the juice and pour it into a chilled martini glass.
Add vermouth to taste then top up with chilled gin/vodka and stir.

  
Garnish with a slice of ginger with a small wedge cut out so that it slips over the glass.

Serve.

  
The drink is as strong as a normal martini, but with an added fiery kick of spice and warmth. It’s very good in winter.

  
You can also garnish the drink with a slice of Japanese pickled ginger, which looks very delicate and is a little easier on the palate than a raw ginger slice. If you like the taste you might like my Japanese pickled ginger martini.

  
I’m trying to think up a name for the raw ginger martini. The hot and fiery martini comes to mind.

Perhaps I could name it in honour of Jamaica, the residence of martini fan Ian Fleming and a great producer of fiery ginger goodness. The MontegoBayTini perhaps?

  
I wanted to name it after the distinctive and deadly Jamaican Bond girl Grace Jones but sadly a cocktail has already been named in her honour (one of the most expensive in the world no less…).

  
Someone also suggested that the raw ginger garnish looked a little bit like…

  
…one of Russell Tovey’s ears so I could also name it after him. 

More predictably though, it could also be named after all manner of famous gingers: the Prince Harry martini perhaps, or the Julianne Mooretini.

All suggestions in the comments below will be gratefully received.

The Tsukemono Gibson Martini

“Tsukemono Gibson sounds like some sort of Bond Girl.”

 
This is a very simple variation on the classic, elegant Gibson Martini. The only difference is that instead of a pickled onion garnish I’m using a gentler, more subtle addition: Japanese Tsukemono pickles.

  
I served a Gibson martini with Tsukemono as an accompaniment once which is what gave me the idea

These pickles are easy to make (recipe here). You can also buy them in Asian cooking shops and some Japanese takeaway restaurants. They’re often coloured red with shiso leaf so the visual effect will be different if you make them at home.

  

Select some pickles.

  
Thread them onto a bamboo skewer. If you’ve only got toothpicks to hand just use those, with only one of the pickles.

Pour the martini using the classic recipe but without lemon:

  • Take a chilled glass from the freezer.
  • Pour a measure (or to taste) of vermouth, usually between 2tsp and 30ml.
  • Top up with around 100-130ml gin or vodka from the freezer.
  • Use the garnish to stir the drink.
  • Chin chin.

The martini goes well with Japanese food, as well as frightfully English cucumber sandwiches.

It also goes well if you make it with some of the more subtly flavoured Polish vodkas (although note that  Żubrówka would be too powerful a flavour for the fragile Tsukemono). It will also work well if you make it with the cucumber-infused Hendricks gin.

I don’t really believe in sake-tinis (you might have noticed their glaring absence on this blog) but yes, if you insist, they might go well with one.

Kanpai!

The Squid Ink and Octopus Martini

   
This one goes by many names…

  • The Octopus-tini
  • The Octopussy Martini
  • The Loch Ness Monstini
  • The Nautilus-tini
  • The Maritime Martini
  • The Tako-tini (tako no matini / タコのマティーニ)
  • And finally, the Spectre Martini

Add squid ink and octopus tentacle soaked in balsamic vinegar to make an unusual variation of a dirty martini and Le Jacques Coustini.

  

Get yourself some sea legs by drinking one or two of them. You will need:

  • Olives in brine
  • Squid ink
  • Balsamic vinegar (possibly sweet mirin as well if you fancy being fancy)
  • Boiled octopus tentacle (other seafood garnishes such as langoustine can be used as a substitute if desired). The octopus tentacle can be prepared from frozen as well as fresh.
  • Perhaps some seafood to serve as an accompaniment (optional – and see here for some ideas)
  • Vermouth
  • And finally, the hard stuff: gin/vodka (perhaps a brand with a maritime or seafood connection)

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First of all, I went to Borough Market, which pretty much supplies everything you need for a martini.

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I bought whelks and cockles as an unusual accompanying snack.

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I also bought some squid ink.

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When I got home I took some cooked octopus tentacles out of the freezer and soaked them in balsamic vinegar for several hours. There’s all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff in my freezer – here’s why.

You only need to soak the octopus for enough time for it to defrost but after 4 hours it will have absorbed a lot of flavour which is good. You could also soak it in a slightly japanese marinade combining balsamic vinegar and sweet mirin, of around 4 parts vinegar to 1 part mirin.

  
Remove the octopus pieces and pierce them with toothpicks (unless you want them to appear au naturale draped over the rim of your glass).

  

  • When drink o’clock arrives open the olives and pour some of the brine into a glass. Serve the olives to your guest(s). I use Fragata tinned olives stuffed with anchovies, because (a) the fish continues the maritime theme and (b) they taste amazeballs. The brine is also very good.
  • For each martini you intend to make transfer 4 teaspoons of the brine into a separate glass.
  • Into this glass squeeze about half a teaspoon of squid ink per martini and muddle it until it has broken into small globules. This is your brine and ink mixture to flavour and colour the martini. If I think back to chemistry class this might be called an emulsion but martinis have made me forget and I would have to defer to someone with superior knowledge.
  • In a chilled martini glass pour the brine and ink mixture (as above, 4 teaspoons of brine and half a teaspoon of ink per martini).
  • Add a dash of vermouth (or to taste) then stir.
  • Add 4-5 measures of gin or vodka then stir.
  • Rinse the vinegar off the octopus tentacle and balance it on the edge of the glass.
  • You can serve additional octopus tentacles with toothpicks as appetisers. 

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And there you go, it looks like some frightful creature crawling out from the deep of the black lagoon but I promise you it tastes nice. The brine and seafood will hopefully set off your appetite before a meal.

Given its appearance it might be a good drink to serve during Halloween, or if you’re having a James Bond theme party.

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Add more brine if you like your martini dirty.

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If you prefer your martini ‘clean’ you can simply make a classic martini and serve the octopus as a garnish.

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Voila. Fit for a Bond villain.

If you have any other potential name suggestions for this one let me know in the comments below.

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“Shaken, not stirred”

Whether or not you are a fan of Ian Fleming’s work, you cannot deny the inextricable association of James Bond with martinis.

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When Mr. Fleming was writing about this complicated anti-hero character it was a time of austerity and post-war reconstruction, when international travel was for the few and parts of the world were rendered out-of-bounds by the Cold War. Part of the appeal of Bond was surely his international lifestyle, one of class, travel and sophistication.

The martini played right into this image.

The “shaken, not stirred” catch-phrase was apparently coined by Fleming at one of my favourite establishments: the bar at Dukes Hotel in St. James’s, London.

Shaking the drink with ice adds an effervescent quality. Stirring it leaves it slightly stronger and more viscous. I prefer the latter. If the gin is cold enough it has an almost oily quality.

Bond also liked vodka martinis (preferably Russian or Polish vodka). I’m a gin fan myself, but I’ve certainly been known to enjoy Polish vodka) on a number of occasions.

Whichever way you prefer your martini, I recommend at least one trip to Dukes bar during your lifetime. Go and have yourself a famous “Vesper” martini, named after the enduring Bond girl Vesper Lynd. Dress for the occasion and enjoy the experience.

But remember, Dukes bar adheres to the ‘two martini’ rule.

The Vesper Martini

The Vesper martini was invented by James Bond in Ian Fleming’s classic novel Casino Royale.
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He named it after the character Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green in the 2006 film version of the book.

The original recipe is as follows:

3 measures of gin
1 measure of vodka
Half a measure of Kina Lillet

Shake with ice then strain into a glass and serve with a thin slice of lemon peel.
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However, Kina Lillet is nearly impossible to acquire today without a time machine, so one must improvise with Lillet blanc, to which you could also add a dash of angostura bitters once the drink has been poured.

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Lillet blanc is a French aperitif ‘tonic’ wine, blended with citrus liqueurs and Cinchona bark. The citrus liqueurs include Mediterranean limes and oranges from countries such as Spain and Morocco, while Cinchona (which contains quinine) comes from Peru. Combine this with Russian or Polish vodka, British gin, perhaps some Sicilian olives, Middle Eastern pistachio nuts, Bombay mix and say, some ‘izakaya’ style snacks from Japan (see here for more ideas) and you’ve got yourself a perfect international fait accompli, synonymous with Britain’s favourite spy, played here by Daniel Craig:

You can’t beat a classic.