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!

Mamuśka Polish bar and restaurant, E&C, London

  
This isn’t strictly a post about martinis but I am making a special mention of this tasty bar/restaurant Mamuśka, not least because of the way they treat their spirits (which is well, by the way).

  
The ultimately satisfying carb-fest ‘placki ziemniaczane’ (pancakes made out of potato) will put you into a sumptuous ‘food coma’.

For years Mamuśka restaurant has been a regular visiting spot for Elephant and Castle residents, as well as many from the Polish community throughout London. With the impending destruction of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre they have now moved premises all the way across Elephant and Castle roundabout to occupy the space previously filled by “My Big Fat Greek Restaurant” (where did they go by the way?). We wish them well. The new venue is bigger with additional outside seating.

  
There’s a fun atmosphere with some really friendly staff on hand to assist. The menu is also clearly designed to welcome non-Polish people to experience this rich culture and warming cuisine. Mamuśka (which means “Mum” by the way) also aims to provide lovingly prepared home cooking to the many Poles living far from home.

The simple, wholesome and extraordinarily comforting fare in an unpretentious cafeteria-type setting is perfect for either a quick meal or a relaxing evening with food and drinks.

Do note, however, that if you ever eat here with a hangover you WILL fall into a deep food coma afterwards. It’s cheap and deliciously filling.

  
However, I feel a particular need to mention Mamuśka on my blog because of the way they serve their vodka (they also serve a nice array of beers).

They keep the vodka and the glasses in be freezer. I sounds simple but there is a long list of London cocktail bars who do not do this. Temperature and simplicity are two key aspects when preparing a martini so if Mamuśka ever decided to add them to their menu I know they would do them well. Perhaps they could call them Mamuśka’s ruin.

Martinis or not, this is a favourite spot of mine. I would recommend dropping in for a relaxed, friendly and tasty visit with some excellent drinks to accompany your pierogi, śledź and other tasty bites. Your mother would approve.

The Japanese Pickled Ginger Martini

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Get ready for winter with this ice-cold Japanese-Russian-British infusion. If Moscow cuts off Europe’s gas supplies this is how to stay warm!

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I love gari (Japanese pickled ginger) and wanted to incorporate it into a drink for ages. Similar to making Limoncello the aim is to infuse clear spirit and add it to a classic martini.

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Take 1 small pile of gari slices (as in the picture above – the same amount you would be served with a dish in a Japanese restaurant) per 100ml clear spirit. Fill a container with the required ginger and clear spirit.

Add 1 tablespoon of sugar per 100ml, shake/stir until it has dissolved and leave for at least a week to infuse. For this recipe I used 340ml and the equivalent of 3-4 small piles of gari to infuse the spirit. I used Russian vodka but Polish or any other varieties are all fine (depending on your taste and/or national affiliations). Actually it doesn’t harm to use poorer quality vodkas for this recipe. Save good quality vodka for tasting in its own right.

When the time comes to pour, take a chilled martini glass and mix with the following measures:

Add 1 measure of sweet vermouth (or to taste)
Add 2 measures of the infused ginger vodka
Add 3-4 measures of chilled gin

Garnish with a slice of pickled ginger. If you have pink slices these are more visually attractive (I didn’t have any to hand for my latest attempts). When you finish the drink and eat the garnish it sends a bitter-warming-spicy chill down your spine.

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The ginger adds a nice warming quality to the drink. This makes it perfect for a cold evening, be it a clear day when you can wrap up warm and watch the early sunset outside, or for sipping indoors in front of a fire.

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You can also serve the ginger vodka straight up in a frozen shot glass if you want. Again, garnish with a slice of pickled ginger.

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Winter is the perfect time for this!

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.

The Polish influence

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!

Nazdroviye!

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