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The Martinez On My Mind — Simple, elegant and damn tasty

We all, with great fondness, remember our first.  So many “firsts” are washing their way through my memory as I type, but one in particular stands out.  The date was November 2007.  The location was the craft bar Employees Only in NYC.  It was that night that I came face-to-face, glass to palate with that simple, elegant and altogether fantastic tasting drink … the Martinez Cocktail.

At the time that I tried this drink for the first time I was not well versed in my cocktail appreciation evolution and was really only drinking the odd mix of Manhattans (although at this point in time I had yet to learn its true construction), crappy “dirty” Martini’s and horribly made Old Fashioneds.  Yet it was also during this time, after having discovered a few wonderful teaching aides (many of which are familiar to us all … now) that I was beginning to learn about and also venture forth to try, well-made classically inspired cocktails.  On the night mentioned above, I found myself sitting at a table with colleagues at a wonderful craft bar that I have come to think of as a home away from home (a huge thank you to the entire Employees Only staff for making my cocktail education, so fun over the years) sipping on my very first Martinez.

To this day I think back with fondness on what this drinking experience taught me; it would be bold to say that it was this drink and this experience that alone launched me head and toes into a love of this medium, but I know that this single experience played a huge role in what happened next to me … the very next day I sought out my first bottle of certain spirits and for the first time, maraschino liqueur entered my shelf of goodies.

It is with the aforementioned fondness of this amazing classic beauty that we set out today to explore it in all its wonderful glory and so over the next few posts we’ll highlight a few different variations.  As in our past projects (recall with fondness our love of Manhattan’s, Old Fashioneds, Negroni’s and Martini’s) we hope to start with a reasonably solid base recipe and throw in a variety of variations by which to test how durable the formula is.

So what then to select as our starting point version?  As we’ll see in the follow-on posts different recipe books and/or bartenders have opposing P1000372base Martinez recipes and therein lay a great reason to explore and learn from this little gem.  I don’t mean for this series to start a history debate on the Martinez equivalent of the “chicken and egg” dilemma so please hold your fire on that score.  Thus, we have opted to start with the recipe that I have used as my base recipe since I first read the Kaiser’s post on this very same subject and that is what is listed below.

Recipe version used below was sourced from the “Kaiser Penguin” cocktail blog  

•    1 1/2 oz Old Tom gin (Hayman’s was used)
•    1 1/2 oz Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth   
•    2 tsp. maraschino liqueur (Luxardo was used)
•    2 dashes orange bitters (Regans was used)
Garnish: orange twist
Glass: cocktail coupe or other cocktail glass
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and julep strainer

Assembly:  Add all of the ingredients to the mixing glass with plenty of cracked and non-cracked ice and stir until well chilled (adding additional ice if needed).    

Oh my dear Lord this drink is amazing!  A downright treat for the palate – the drink is sweet but not in an obtuse way but in a complex way; by combining sweetness from three different sources (spirit, fortified wine and liqueur) it makes for a complex profile that when set against the added muted herbal notes of the gin and the funk of the maraschino is altogether perfect.

As with all of the other classic cocktails profiled as projects in this little blog, we hope that we learn (or in my case re-learn) something interesting even if the simple, time tested lesson of how subtle changes in ingredients or formula can make huge differences in the outcome of the new version.

Next up … subtle changes … what results?

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