Cocktail Hour with Madame: The Martinez
Teaching the Youths How to Drink Their Booze with Some Elegance
August 22, 2017 at 12:12 pm
A beer and a shot may be acceptable at certain social engagements. However, when some heathen places a crying baby in your arms, you may require a drink with more élan than a beer.* That’s where a well-made cocktail comes in. As it has recently come to my attention that not everyone has a ballroom full of cocktail books and with time on my hands after retirement, this column will endeavor to walk you through spirits and cocktails to make with them.
I was first introduced to the Martinez while sunning off the coast of Saint Tropez when I needed something to break up the Martinis. I fell in love with both the drink and the immensely charming lady I was with. While she left me to run off with an Italian count, the drink stayed by my side without succumbing to the charms of an over-decorated yacht.
Many believe that the Martinez is an earlier incarnation of the Martini. There’s some doubt about this, as there is with most alcohol. Most people were more concerned with drinking than they were with writing down the exact origins of what they were imbibing. That said, a select group managed to jot a few things down, even in the midst of their drunken stupors.
The Martini and the Martinez are not linked merely because they sound similar after a few drinks. Rather, the Martinez is considered to be the foremother of the Martini because it too consists of gin, vermouth and bitters**, with the addition of maraschino liqueur. Maraschino, while lost in the Martini, is an old sweetening agent that you might recognize from the now popular Last Word or Aviation.
A Martinez, though, necessitates Old Tom gin and sweet vermouth. Besides being an excellent partner at strip bridge, Old Tom is an older variation of gin that’s closer to its Dutch origins. Especially in comparison to a typical London dry gin, Old Tom is decidedly sweeter and maltier.
Unsurprisingly, sweet vermouth is also sweet (oh the opulence of it all), as well as Italian and red. Like all vermouth, it consists of an aromatized and fortified wine–wine with the addition of herbs, bark, and other flavoring agents along with a strong, neutral spirit. Because vermouth is made from wine, if you leave it out, it will spoil, and your cocktails will taste just awful. Frankly, darlings, substituting the Old Tom for the Beefeater in your pantry is immensely preferable to the sheer horror of not refrigerating your vermouth. Carpano Antica is the sweet vermouth I use at home, but I understand that not everyone still lives off of their Blackjack winnings from a particularly raucous night in Monte Carlo in ’59.
*And more potency.
** Although some modern versions omit it, classic Martinis contain bitters. I will expand further on Martinis and their many variations, even, dare I say, the gauche iterations, at length in future articles.
The Martinez: Recipe
- 2 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1 oz. Old Tom gin
- 1 tsp. maraschino liqueur
- 2 dashes bitters
Additional ingredients: lemon twist, ice
Combine your ingredients in a mixing glass full of ice, and stir in order to cool it down. Use a strainer (a julep strainer works well here) to hold back the ice and pour into a chilled Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Recipe adapted from Jerry Thomas’s bar guide (1887)
For general cocktail history, including Martinez history and descriptions of Old Tom: Wondrich, D. (2015). Imbibe: From absinthe cocktail to whiskey smash, a salute in stories and drinks to “professor” Jerry Thomas, pioneer of the American bar. New York: Perigee Book.
For more information on the Martinez and other excellent cocktail recipes: The Martinez Gets Its Groove Back.
For more information on Old Tom: Bringing It Back Bar: How to Use Old Tom Gin.