Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ultimate Martini Update

Per my post below regarding preparing the ultimate martini, I thought I would add a few things.  I attempted the recipe using Bombay Saphire Gin.  Neither my wife or I could drink it.  She has liked vodka martinis in the past, so I went to Beverages and More to buy Belvedere Vodka.  They had a gift box containing a 750ml bottle and one reidel martini glass for $30.  I did not buy it.  Instead, I went to Costco, where they have a gift box with a 1.75 ml bottle of Belvedere Vodka and two reidel martini glasses for $40.  Thus for ten dollars more you get an extra liter and an extra glass.


I also want to point out that Forbes magazine recently reviewed an updated version of “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” written by Harry Craddock, one of the most famous bartenders of all time (sorry Johnny Love) that features a variety of martini recipes.  You can read the entire article here.  Here are a few of the recipes:


Dry Martini Cocktail:

1/2 French Vermouth

1/2 Gin

1 Dash Orange Bitters

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass


Winston Churchill preferred this version:

Martini (Dry) Cocktail:

1/3 French Vermouth

2/3 Dry Gin

Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass


The article also mentions Craddock's “White Lady,” one of the most popular drinks of the Jazz Age:


White Lady Cocktail:

1/4 Lemon Juice

1/4 Cointreau

1/2 Dry Gin

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.


Coincidentally, Eric Felten, who writes the “How’s Your Drink” column in the Wall Street Journal just had an article on the White Lady.  As of today, the article can be accessed here, but I believe Murdock has not yet made the online content free as promised.  Interesting quotes:

"All women like White Ladies," wrote romance novelist Maysie Greig in her 1938 "Men as Her Stepping-Stones." Explaining the cocktail's appeal to distaff drinkers, she said that "they appear mild, but they're potent." And she suggested that this was an aesthetic tendency with wide application for women: "She wants a thing to appear mild, but it must have a definite kick to it."

But the White Lady -- and the whole Bright Young Things aesthetic of London between the wars -- aged poorly. By the mid-1960s, Punch magazine looked back at those days with bemusement: "Can anyone remember the terrible taste of gin-and-cointreau? Or whether it was a Sidecar or a White Lady? Or how excited the papers got when Bertie the Barman shook up something new and fancy-named?" Then the magazine shifted from bemusement to disdain: "Is there anything more naïve than yesterday's sophistication?"

There are problems with the drink. The name doesn't exactly invite men to share an enthusiasm for the cocktail, even though it's no girly-drink. And there's the potential that the moniker might be perceived as having racial overtones, though it comes from the British phrase for a female ghost. But perhaps the most significant difficulty is that Punch magazine had a point about the taste of gin-and-Cointreau. The White Lady may have been a natural variation on the Sidecar theme, but gin doesn't blend as harmoniously as brandy with Cointreau and lemon juice. Even so, there isn't anything wrong with the White Lady that a little tweaking can't fix.

I like what can happen when white rum and gin are put together, and so I added some rum to the White Lady. It was better, but still not good enough. After a few hours of kitchen-sink chemistry experiments, I found that the addition of a little bit of simple syrup and orange bitters did the trick. It turns out that the Menlo Club (a 1940s San Francisco poker palace) had a house cocktail of striking similarity to our revised White Lady. I suggest we adopt the Menlo Club Cocktail as the worthy successor to Craddock's original.


Monday, December 10, 2007

What to do when iTunes doesn't have a song you want

Per my post below, I’m making the ultimate Christmas mix.  After much debate, I decided that Band Aid’s “Do they know it’s Christmas” should make the cut.  However, when I went to the iTunes music store, it was only available as part of an entire album for $18.99.  Since I had many of the songs, and the rest were terrible, I searched google and found a UK site called 7digital which had it.  However, after paying for it in pounds (I think it was around $1.25) and downloading it, iTunes would recognize or convert it, as it was in a protected WMA format and not whatever format iTunes uses.  After doing a little research, I found that if I simply burned the song to a disc in Windows Media Player, iTunes would then import it.


The problem with this is that my CD burner has not worked since I “upgraded” to Vista.  After about an hour, I was able to burn a disc and import it.  Suddenly the $18.99 didn’t look like such a bad price.  What a freakin’ hassle.  In addition, I have no idea if 7digital is legit…it could be some Ukranian-based identity scam that just loaded up my computer with Trojans.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Ultimate Martini Recipe

My dad, a retired Marine Lt. Col., has drank martinis all his life.  He says the best one that he’s ever had was made by a fraternity brother of mine.  Yesterday I emailed my buddy, a former bartender, and asked for his recipe and technique, and he replied as follows:


Most people drink vodka martinis. I like Belevedere because it's made with rye. Kinda "crisp". I also like Rain, which was the top choice at the bar where I worked.  For gin, Junipero from Anchor Distillery is great. I have also enjoyed Bombay Sapphire.
In a professional bar, I pour a bit of vermouth in the glass, swirl to coat, and then dump the rest. At home, I use a little pump spray bottle. I only use a little dry vermouth, so it is not critical what type, but I prefer Martini & Rossi. I have gotten in the habit of using Lillet (a vermouth-type french wine) instead of regular vermouth. A bit less "distracting."
The garnish most prefer is a lemon twist. At the bar, I'd prep these in advance. At home, I use a kitchen gadget made for getting the skin off (and avoiding the bitter white rind) of citrus. The alternative is either olives or pearl onions. These are such a personal decision, that I only have them when I am serving olives anyway. In the bar, I'd dry the olive to prevent dirtying a "clean" martini. At home, I just drain the brine, and let them dry.
The ice you use must also be dry. This where an ice maker or large ice cooler is needed. At home, I take the ice directly from the freezer to the shaker. Wetter ice can be used to chill the glass with added water.
I never shake a martini unless asked to do so. That adds air bubbles. I like a clear martini. Shaking is really only meant for drinks with thick liquids like milk, cream, and fruit juice.
The glass is a key component. You want it to be big, thin, and with a slightly turned-in lip. Big to hold a decent martini and garnish without spillage. Thin to chill fast and stay cold. The turned-in lip helps keep it from pouring out when disturbed. The glass should be spotlessly clean and free of dust.
Any topless metal shaker will do. Use a coil strainer to hold back the ice. You are going to swirl the shaker until you can no longer bear the cold, so you will want a fast pour. The shaker should be very clean.
Keep the vodka or gin in the freezer. Keep the vermouth (or Lillet) in the fridge.
Alright...You have your chilled ingredients, nice cold, "dry" ice, and all of your other stuff close to hand...Ready, steady, go...
1. Add ice to your glass, then water. Leave to chill.
2. Dump the ice and swing the glass to dry
3. Add a splash (or a few sprays) of vermouth and swirl the glass to coat.
4. Dump the vermouth
5. If adding skewered olive/s, do so now
6. Fill shaker with ice
7. Add liquor to shaker (according to the size of your glass), and immediately begin to swirl.
8. Swirl until the pain from the cold is too much. The shaker should frost.
9. Immediately strain into glass - ice crystals should dance on the surface
10. If you are using lemon, twist over glass to release oils, and drop into glass.
11. Serve immediately

So I made the martini, according to the directions above, and it came out perfectly...I even had the dancing ice flakes. However, I used Gin, and when I took a sip it was like drinking gasoline. Definitely a taste I'll never "acquire." Tomorrow I'm going to buy Belvedere vodka at Costco ($40 for a huge bottle and two Reidel (sp?) martini glasses). Perhaps vodka won't taste as awful. If it does, I'm sticking to Sapporo and red wine.