I came to an interesting realization this week due to my experiments with the Martinez. When I really enjoy a cocktail I find myself making it over and over again, trying recipe variations and noting the differences. In the case of cocktails that I’m not in love with I tend to shy away from making them and even make other drinks instead. This was certainly the case with the Martinez. I tried three recipes which covered the recipe spectrum and I didn’t love any of them. The drink is okay, but I’m certainly not going to be switching to it from either a Martini or a Manhattan.
I started the week with Jerry Thomas’ recipe which utilizes a ratio of 1oz:2oz (Gin:Vermouth) with 1/4 oz of Maraschino liqueur and 2 dashes of Angostura. I used my go-to gin, Plymouth, but sadly found that its flavor was completely covered by the other ingredients. The herbal notes of the vermouth were certainly the star with this recipe even covering the Angostura for the most part. Interestingly the Maraschino did shine through and I found this to be the case with all three recipes.
Next I tried Gary Regan’s recipe from The Joy of Mixology. This recipe reversed the ratio to 2:1 with the same amount of Maraschino and bitters. Again the Maraschino shined through adding its funky cherry flavor. The vermouth is toned down with this one and the flavor of the gin and bitters are able to come through.
Finally I tried a tweaked version of the recipe listed in the Difford’s Guide. The ratio here is 1:1 (1 1/2 oz each of gin and vermouth). This mix provides the most balance between the gin and vermouth flavors of the three recipes I tried. The Maraschino and bitters are still present but not overwhelming. The Difford’s recipe calls for Cointreau, but I think the Maraschino adds a more interesting dimension of flavor. This version is certainly my pick.
1 1/2 oz Gin 1 1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth 1/4 oz Maraschino 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
1) Combine ingredients in a shaker over ice. 2) Shake until well chilled. 3) Strain into a cocktail glass. 4) Garnish with an orange twist.
Although this cocktail isn’t terrible, I noted in one of my tastings that I really don’t think its a cocktail that I’ll find myself craving. It just isn’t that great and there are cocktails that are great that combine similar elements. If I’m wanting a sweet vermouth cocktail then my choice is going to be a Manhattan and if I’m looking for a gin and vermouth drink then the Martini is the winner. The Martinez may have been there first, but the Martini reigns supreme. Although, if you are going to mix one of these up, I would certainly recommend trying some of the Hess House bitters that I discussed earlier in the week. I found that their flavors worked really well in this application.
Finally in an extremely timely Wall Street Journal article Eric Felten discusses the evolution of the Martini, Martinez and Manhattan. As Eric points out the original Martinez recipe calls for Old Tom gin, which until quite recently was no longer available. Hayman Distillers in the UK have recently revived an old family recipe for the sweetened gin. When I get my hands on a bottle I’ll be sure to try the Martinez again.