By Nathalie Bonney.
In homage to London Cocktail week, here are six martini facts I’ve picked up thanks to the many Fluid bars and events I’ve been able to visit and review. Admittedly, some are more worthy of their awarded ‘fact’ status than others, but then it’s probably fair to say that whenever bandying the term ‘fact’ in relation to the consumption of alcohol, it’s best to view ‘fact’ in the loosest sense.
Fact one: The gin martini is the original martini
Although vodka in a martini is commonly seen as the go-to spirit, a martini in its purest form is gin and vermouth. The ratios depends very much on if the drinker likes their martini dry or wet as the less vermouth added, the drier the martini. Noel Coward’s idea of a perfect martini was to fill a glass with gin and then wave it “in the direction of Italy”; in other words, as little vermouth as possible.
Personally, I think for all the cleverness of Mr Coward’s words, surely he can’t have tried gin neat, otherwise he’d have changed his flowery phrase to something like: ‘fill a glass with gin, wave it in direction of Italy, knock back a mouthful of gin, choke on it, then reach for a litre of vermouth.’ Not so catchy.
Fact two: An onion makes a dirty martini
A dirty martini is most commonly thought of as one with olive juice or brine stirred in and an olive garnish. An even dirtier martini is made with silver skinned onions. If Riri gyrating in a field in Northern Ireland is an olive martini then Katie Price getting out of a cab sans undergarments is an onion martini. Dis-gust-ing. (Here is an example of where my ‘fact’ has veered into onion-opinion territory).
Fact three: There’s no such thing as a ‘perfect martini’
That’s because the makeup of a martini depends so much on individual taste.
“If a bartender tells you they make the best martinis in town, they’re lying,” says Jon, bartender at Glo Glo’s – or GGs as it’s known for short - in Shoreditch. Jon tells me the secret to making a good martini is to ask the customer what they are looking for in their drink.
“It’s only two ingredients but it’s so easy to get it wrong because it’s personal taste. The bartender should always ask customers what they want in a martini.”
Fact four: No more than one martini should be drunk at a time
Going on the martinis all night is as lethal as intravenously injecting absinthe. GGs’ Jon says martinis are only to be sipped.
“We get lots of city boys and big men coming in to the bar and thinking they can handle loads of martinis, but they’ve already drunk loads and don’t realise how strong just one of these [martini] is.”
My martini at GGs was certainly potent. Luckily, it was early enough in the evening and my drink smelled and tasted strong enough for me to sip carefully. The rind of lemon was fresh on my nose while the gin-vermouth balance was dry enough to suit my palate, but without making me sneeze with the dryness. While Jon went through the ins and outs of martini-making, my glass had been chilled, filled with ice. It’s these small touches that make me realise that ordering a 2-4-1 martini in a heaving bar with glasses straight out the hot dishwasher is a waste of time.
Fact five: Shaking martinis is generally a no-no
Shaken not stirred might work for James Bond, but then he is a fictional character with a suavity so intense he makes George Clooney look like a chav. To create the purest martini, ingredients only need to be stirred together but some punters like their drink shaken (a) because they want to be Bond, and (b) because they want to stare at the bartender’s biceps. (Again, I’m straying away from fact in the strictest sense here.)
Fact six: cute bartenders make martinis
This is literal truth because at GGs, aside from Jon (inked arms, white v neck tee, black waistcoat and smart trews) there was also all-American Chris (bigger build, all in black, blonde/brown hair pulled back in mini ponytail a la a European footballer) who made our drinks. But them being easy on the eye also helps make the experience of a night of cocktails. It’s one thing to order a lager shandy and packet of Twiglets from Bob the barman with psoriasis, but Bob brandishing a cocktail glass doesn’t work so well.
In the same way ambience helps too: at GGs, drinkers can sit around the central large squared bar, each corner surrounding it has booth-style leather banquette seating so drinkers have the intimacy of the booth but also close proximity to the bar – and getting served – and therefore the barmen too.