The perfect Martini

The Colony Room Club in Soho

In The Philadelphia Story, an inebriated Jimmy Stewart describes drinking whisky as a slap on the back and champagne as heavy mist before the eyes. In the same vein, I’ve always thought of a good Martini as having your socks pulled up. From your insides.

The problem with that is a good Martini can be hard to find. A good Martini in congenial surroundings even more so. Simpsons- in-the-Strand’s Knight Bar can provide the former (and does so in bath sized measures). I’m hoping the new Martini trolley service at the Connaught will provide the latter but if that’s a let down there is always the option of making the perfect Martini at home.

And for that you need the perfect recipe.

I went to a book launch at the legendary Colony Room Club in Soho a year ago and was lucky enough to find celebrity bartender Dick Bradsell taking a stint behind the bar. We chatted about vintage cocktail books and he asserted there is only one book you really need, which is The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury.

This explained a lot. I’d been trying to get hold of a secondhand copy as it was out of print but the prices were astronomical (1970’s editions on ebay fetch over £100…). Fortunately an American publisher is now reprinting it, so my copy is on order but in the meantime the lovely wikipedia has a helpful condensing of its contents, including an excellent recipe for a Martini.

This is now my fallback method, though depending on the gin I may omit the vermouth, or simply swill some round a chilled glass before pouring away. What gin or vermouth you use is a matter of personal taste but I tend to stick to Noilly Prat and Tanquerey as I like the kick these provide. Sometimes I plump for Plymouth gin to give a more gentle drink. Anything more expensive tends to be either too soft (Tanquerey 10 for instance is overpowered by vermouth) or too flavoursome (eg the floral notes of Hendricks) for my taste.

David Embury’s Martini
  • 7 parts English gin
  • 1 part French (dry) vermouth

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass [see the photo of William Powell for the perfect size glass – small enough so your drink stays cold to the end and you can consume  two or three without endangering your liver] , twist lemon peel over the top and serve garnished with an olive, preferably one stuffed with any kind of nut.

Personally I would leave the lemon and the nut out of it but otherwise his ratios are bang on for a lethally dry sock pulling.


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