Salute the Martinez
In the first of his new series, our Belgravia bar manager, Costantino Armocida, shares his go-to classic for the connoisseur
By Costantino Armocida
February 15 2023
There was once a time when a father would tell his son, “Always meet your date at the smartest bar you know and order the best cocktail you can afford, even if it means dropping down a notch or two for dinner.”
The cocktail sets the tone; it creates the mood. As the first drink of the night, it is filled with potential and hints at what might lie ahead, while the theatre of its creation brings a sense of occasion and a change of pace.
Cocktails can reinforce the spirit: think of the dipsomaniac émigrés at Rick’s Café in Casablanca. They can bond: remember Noel Coward and Celia Johnson drinking their Kinross Specials in the wartime drama, In Which We Serve. And they can transport the soul: four Brandy Alexanders carry away Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited. How many you have – one is too few and three too many – is a matter of choice, but first impressions are everything.
The Americans are the undisputed kings of the cocktail, but London has an intense relationship with hooch. While no barman across New York’s five boroughs would flinch at a request for a Martini (try doing that in a random London pub), I bet that only in London would a woman, as happened in the 1980s, inspire the global phenomenon that is the Espresso Martini by asking the barman for something to “Wake me up, and then f*** me up.”
But back to the Big Apple. Before the Martini, there was the Martinez – the “canvas” upon which many of the world’s great cocktails have been painted. Reputedly invented in the late-19th century by Jeremiah Thomas, the New York bar owner and father of American mixology, the first official record of the splendid Martinez is the 1887 edition of Thomas’ The Bar- Tender’s Guide (first published in 1862).
Since then, the Martinez has “worn” various recipes, but the accepted benchmark is equal parts London dry gin and sweet red vermouth; one dessert spoon of maraschino liqueur; and two dashes of orange bitters.
The exact make-up of the Boisdale Martinez is a well-kept secret, known only to our resident cocktail specialists.
But what we can tell you is that we use the award-winning No.3 London Dry Gin, the creation of Berry Bros. & Rudd, London’s oldest wine and spirit merchant, established in 1698.
No.3 is made with carefully selected botanicals: Uruguayan grapefruit peel; Spanish orange peel; Bulgarian coriander; Guatemalan cardamom; angelica root from Poland; and juniper from Italy. At once earthy, spicy, and fresh, No.3 has the perfect balance of flavours upon which to base any of the classic gin cocktails, especially the Martinez.
“The mighty Martinez deserves its exalted place in the cocktail handbook,” says our patron, Ranald Macdonald, “and at Boisdale we want to afford it the respect it deserves.”
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