Last week we tried a vodka that knocked our socks off, X Muse from Scotland, and what better way to celebrate its magnificence than in that simplest of cocktails, the Vodka Martini.

I’ll put my hand up and admit that in the past I have been a bit sniffy about Vodka Martinis. Why would you swap something that’s full of flavour, gin, for something that isn’t, vodka? Is it even a Martini if it doesn’t contain gin?

But gradually, I’ve been moving towards vodka in my Martini. A few months ago, I began making a Vesper in place of my usual Dry Martini. Baby steps, perhaps, but I was learning the importance of high-quality vodka in a cocktail.

Shaken, not stirred

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was watching Skyfall and it got to the bit where Bond has a Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred, in the casino in Macau. It looked so delicious, that I had to immediately pause the television and make one myself. I used some Ramsbury wheat vodka and Regal Rogue Daring Dry vermouth, and yes I did what all cocktail books advise against and gave it a damn good shake. Once I’d got over the cloudiness from the fine ice particles, it’s actually a delicious drink: very very cold from the shaking, a little more dilute than the stirred version. Perhaps Bond was on to something.

But it wasn’t as good as a Vodka Martini I had last week at the Copper Rivet Distillery in Chatham Dockyard. I was meeting Stuart and Dan from Cask Marketing. Before eating we sat down with the distiller Abhishek Banik for a vodka tasting. For me, the two standouts were Vela from Copper Rivet, it’s spicy and creamy with a distinct banana edge, and one I’d never had before called X Muse from Scotland. It’s pronounced ‘tenth muse’, the name comes from the Greek poet Sappho who was dubbed the tenth muse. The packaging and the hefty price makes it look like another style over substance designer brand but it’s actually a vodka for lovers of single malt whisky.

X Muse

This might be the best Vodka Martini we’ve ever had

New make vodka

The brand is currently working on its own distillery but at the moment X Muse is made at the Holyrood Distillery in Edinburgh. It’s made from two types of malted barley, Maris Otter and Plumage Archer – both of which were commonly used in whisky production but have largely been superseded by more high yielding varieties. The Holyrood team double distil it before sending it to a secret location just over the border in England for rectification to 96% ABV. It’s then diluted and bottled at 40% ABV.  

As you’d hope for a vodka made from single malt new make, it’s packed full of flavour. It’s full of spice, roasted coffee, chocolate, and creamy oaty notes. Imagine the essence of malted barley, and you’re there. 

The taste is spectacularly neat but it’s even better stirred down with a little vermouth in a very dry Vodka Martini. This heightened the sweet barley and chocolate side of the spirit making a truly complex cocktail. 

While I tend to love quite wet classic Martinis, this is best served very dry to fully appreciate that creamy texture and I’d recommend a subtle dry vermouth like Dolin. You don’t want to complicate things. Be prepared for the best Vodka Martini you’ve ever had. 

How to make a Vodka Martini

50ml X Muse vodka
5ml Dolin Dry vermouth

First, chill your Nick & Nora or Martini glass in the freezer. Then fill a shaker or jug with lots of very cold ice. Add the vodka and vermouth and stir for a minute. Strain into your chilled glass and garnish with a lemon twist.