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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Martini

Cocktail of the Week: The Bronx

It’s National Martini Day, hurrah! But we’re doing something a little different: a popular Prohibition take on the King of Cocktails, it’s the Bronx! You really wouldn’t want to drink…

It’s National Martini Day, hurrah! But we’re doing something a little different: a popular Prohibition take on the King of Cocktails, it’s the Bronx!

You really wouldn’t want to drink a Martini during Prohibition unless you could get hold of some authentic imported gin which would have been very expensive. So instead you’d have to use a rough bathtub gin, which might be flavoured with turpentine or sulphuric acid (mmmm, tangy), with nothing to temper it except something labelled vermouth (very likely a mixture of grape must, sugar and more rough alcohol). No wonder cocktails with high sugar and fruit content became popular during those sad years. They would hide the taste of the alcohol.

Take the Bronx, for example. It was invented in 1906 at the Old Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York by a barman called Johnny Solon, but it came into its own when good liquor became scarce. Get hold of some orange juice, some “vermouth” and some alcohol that vaguely smelt of juniper, and you could make yourself a palatable cocktail. Especially if you served it really cold. The Bronx is basically a sweet Martini made with orange juice. No wonder the Bronx was the cocktail of the 1920s. It’s the sort of thing that could be made by the bucketful for your Gatsby-esque parties.

The Bronx

The Bronx, next to its better-known cousin, the Martini (photo credit: The Home Bar)

It’s rather gone out of fashion now. There’s a National Martini Day and a Negroni Week, but nobody designates time to enjoy the Bronx. Poor Bronx. Perhaps it’s because we now have good gin coming out of our ears. There’s no need to disguise the flavour. Then there’s the borough itself, which doesn’t have the glamour of Manhattan or the hip of Brooklyn. Plus it’s an easy cocktail to make badly with concentrated orange juice and cheap cooking vermouth. But if you use freshly squeezed orange juice, or my own favourite, blood orange juice, then it’s marvellous concoction. Then when choosing your booze, think orange. I’m using Brighton Gin which has orange peel as one of its botanicals, and two citrus-heavy vermouths, Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato and Noilly Prat Extra Dry.

To turn a Bronx into a Queens, you swap the orange juice for pineapple juice, or in some recipes combine the two, or in others add a bit of lemon to the pineapple. Or you can add a few drops of Angostura bitters in which case it is called an Income Tax (who comes up with these names?). Anyway, enough variations, let’s make a Bronx:

50ml Brighton Gin
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Ambrato
15ml Noilly Prat Orginal Dry
30ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Dash of Fee Brothers orange bitters

Shake all the ingredients hard with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist and shake a wicked calf

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Cocktail of the Week: The Martiki

Today we have something of a rarity for you. You won’t find it in just any bar. It combines two great cocktail traditions: classic American and tiki, all in one…

Today we have something of a rarity for you. You won’t find it in just any bar. It combines two great cocktail traditions: classic American and tiki, all in one glass. Say hello to the Martiki!

The inspiration for this week’s cocktail came from a recent conversation with two drinks writers, Richard Godwin and Simon Difford. Over a few drinks, we discovered a shared love of kümmel, a kind of schnapps with a distinctive nutty sweet taste. We thought it would be fun to try to raise the profile of this delicious but rather forgotten liqueur. So, from now on the 17 April will henceforth be known as International Kümmel Day.

Godwin suggested I try it in the form of a cocktail called the Martiki. So, I dug out my battered copy of Godwin’s book The Spirits (a great one-stop place for all your cocktailing needs) and found the recipe. The Martiki is, as its name suggests, a tiki take on a Martini in which you use white rum instead of gin, and in place of vermouth, kümmel.

According to The Spirits, the cocktail was invented at The Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills. Now closed, the place was a celebrity hangout in the ‘50s and ‘60s, decorated in a tropical style, and featured an actual lagoon in the dining room. Bring back lagoons, I say. Much more fun than all this modern minimalism. Most recipes for the Martiki, however, don’t use kümmel. Some call for vermouth, and other versions are rather like Pineapple Martinis. According to Godwin, his recipe came from Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry. With a name like that, you’d expect him to know his tiki drinks.  

mentzendorff-kummel-combier-distillery

The Combier Distillery where Mentzendorff kummel is made

Kümmel gets its peculiar taste from caraway seeds along with cumin, fennel and other spices. So it’s not dissimilar to Scandinavian Akvavit, though sweeter. The leading brand Mentzendorff was originally made by a Prussian family in Riga, Latvia. In the 1860s, the family came to Britain and branched out into wine importing. The firm is still going strong and is the UK agent for Bollinger Champagne. The liqueur is now distilled in France. The other brand you might see, Wolfschmidt, is Danish.

Despite its Baltic origins, kümmel used to be immensely popular among the British upper classes. There are mentions of it in Evelyn Waugh’s works. But the only places you will see kümmel drunk today are golf clubs and old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs. Indeed, the last time I visited such an establishment to give a talk about my book, the man who had invited me insisted I join him for a glass of restorative kümmel afterwards. In short, kümmel could not be less fashionable, which means that it is ripe for a revival.

And so, on to Godwin’s Martiki. If you’re a kümmel novice, you might want to halve the amount you put in. Expressing a piece of lemon peel is essential as it freshens the whole thing up; you can either drop it in, or if you’re feeling properly tropical, garnish with a piece of coconut. You could even, as recommended in The Spirits, add a little coconut water to make it totally tiki.

Martiki, Difford's Guide

Martiki (photo credit: Difford’s Guide)

Here’s the Martiki, a strange mixture of classic and tropical, with a good dash of Baltic into the bargain. Perhaps it should be called the Cosmopolitan.

50ml Diplomático Planas white rum
10ml Mentzendorff Kümmel

Stir ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Express a piece of lemon peel over the top, and garnish with a lemon twist or a slice of coconut.

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New Arrival of the Week: Martini Fiero

Martini & Rossi have big plans for Martini Fiero, a new super fruity vermouth that the company hopes will be the drink of the summer. We take a closer look……

Martini & Rossi have big plans for Martini Fiero, a new super fruity vermouth that the company hopes will be the drink of the summer. We take a closer look…

The press bumf describes Fiero as “the biggest new product launch undertaken by Martini in years”. And there can be no doubt at the sizeable market Fiero is aimed at: Aperol drinkers. Those bright orange spritzes are so ubiquitous now it’s hard to remember that until 2009/10, Aperol had little presence outside Italy. I think like many Londoners I had my first taste of it at Polpo on Beak Street, which proved so influential when it opened in 2009. By 2014, the Aperol Spritz was everywhere from country pubs in Wiltshire to seaside towns in Spain. It was a stunning example of how to market a product.

Martini Fiero

Martini Fiero, looking very pretty

It’s easy to see the appeal because, though there is a certain amount of bitterness, with its sweet orangey taste and low alcohol (11% ABV), Aperol is almost Kia-Ora for grown-ups. Not that that’s a bad thing. I think it tastes particularly fine mixed with fizzy water and grapefruit juice. Aperol’s success has led to a vogue for spritzes. To my knowledge, however, there haven’t been any mainstream products aimed squarely at Aperol (though I did try a supermarket own-label version a couple of years ago which was pretty revolting). Until now…. 

Martini Fiero has been available on the continent for a couple of years now, but this month it is being officially released in Britain. It’s actually a very different product from Aperol. Though it doesn’t say so on the front label, it’s actually a vermouth, which means that it’s made from white wine rather than the neutral alcohol that goes into Aperol. It’s also higher in alcohol at 14.9% ABV. Martini informed us that it’s made from 100% natural flavours and colours, including orange and two types of wormwood (artemisia absinthium and artemisia pontica, for vermouth geeks).

Martini Fiero

“Go on, I dare you to ask for a beer”

So how does it taste? Rather delicious, I thought. It feels a lot less sugary than Campari or Aperol; the overwhelming flavour is of sweet oranges with some bitter orange peel notes at the end and a certain medicinal tang. You can also really taste the wine base. Perhaps it’s the  bright red colour, but it reminded me a bit of Panda cherryade which used to be sold at my local cinema in the 1980s (interestingly, the same local cinema has been poshed up and now sells Aperol Spritzes). I liked it mixed half and half with soda water, with grapefruit juice and soda, and it makes a cracking Gin and It. Martini recommends drinking Fiero with tonic water which worked beautifully, the bitterness in the tonic chiming with the subtle bitter notes in the vermouth (though I did add a splash of soda to lessen the sweetness).

Just as Campari lovers can be a bit sniffy about Aperol, I think some vermouth fans are going to turn their noses up at Fiero. The flavours are clean and simple, it doesn’t have the complexity of the Martini Riserva range or the power of the standard Martini Rosso (hard to beat in a Negroni). But, of course, it is not aimed at vermouth nuts. According to Martini, “Fiero & Tonic provides a younger adult audience with a refreshing new way to enjoy vermouth as part of the aperitivo occasion”. As a sweet, fruity drink with enough bite to keep it interesting, it’s the perfect uncomplicated drink for a summer’s day. Rather like another orangey Italian drink I could name.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Martini

It’s Wednesday evening which means it’s time to get your shaker out. This week we risk the wrath of the cocktail puritans by extolling the pleasures of a Martini that’s…

It’s Wednesday evening which means it’s time to get your shaker out. This week we risk the wrath of the cocktail puritans by extolling the pleasures of a Martini that’s heavy on the vermouth.

There’s no cocktail like the Martini for bringing out the purist in certain people. You know the sort of thing they say: “Show the gin a bottle of vermouth, throw the vermouth in the bin and then drink the gin.” Noël Coward wrote, “a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.” Hemingway liked a ratio of 15 parts gin to 1 part vermouth.

I used to order such booze-heavy concoctions, probably to try to look cool. But I actually much prefer my Martinis a little wetter. Happily though, the purists are in retreat as fashion is swinging back towards something like the early Martini. The drink (probably) evolved from the Marguerite: 2 parts gin, 1 part dry vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and served straight up. The name comes from the Martini & Rossi company which released a dry French-style vermouth in 1900. People began ordering their Marguerites by the vermouth brand and the name stuck. Or that’s the theory anyway, nobody quite knows.

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The Nightcap: 11 January

It’s our first Nightcap of 2019 so it’s a special bumper edition. We’ve got a lot to get through so without further delay, ado, procrastination or beating about the bush,…

It’s our first Nightcap of 2019 so it’s a special bumper edition. We’ve got a lot to get through so without further delay, ado, procrastination or beating about the bush, here’s what we’ve been up to since the last Nightcap way back in 2018.

Cast your mind back to New Year’s Eve, we know it seems like a long time ago, Adam came up with some top tips to drink on the night. Between Christmas and New Year, we rounded up our most-read stories of 2018, and looked at Glenkinchie’s exciting plans to become a top tourist destination. Then as January began, Annie fell in love with grain whisky and learned how your other senses affect how you taste. Adam produced a list of mouthwateringly-refreshing drinks and got all seasonal with winter-y botanicals. Kristy peered into her crystal ball (yes, she really has a crystal ball) to see what we’ll be drinking in the next few years and spoke to some bigwigs at Johnnie Walker about the future of whisky. And finally, Henry put in a plea for fortified wines, introduced a new regular feature, Cocktail of the Week, and got all bitter and twisted over amari. See what we mean about bumper edition?

And that’s not all. We had our first Dram Club of 2019 and announced a competition to win a VIP trip to Ardbeg!

Such content. Now we can’t hold back the tide of news any longer. Here it comes!

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The great Negroni Bundle is here!

Need an excuse for festive Negronis? How about a whopping £20 off all three key ingredients and a fancy Riedel tumbler to sip from, with our super-duper Bathtub Gin, Martini…

Need an excuse for festive Negronis? How about a whopping £20 off all three key ingredients and a fancy Riedel tumbler to sip from, with our super-duper Bathtub Gin, Martini Rosso and Campari Negroni Bundle?!

This is the late great Anthony Bourdain on the pleasures of the Negroni: “I’m not a gin drinker. I don’t like sweet vermouth, I don’t like Campari, but together they form a sinister yet lovely and inspired hell broth. Like a marriage, it’s a true everlasting love. This is not a cheap date; this is not a one night stand.”

Bourdain is right, the Negroni is a drink that really shouldn’t work. Mixing three strongly-flavoured alcoholic drinks in equal proportions sounds like a recipe for disaster. But, somehow, something wonderful emerges from the wreckage. Or perhaps it’s not that strange after all. I’ve been reading Cocktail Codex, a new book by the team behind legendary New York bar, Death & Co. It shows how various drinks are related to each other. According to the Codex team, the Negroni fits into the Martini/ Manhattan family being spirit + vermouth + some sort of bittering agent (lemon peel, bitters, Campari.) The Negroni isn’t such a maverick after all.

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The Nightcap: 27 July

As a bevy of drinks companies post their full-year results, let’s get down to business with this week’s The Nightcap. Greetings from another Friday! You’ve made it through a week,…

As a bevy of drinks companies post their full-year results, let’s get down to business with this week’s The Nightcap.

Greetings from another Friday! You’ve made it through a week, which is always an achievement of note and worthy of commemoration. As you settle into the weekend, do so with a brain full of booze news – get ready for another edition of The Nightcap!

Firstly, let’s look at the week that was here at MoM Towers. Our Annie chatted to whisky industry legend Charles MacLean, and then got us ready for London Mezcal Week by interviewing festival co-founders Thea Cumming and Melanie Symonds. Kristy introduced yet another whisky-based excursion to add to our ever-expanding bucket list with the Hebridean Whisky Trail. Sam said goodbye to Rum Month with a run-down of ace dark rums. Henry showed us why we shouldn’t fear the sommelier, and gave us a look at the new range of Mortlach whiskies due to hit shelves later this year. And finally Sam drilled down into Diageo’s results. On that note, on with The Nightcap booze news and those all-important numbers!

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Toast the royal wedding! We reimagine the Royal Family as cocktails

Charge your glasses and ready your bunting, folks – the royal wedding is officially upon us! To mark the occasion in the only way we know how, we’ve reimagined 10…

Charge your glasses and ready your bunting, folks – the royal wedding is officially upon us! To mark the occasion in the only way we know how, we’ve reimagined 10 of the royal family as cocktail serves. Enjoy!

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention (and apologies if you’ve been hiding from it all), tomorrow Prince Harry, sixth in line to the British throne, and Meghan Markle, actor and activist, will wed at Windsor Castle in what promises to be one of the most quintessentially British shindigs of the entire year.

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Stirred, not shaken: Discover the World’s Best Martini 2018!

For a cocktail that traditionally contains just two ingredients and a garnish, the Martini is the ultimate test of bartending prowess and distillery finesse. Last week, six innovative gin brands…

For a cocktail that traditionally contains just two ingredients and a garnish, the Martini is the ultimate test of bartending prowess and distillery finesse. Last week, six innovative gin brands and their esteemed partner bars battled it out for the title of World’s Best Martini 2018 – here’s how the competition went down.

When it comes to classic cocktails, there’s no greater disappointment than a mediocre Martini, and no greater pleasure than an exceptional one. To quote American historian Bernard DeVoto, “the proper union of gin and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived.”

Unfortunately, it’s incredibly easy to stumble across the former, since the Martini is one of the world’s most modified cocktail recipes. Dirty or Perfect? Wet or Dry? Shaken or stirred? Olive or lemon, or something different entirely? Vermouth rim? How much ice to use? It’s genuinely a flavour minefield. If only there was a way to find the ultimate recipe…

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Vermouth 101: Could it be the next ‘gin’?

Packed with botanicals and historically rooted in medicine, cocktail staple vermouth has plenty in common with everyone’s favourite junipery tipple. But does the bittersweet, herbal aperitif have what it takes…

Packed with botanicals and historically rooted in medicine, cocktail staple vermouth has plenty in common with everyone’s favourite junipery tipple. But does the bittersweet, herbal aperitif have what it takes to knock gin from its perch? To find out, we set about demystifying the category.

It’s the pillar of the world’s greatest cocktails, and a must-have for any serious home bar – but what exactly is vermouth? In its most basic form, it’s a wine that has been aromatised (infused with botanicals) and fortified (livened up with distilled alcohol, usually grape brandy, to increase the abv).

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