Cocktail #8: Martini (& Gibson)
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By Hairee Lee My Love of Gin Has It's Limits

But, you might ask, isn't the martini a perennial cocktail? Why on the Summer Cocktail Series? Isn't it one that's just as appealing in the middle of winter as it is in the summer?

For me it has to do with oysters and oyster festivals that all happen in late summer. And oysters are often paired with this classic beverage.

A long stemmed martini glass sweating from the ice cold shaken gin served beside a platter of glistening bivalves is pretty damn sexy.

Like the red meat and red wine "rule", there are a plethora of other drink possibilities for oysters ((For instance, my boyfriend had no trouble enjoying his Duxbury oysters last night at the Plough & Stars with his Harpoon IPA.)), although the caveat seems to be to make sure it's dry. And few are dryer for me than a dry martini. ((To make a martini dryer, just add a little or no vermouth. One of the tricks Laura told me about is to pour the vermouth over the ice just to coat it and to strain the excess vermouth before adding the gin.))

But a long stemmed martini glass sweating from the ice cold shaken gin served beside a platter of glistening bivalves is pretty damn sexy. Oysters are, after all, considered to be a classic aphrodisiac.

And the martini is one of the sexiest cocktails I know of: deceivingly harmless looking with it's clarity and colorlessness and equally deceivingly easy to drink (usually), yet delivering a huge alcoholic punch.

The martini...[is] meant to be sipped and savored, not gulped down. Much the same as an oyster. Much the same as a woman.

The martini must be treated delicately and with respect. It's meant to be sipped and savored, not gulped down. Much the same as the oyster. ((I know some people actually make sure the oyster slide down their throat with as little time spent actually in the mouth. This seems entirely pointless to me. Why eat something that you want to have as little as possible to do with your taste buds? That's what I would do with maggots and meal worms and other for-survival-sake-only food while lost in the wilderness. Certainly not while sitting in a chic restaurant with a waiter who serves you and keeps your waterglass filled.)) Much the same as a woman. ((This is probably why I think a woman sipping on a martini is one of the sexiest images ever.))

It's a simple cocktail: gin, vermouth (if you want it less dry), ice and olives. If you add cocktail onions, the classic martini becomes a Gibson, also delicious. The gin is the queen of this cocktail castle. What gin you choose to make the martini out of will define its taste.

Based on the pretty label and the local appeal ((It's made in Massachusetts)), competing against the great wall of gins at the Cambridge Wine & Spirits ((which has the best price, I might add, on Hendrick's gin, my personal favorite, better than the Duty Free at Logan.)) Melissa and I chose the Berkshire Mountain Distillers' Ethereal Gin.

How could we resist a gin named "Ethereal Gin"? It promises to make your vision hazy, presumably, from the etherealness, declaring this effect on the back label as part of the experience promised in the bottle's spirit. ((This pretty much locked in my interest for me and made Melissa a bit weary.))

Berkshire Mountain Distillers is one of the growing craft distilleries popping up in New England. You can read more about it in today's article in The Boston Globe on small batch spirit makers, which includes distillers like Turkey Shore and Cabot in Ipswich.

The only thing ethereal about Ethereal Gin is the word "Ethereal" on the label.

Verdict: the only thing ethereal about Ethereal Gin is the word "Ethereal" on the label. I described it as cleaning producty and recminiscent of shoe polish. "If you eat an pickled onion, it makes it much easier to swallow," said Melissa. Laura agreed, "Yes, cleaning solution," when I mentioned cleaning solution Jonathan was a bit more generous: "I can drink it, but I would never order it." Nate wouldn't even touch it after our reactions.

And adding to the disappointment was that, the finished drink looked so fabulous. I wanted it to be as true to my oral and olfactory senses as it was to my visual sense.

The Schott Zwiesel Diva martini glasses were gorgeous. The subtle convex line of the stem reminds me of a perfectly sculpted calf of a woman's leg, and the volume of the conical cup is just right, not too large, which can make a strong drink like a martini become a burden, and not too small, which can make you feel like you've been teased and tossed over. The large green olives looked incredibly enticing nestled at the bottom of the glass, marinading in the alcohol. The Gibson, with the cocktail onions, looked just as spectacular, all white and round like pearls.

The subtle convex line of the stem reminds me of a perfectly sculpted calf of a woman's leg.

But I hated the drink because of the gin.

So choose your gin wisely. Don't (always) be seduced by pretty labels like us. A gin I recently tried while on holiday was New Amsterdam made in New York. The bottle is designed to be reminiscent of the New York skyscrapers, which basically made it appealing to the point I couldn't resist buying it. The contents of the fabulous bottle? Not so great. ((Probably why they're on sale at Cambridge Wine & Spirits for $19.))

Try a different one when you go out for dinner or a drink. Talk to the bartenders and hear what their favorite gin is for a good martini. See if you like it in a G&T for a more soft introduction to a new gin.

However you go about it, whichever gin you choose, I think gin is a wonderful spirit, often full of personality and each different from the next. And the gin martini is, for me, the most bold and sexy way of enjoying it.


Martini & Gibson Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) dry vermouth. We used the Martini Extra Dry Vermouth.
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) gin
  • . You know what we used.

  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 to 3 green olives or 1 to 3 cocktail onions
  • 1 round toothpick

Directions

  1. Chill the cocktail shaker by topping it up with ice and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Empty melting ice and put in a cup of fresh ice.

  2. Combine vermouth and gin and shake for about 20 seconds.

  3. Strain into martini glass.

  4. Serve with 2 or more olives for a martini or 2 or more cocktail onions skewered on a toothpick for a Gibson.

    Recipe adapted from Epicurious. Photographs by Nate Brescia.