I’m in Chicago this weekend interviewing and hanging out with Grant Achatz. Grant, executive chef of Chicago’s Alinea, Next, and the innovative cocktail hub Aviary, is of course one of the most talented cooks and chefs in the country, but what makes this relationship special for me is that I first met Grant at the French Laundry, where he was, when I arrived to discuss writing The French Laundry Cookbook with Thomas Keller, a 23-year-old working garde manger station. I think I’ll be reflecting on all that’s happened in this nearly two-decade span.
Until then, a repost of one of my favorite cocktails, of my own creation and named after my street. Happy Friday, all.
Last week’s post on the perfect martini evoked a heated, then spirited, back and forth on Twitter, sparked by bartender Gerry Jobe. It ultimately resulted in his suggesting I give a martinez a go. I had a look at a tweeted link and then at my new favorite drink book, Bitters, by Brad Thomas Parsons; he dates the cocktail to 1887: 2 parts sweet vermouth, 1 part gin, maraschino liqueur, Boker’s bitters and a twist.
Sounded intriguing, sort of like a martini and a negroni doing a tango. But I prefer a more muscular cocktail—more gin, less sweetness—and offer here a variation on what was a week ago an unknown cocktail. I’m calling it the Berkshire Martinez, because that’s where it was first made, Berkshire Road, Cleveland Heights, last night, and photographed by Donna. It inverts the gin-vermouth proportions, and ups the bitters. I love bitters and like to use them not with a heavy hand but aggressively.
Both last week’s and this week’s cocktails use vermouth, which I called for at room temp in the martini last week, something a commenter called me out on and is very worth noting. Vermouth is a fortified wine and goes bad, something my Madmen-era dad didn’t realize, so I grew up looking at the Martini and Rossi vermouth in the cupboard (dry for his martinis, and sweet for his brother’s Manhattans).
I’ve called in some experts for their opinions on vermouth:
Paulius Nasvytis, of Cleveland’s Velvet Tango Room:
“Personally, I’m a big fan of Vya. I also like Noilly Prat. If I need a sweet white vermouth, I would use Lillet, although technically it’s an aperitif. Vermouth should be refrigerated after opening, and if you don’t use a lot, I recommend the small-sized half-bottle.”
Brad Parsons, author of Bitters: A Sprited History of a Classic Cure-All:
“For vermouth for home use I recommend buying smaller bottles (unless you’re burning through a bottle a week). Vermouth should be treated like wine—as it is a fortified wine—and should be stored in the refrigerator once opened. It will last for a few months, but the flavor will grow milder over time. If you must keep it on a shelf at least keep it out of direct sunlight.
“For sweet vermouth, especially in Manhattans, I recommend Carpano Antica Formula. Very herbal and complex. Great depth of flavor. About $25–$30/bottle. For a Negroni, I like something a little lighter, like Cinzano sweet vermouth or Dolin Rouge.
“I also highly recommend the Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry line. They have three kinds: dry, rouge, and blanc (blanc is a sweet dry). They’re much lighter in flavor (and come in small bottles).
“I don’t drink many Martinis, but when I do I typically use Noilly Prat dry vermouth. And try your next martini with two dashes of orange bitters.
“And, especially with spring and warm weather, remember that sweet vermouth over ice is a perfect aperitif.”
“For white vermouth, Noilly Prat is my weapon of choice. I put mine in an atomizer and thoroughly spritz the glass with it, ensuring that the guest is receiving its qualities from the nose to the toes of the cocktail. For sweet vermouth, Cinzano gets my vote, although Punt e Mes for its bitter quality works extremely well with Aperol (substituted for Campari) as a Negroni variation. I also enjoy the challenge of making vermouth. Last year both myself and my friend Lauren Mote of Bittered Sling made separate versions of Dark Chocolate Cherry Vermouth and both turned out great. I encourage barkeeps everywhere to attempt to make their own.”
Thanks, Jerry—want to do a guest post on that?
Below, the bitters I’ve been using, and the recipe for the Berkshire Martinez (names are important). I use a scale because it’s easier, but you can use a 2-ounce measure and 2 teaspoons of maraschino and 1 of bitters if you prefer volumes (and please don’t tell me scales are pretentious).
Happy weekend to all!
The Berkshire Martinez
- 60 grams gin (2 ounces)
- 30 grams sweet vermouth (1 ounce)
- 10 grams maraschino liqueur (about 2 teaspoons)
- 5 grams bitters (1/2 teaspoon)
- squeeze of lemon or twist (I prefer a squeeze of lemon but a twist looks better.)
- Combine all the ingredients except the lemon in a mixing glass.
- Add copious ice and stir well for a minute or two.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with lemon.
If you liked this post on the Martinez, check out these other links:
- My past cocktails with gin: Pamplemousse Vieux Mot, Bitter Elder, the Sawyer.
- Big news in the food world, the James Beard Awards are going to be in Chicago next year.
- A popular line of spirits is making its way out of Door County, Wisconsin—check out Death’s Door Spirits.
- In Chicago? Check out Scofflaw, a great gin-centered bar.
© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved