Cocktail of the Month: The Martinez

It’s February and the world is bleak. Storms with implausible names rage outside, and I suggest you make yourself a Martinez.

A glass of Martinez

There’s an Old English poem called The Wanderer, which is basically about being cold, having no home and everyone being dead. Mood.

‘Walls stand battered by the wind,
Covered by frost, the roofs collapsed.
The wine halls crumbled; the warriors lie dead,
Cut off from joy’

As you can see, the Wanderer doesn’t sugar-coat things. Probably due to the lack of wine halls. What he needed, it seems to me, was someone to leap out from behind a nearby ruin and hand him a Martinez. A cocktail that’s absolutely cold, but also rather warm, and entirely season-appropriate.

The Wanderer may not have been able to avail himself, but you are.

Stirring a cocktail shaker filled with ice to make a Martinez

So this is a cocktail with some background: it’s been around for bloody ages, and is in some quarters regarded as the precursor to the Martini (a John the Baptist sort of role, I guess, but with less decapitation). And you can see how the modern Martini is a refinement, a paring down of the drink that homes in on the alchemy of gin and bitter — though in fact, drinking a Martinez, I think you’ll agree it’s actually in spirit much closer to the Manhattan, but anchored on gin rather than whiskey.

Like a Manhattan, it’s a welcoming, generous, enveloping sort of a drink — not like the Martini, which is often very welcome, but seldom exactly welcoming, and possesses no small measure of aggression. It’s fruitier, sweeter (though the degree to which it’s sweeter is up to you), rounder, rosier than a Martini.

And while a Manhattan is ideally garnished with a Maraschino cherry (for pity’s sake, NOT a glacé cherry), the Martinez incorporates wonderful Maraschino Liqueur.

Maraschino Liqueur is definitely the pain-in-the-arse ingredient of this cocktail, as you’ll be lucky to find it in the supermarket. If you’re lucky enough to have a well-stocked local booze shop, they may have it; otherwise you’ll need to venture online. It’s relatively pricey, but will keep for ages and you need very little of it for each drink. It is a magical cocktail component and one that, I suspect, will soon come to occupy a never-out-of-stock status in your booze cupboard.

Plus, it also allows you to make the fabulous Aviation cocktail, of which I may well write more in future.

Ingredients of a Martinez cocktail (dry version)

So, it’s a classic-style cocktail of the kind I like (which basically means it has a hefty boozepunch and doesn’t dick about with loads of fruit). Moderately accessible, but do make sure the person you give it to (a) can handle a cocktail that tastes of actual booze and (b) likes the marzipan-esque flavour of maraschino. You can change up the cocktail significantly by varying your main spirit: opt either for an Old Tom gin, which is markedly sweeter, or a London Dry. Both are excellent, the latter working particularly well pre-dinner, the former afterwards (not that you need be remotely constrained by that rule, I might add; I just prefer dry drinks before eating).

Here’s my go-to recipe. It’s a somewhat fiddly drink to make in small quantities when faffing around with 1/4 parts. This is an excellent excuse to make it in big quantities. Enough to slake the thirst (and restore the joie de vivre) of a wine hall’s worth of Wanderers.

Martinez Recipe

  • 2 parts Old Tom gin (I’m using Silverback Old Tom, £35)
  • 3/4 part Red Vermouth (Martini Rosso is fine)
  • 1/4 part Dry Vermouth (mine’s Dolin)
  • 1/4 part Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (£29.95, Master of Malt)
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters

Stir all the above on plenty of large ice cubes for 15-20 seconds, then strain into glasses straight from your freezer: martini or nick & nora glasses work well. Garnish with either an orange twist (make sure to squeeze it over the surface of the drink to express the oils) or a Maraschino Cherry if you want to amp up that side of things.

The above recipe is pretty much in line with the ever-reliable Difford’s, where there’s also a suggestion for the drier Martinez.

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