How did I end up being such a cocktail nerd you might ask? Well in part James Bond is to blame.
As someone who never has had a high tolerance for alcohol, I learned and respected my limit early on. And even in my younger years I thought cocktails was a better way to go then wine for me. They oozed sophistication and learning a few things about drinks set me ahead of the crowd pretty quickly. Still don’t know a lot about wine(luckily I have friends that do).
It should also be noted that I always took an interest in perfume. As a child I was privileged to travel a fair bit with my parents and my mum always(always) bought perfume. We would stand in front of the perfume shelves at the duty free and just try to find one she didn’t already have. Admittedly back in those days they didn’t release two million scents and flankers every year (rough estimate) so choice was a bit more limited but still.
To me cocktails and perfumes are in many ways alike in how ingredients come together. I tend to like the same things in my cocktails as I do in perfumes. I’m not alone in making that comparison: Tony Conigliaro, one of the coolest and most groundbreaking mixologists, was drawing that conclusion way before I did. I just didn’t know until I got a lot deeper into the cocktail game.
Which brings us back to Bond,James Bond. How he likes his Martinis is one of those things that almost everyone knows. But why does he want them that way?
That was the question that I asked a bartender who I knew to be very competent and very into his craft. In my head I got a long lecture about gin, vermouth and the combinations of gin and vermouth. It probably only lasted 5 minutes. In response to my question(which it turned out wasn’t all that original) Bond knows that it should be stirred because shaking it will risk getting small pieces of ice from the cubes, they will melt quickly and dilute the drink. Which you never want with drinks that are “all alcohol”( if you add citrus juice then shake as much as you want; that drink is gonna be diluted anyway). Bond probably just tries to be “anti-establishment” in ordering it that way. He knows the rules and then breaks them.
However the bartender also said it better to stir then to shake but the best way is to “throw it”. Dry Vermouth is essentially a strong wine and like all wines it benefits with a bit of an oxygen so to speak. You can find out how to throw cocktails here. And it wouldn’t it have sounded so much cooler if 007 had said that?
It felt like a door opened somewhere* . All that talk about the potential of dry vermouth and gin got me thinking. About cocktails and storytelling, about flavours being combined and that cocktails wasn’t this foreign thing; it’s somewhere between cooking and perfume; two of my favorite things. I could do this!
You don’t have to go that far at home obviously. Throwing cocktails, making weird syrups based on magic spells and starting to make your own bitters; somewhere in there is the line between hobby and obsession. I can see it in my rearview mirror and it’s too late to turn back.
I rarely drink Martinis it should be noted; I found something called “Martinez” on the way; like the beta-version of a Martini but it’s got a bit of Maraschino in it for sweetness which I think creates better balance.
I will not give you a recipe for a Martini; they are a staple in all the cocktail books. I will however encourage a bit of experimentation with a dash of a nice bitter, using olives filled with sardells or maybe rinsing the glass with smokey whiskey before straining in the drink. It’s better you spend your time on that then reading Bond books. This is the rare case when the movies are better then the book.
*I’m always happy when I can sneak in a Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell-reference.