THE DRY MARTINI GAME
Vitezslav has been bartending for over 12 years and is currently head bartender at L’Fleur bar in Prague. He has a long and varied career that takes in some of Prague’s most well-known spots such as Bugsy’s Bar, Club Phenomen and Cloud 9.
He participated in the Global Finals in 2015 and was one of the Cape Town Shakedown Top 6 Finalists. He continues to work with the program conducting guest seminars around Europe. In this article he muses on one of the classic cocktails that defines bartending, as an old hand once said… ‘How to make a Dry Martini? The Way the Customer likes it”.
I can still remember my first experiences with this extraordinary cocktail. It was 12 years ago. I was a real novice bartender and to be honest I didn’t have any experience with classic cocktails and that was one of the reasons I made my decision to go and get trained at a bar school.
So it’s the first day of our class and as a welcome drink we get a ‘Dry Martini’. It was incredibly strong, very dry, herbal and so cold! I still remember my first thoughts and what was happening in my head: "Oh my God, how can anyone drink something like this?" It definitely wasn't my favourite cocktail straight away!
As a student of mixology the Dry Martini’s evolution is quite mysterious and no one really knows the cocktails exact origins, but personally I accept the theory that it evolved from the Martinez somewhere between 1882 and 1910 and there are certainly numerous variations of the drink between those years.
One of my favourites is a Martinez version from the ‘Bartenders Manual’ by Harry Johnson. Simply described as a ‘Martini’ using Old Tom Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Orange Curaçao and Gomme syrup, Bookers Bitters and a lemon twist, it’s a recipe worth mastering.
Over time we have seen the Martini evolution as the drink turns progressively drier: starting with 2:1 Gin: Dry Vermouth and Orange Bitters and onto to 3:1 then even bitters disappear until we get to barebones 6:1 ratios and today the overwhelmingly Gin dominant 30-50:1 proportions.
From those very early days I started developing with my new-learnt style of bartending and as my experience grew I started playing more with the Dry Martini and I really enjoyed the game between bartender and customer. "Gin or Vodka?” “Dry or not?” “What kind of Gin?” “What kind of vermouth?” “Shaken or stirred?” “Twist or olive?" The variations are endless.
Finally after all this time the ‘Dry Martini’ category is genuinely one of my favourites, because I can experiment with style, with structure, with flavours and other elements of this drink and you can always surprise your customers with a new version.
The Jerez Martini
My version of this iconic cocktail is named the "Jerez Martini". The inspiration comes from my holidays in Spain, in particular because of the beautiful experiences in Jerez researching how sherry is made complete with lots of tastings. I combine elegant, classic Tanqueray London Dry Gin but instead of any vermouth I have chosen to blend two kinds of Sherry - Amontillado and Fino. They both bring their own distinct characters and depth of flavour: Amontillado is a medium dry sherry with amazing nutty and honey notes and the Fino is salty, floral and very dry. Together they marry perfectly with Tanqueray with a dash of Absinthe for a fragrant, herbal top note.
Typically we make around 5 litres for barrels but here is the recipe for one.
50 ml Tanqueray London Dry Gin
15 ml Gutiérrez Colosía Sherry blend (Amontillado + Fino 2:1) 1 dash St Antoine Absinthe
The way we make it, the Jerez mix is rested for two weeks in a miniature new oak barrel (but it’s also great as a single serve made à la minute). We stir it down over ice blocks and serve it in a coupette glass taken straight from the freezer and garnish it with a honey walnut. …What a beautiful drink!