Martini Music: something old, something new, something funk, something blue

April 25, 2009

It’s time for another dose of Martini Music. This month an eclectic collection – what else would you expect from EM?

I bet you wouldn’t expect a CD of 80s Hollywood soundtracks, though Van Morrison you might and what about Billericay Dickie?.

When drinking martinis you need to have sophistication in your surroundings and sophisticated music. That is why Chez WhiteHirst is so special. Our Casa Refugio with its own rhythm and blues and occasional punk sensibility. In fact there’s an 80s symmetry to some of this play list.

Tonight I’m sitting in the dining room with a Perfect 10 and some Clevedon oysters, at the moment we’re about 8 tracks into this afternoon’s first CD,  Hollywood, Mon Amour, released in October 2008.

One of the stand-out tracks for me is Skye (ex Morcheeba) singing Blondie’s “Call Me” which was apparently used in American Gigolo.

You can download the track list from MySpace, keep an eye out for “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III by Katrine Ottosen and “This is not America” from The Falcon and the Snowman, sung here by Juliette Lewis.

The combinations on this CD should not work – crap 80s films, some classic tunes and some weird remix moves by  Nouvelle Vague – but it’s a great way to relax into a Saturday night.

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Sniffed me out like I was Tanqueray

April 25, 2009

10-ginOn a recent trip through DutyFreeland at Auckland airport I bought myself a long-promised litre bottle of Tanqueray 10 gin. Of course, it’s marketed as a premium gin and it’s not cheap, but I think it was worth it.

It’s a very herbaceous gin, with strong hints of citrus. The main botanicals are juniper, angelica and coriander. It’s a London gin, but made in Scotland. The Tanqueray family apparently took part in the crusades under Richard the Lion Heart. Oh well, not everyone’s perfect.

Mixed at 2-1 with Martini vermouth (a little sweeter than some) it made a very good Friday night domestic.

Some serious martini drinkers will probably think I’m a philistine for mixing at 2-1 and I don’t always, but this was my decision at the time.  I will try different versions now that I had the intitial “settler”.

The other question is whether Tanqueray 10 is better than Bombay Sapphire. After only one Tanqueray experience I probably should not rush to judgment, but on a first taste, the citrus hints of the 10 are hard to fault. At the same time the mystique of 10 is probably only marketing hype. The “secret” recipe known only to four people. Bullshit, let’s not forget that distilling gin – even “four times” as 10 claims – is still an industrial process.

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Local gin wins award for bottle…but how does it taste?

March 7, 2009

110_bronze_christies_gin_5So, continuing my quest for the best of local gins, I found one today that I hadn’t seen before. This one is the true-blue Aotearoa gin; it even has local ‘erbs in it.

Christie’s Crisp New Zealand gin claims to have Horopito and Kawakawa added to the botanicals that give it “flavour”. It also claims to be  “quadruple distilled”. Yeah, OK, I’ll buy that.

And I did, at $44.99, but the RRP online is $41.99 at PriceMe, though they’re charging a $5 delivery slug too.

[Bugger it’s warm in Auckland…I’m writing this as I sip my Dirty Gibson (olives and onions) and slowly savour a six-pack of Clevedon oysters]

Of course, this Martini is purely medicinal. I’ve been recovering from a nasty cold/flu bug this week and the humidity isn’t helping.

Hang on, I need a refill.

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A local gin that’s actually good

January 14, 2009
Blenheim Bay - good to the last drop

Blenheim Bay - good to the last drop

I’ve been sampling some local (Aotearoa) gins recently. To my surprise I wasn’t all that impressed by South, though it comes in a really nice bottle. Luckily my sample was courtesy of a little corporate gladhanding, so I didn’t have to pay for my disappointment.

However, last night I enjoyed a 100ml sampler bottle (paid for) of Blenheim Bay, which is made by a company called Prenzel. I’m not sure what it means, but this gin won some awards at a drinks festival/competition in Belgium. Perhaps the judges had been sampling some local brew before hand.

The BB has eleven botanicals, which compares well to my other favourite Bombay Sapphire, and a hint of citrus which is very refreshing and manages to stand up to the infusion of vermouth.

Anyway, it makes up a good Martini, or if you prefer a Gibson.

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The new, slim Domestic – Voltz would be pleased

July 20, 2008

As this is a blog that makes claims to be about martinis as well as journalism, ethics, politics and whatever catches my eye now and again, it is time to embrace an aspect of martini culture that is often overlooked.

I’m talking about the martini glass; sometimes they’re too heavy, or otherwise clumsy. I may have found a good alternative.

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good bars gone bad

July 19, 2008

Our friend Billy is visiting, so last night we decided to drop into our local bar (it’s walking distance) for pizza.

On previous visits we’ve been charmed by it’s quirky hole-in-the-wall feel; the friendly staff; the hot, crisp and tasty pizzas and the reasonable wine list.

The drinks menu even featured an apple martini. I didn’t ever try this, but I knew it probably meant Marty (barkeep) could mix a drink. I took him up on this and had an acceptable gin martini one evening.

But last night was a different story. As sometimes happens when a venue changes hands it goes into some sort of death spiral.

I spotted a bottle of Bombay on the counter and after a couple of domestics earlier at home, I was in the groove and thought “Hell, why not, I’ll have a martini while we wait for the pizzas.” I knew things were not going well when the barkeep went into the tiny kitchen and came back with a jar of kalamatas.

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Taste Test: The Journalist

March 7, 2008

perhaps we can all go get one after graduation next friday as we will be qualified journos!
– bex

Hey, bex, xclnt idea to go for a drink. In our graduation drag?

But, I would recommend caution when it comes to The Journalist, or at least finding a bar with a v.good cocktail mixologist. This is not a drink to let loose around amateurs.

I had a couple earlier this week at a local bar (no names coz I don’t want to upset anyone at the Brooklyn) and to be honest, I was a tad disappointed.

When I say “tad” I been bloody disappointed. The colour was good; the ingredients were pretty much top shelf- Bombay, Cointreau and Martini vermouth(s)

[Is the plural of vermouth “vermine”?]

But the mixing was ordinary. The drink was warmish, while a great Martini is chilled beyond cool and I expected a great kick, but all I got was a sweetish, warm lolly-water drink. it lacked bite and even the addition of a triple-olive stick with a twist didn’t seem to lift it beyond the “gin ordinaire”.

I’m sure that Frank Moorhouse and his friend Voltz would strongly disapprove of The Journalist; it would rank alongside the other “fad” concoctions and “crazy drinks” that they both detest.

However, I am not easily deterred and I intend to persist until I can make this drink my own.

On a slighlty different note, I enjoyed Moorhouse’ “memoir” Martini, and at the time I thought it was a reasonably true account of some aspects of his life. So I was very disappointed to come across this old bit of news while I was googling him today.

It seems that the “memoir” may actually be a work of fiction, in the news story linked above Moorhouse refers to himself (or is it a character in the “memoir”) as “the demented narrator-author”.

That’s almost as disappointing as a lukewarm Journalist.


A "new" Martini: The Gin and the Journalist

March 4, 2008

One of the things I love about teaching is learning from my students. Hat tip to Quinn for telling me about The Journalist.

I suppose a purist would scoff, but it is a distant relative of the Martini – at least it’s based on Gin and Vermouth.

It’s a take on the whole dry/sweet thing and I must say I am constantly surprised at the number of bar staff who think it’s OK to make a Martini with sweet vermouth – “Bianco”.

Personally I find the combination distasteful, but rarely send it back. I much prefer the traditional dry Martini.

However, The Journalist is on my menu for the next Brooklyn visit.

Quinn brought me a photocopied page from his cocktail recipe book, here’s the author’s review of this unconventional Martini.

I’ve never been a supporter of unnecessarily complicated cocktails but this one seems to succeed against all the odds.

The Journalist defies convention [you’re right about that mate] but is great as a palate-cleansing aperitif.

The sweet/dry theme is repeated twice, with the sweet and dry vermouth, then the triple sec and lemon juice.

Definitely a good pre-dinner drink to order at a bar, but if you’re making it at home watch the measurements carefully, it’s a drink that needs to be very finely balanced.

On the web you can find plenty of recipes for The Journalist, some use Curacao instead of Triple Sec. I’m sure you could substitute Vodka for Gin too. You know the rules “Choose your poison.”

But what’s with this glass, it just ain’t right:
Journalist

I much prefer the conventional frosted Martini glass, so much more refined.

If you’re willing to try The Journalist, send me a note, rate it.

Here’s the recipe with Curacao (from Cocktail Database), use Triple Sec and/or Vodka if you like.

The Journalist
Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain
1 1/2 oz gin (4.5 cl, 3/8 gills)
1/4 oz sweet vermouth (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)
1/4 oz dry vermouth (6 dashes, 1/16 gills)

Vermouth, the whole truth and nothing but Vermouth

January 6, 2008

I’m enjoying a bit of holiday reading, Frank Moorhouse’s memoir – Martini.
I’m realising how little I actually know about this most impressive of alcoholic bevvies.

For instance: What are the correct proportions of gin to vermouth? And let’s not even get started on the pros and cons of bastardised versions, what Moorhouse calls the “Crazy Drinks”; chocolate martinis and the like***

Getting back to the vermouth question: How much is too much?
There are those who believe a martini is basically gin with a threat of vermouth. In my opinion they might as well drink their gin neat. I’ve always been one for a generous splash of vermouth and I agree with Moorhouse that it’s purpose is to smooth out, or ‘sweeten’ the drink.

I also agree that a martini made with sweet vermouth is a travesty, though some people like them that way.

Moorhouse says his preferred mix, and the domestic version of the martini he makes himself, is 5-1 (gin-vermouth). This seems about right to me, though I sometimes make them at three-one. And I have, on occasion, told barkeeps to make sure they don’t pour the vermouth off before adding the gin to the shaker.

Partly this is the Yorkshireman in me; I’ve paid for a martini and it has vermouth in it; don’t pour my vermouth down the sink! But also it’s about the mix, the taste, the impact etc. A martini is a blend and I want to taste the blend. If I want neat gin, I’ll ask for it.

Here’s a recipe for those who like their martini mostly gin, with very little vermouth. I’ll try this in the next couple of days and let you know what I think.

The Montgomery Martini
According to Moorhouse this is named after the British general, Montgomery, at least as mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s novel Across the river and into the trees. It is so-called because Monty was famous for never attacking without overwhelming numbers.

15:1 (gin-vermouth).

Hmmmm.

As Moorhouse writes: “My secret agenda in this book is to bring back the vermouth to the martini.”
I’ll drink to that!

*** I am actually partial to the fruity, choclately martini. I have previously mentioned the Musket Room in Ponsonby Road (Auckland); they have excellent Crazy Drink martini derivatives.


Summer reading, some are drinking

January 4, 2008


Ah, dear reader:
It’s been a long time between posts. I must say that there’s a small amount of guilt attached. If one is going to blog then one must do so regularly. To do otherwise is to leave the blogosphere to others and to render oneself invisible again.

I am to begin this new year as I intend to continue – by posting on a regular basis. I’m also keen to enlist the talents of others who share my interest in politics, media and martinis.

It’s also humbling to realise that the martini is more than the sum of its parts. A quick search on Amazon.com uncovers a whole genre of writing about martinis that I, a self-proclaimed afficionado, knew next to nothing about.

I stand in the shadow of some giant literary figures who have not only enjoyed drinking martinis (something I can honestly claim to share with them) but who have also written extensively of their passion.

One such is my new literary hero, Frank Moorhouse. I remember reading some of Frank’s novels while at university some 30 years ago; but I didn’t realise how important his work would be in beginning my own education into the rituals and rich history of the martini.

I bought my copy of Martini: A memoir, several years ago and intended to read it, but didn’t get around to it. However, prompted by a friend who’s just read it, I fished it out the box where it lay dormant for the past year and plunged in.

Like an ice-cold, fresh smooth martini it was pleasure from the first word. I drank in the opening essay and silently apologised to Mr Moorhouse for neglecting this masterpiece for so long.

I’m not really far into it yet, but Martini is a book to be savoured, sipped and coddled.

In the first piece, Martini City, we are introduced to Moorhouse’s drinking companion, Voltz; an expert on the history and passion of the martini. The two men discuss the ‘martini city’ – a place where the martini is well-made and appreciated. I like to think that some of my haunts in Auckland are such places: the bars and nightspots that make my new home (I’ve been here a year now) a delightful place to drink a martini and enjoy the lively ambience of this Pacific-rim town.
Moorhouse also includes this wonderful short ditty from Dorothy Parker:

‘I like to have a martini
Two at the very most
After three I’m under the table
After four I’m under my host.’

I clearly have a lot of learning to do and I’ll start by finishing Martini and then reading some of Moorhouse’s other books in which the martini is both a character, a lubricant and an anaesthetic.

Happy New Year, and “cheers”