Gin Drink Lab – Discovering the Martini

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We don’t typically drink gin, so part one of this drink lab is to taste several different gins side-by-side. We are sampling Tanqueray, Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Amsterdam, and Fleischmann’s.

Tanqueray is the highest selling gin import in North America. Its key botanicals include juniper, coriander, angelica root and liquorish with juniper being the most aggressive flavor. In comparison, the botanical balance of Beefeater leans toward citrus, with piney juniper for support. Both produce a bit of an after-burn. Bombay Sapphire is well-balanced and smoother than the Tanqueray and Beefeater. New Amsterdam is fairly smooth with the highest citrus content in the botanicals and not much complexity. Fleischmann’s is very light in botanicals with the least amount of flavor of our lab samples. We keep this gin on hand because its lack of strong personality allows it to combine well with the other four spirits used in a Long Island Iced Tea.

Next, we move on to mixing. We refer to an internet article called “Just 1 Bottle: 15 Cocktails to Make With Gin and a Trip to the Grocery Store” by Maggie Hoffman. Many of the recipes use citrus juice, so we combine a few drops of the various gins with lemon, lime, a sweetened lemon-lime mixer, grapefruit and orange. For our taste, we don’t feel that any of the citrus flavors are marrying well with gin’s botanicals.

We experiment with the briny vinegar of olives by tossing one into our tiny sample and we begin to feel as if we are on the right track. We add a few drops of dry vermouth and discover that we have come full circle to a traditional gin martini. Now we understand why this classic cocktail is one of the best known mixed drinks. It really works!

We consult some bartending resources for the perfect gin martini recipe and the fun begins. Who knew that making a “perfect” martini could be so controversial? According to Wikipedia,

“The dryness of a martini, referring to the ratio of gin to vermouth, has been steadily increasing since the cocktail was created. A ratio of 1:1 was common at the turn of the 20th century, and 3:1 or 4:1 martinis were typical during the 1930s and 1940s. During the latter part of the 20th century, 6:1, 8:1, 12:1, or even 50:1 or 100:1 Martinis became considered the norm. Some martinis were prepared by filling a cocktail glass with gin, then rubbing a finger of vermouth along the rim. There are those who advocated the elimination of vermouth altogether. According to Noël Coward, “A perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy”, Italy being a major producer of vermouth.”

We mix a not-so-dry martini with a ratio of 4:1. Although James Bond wanted his martini shaken, not stirred, we go for a non-frothy stirring over ice. Lastly, we pour the cocktail off of the ice, add plenty of olives, and start sipping!

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