Would a cocktail by any other name taste as sweet? Or bitter or sour or just like a whole lot of base spirit? Take the classic martini. It’s almost always made with gin; unless, of course, you are a member of a 1960’s style, three-martini lunch revival and don’t want your breath to smell when you return to the office. Then you drink vodka martinis. (Do those lunches still exist? Please, if you know of anyone practicing this particular form of midday escape, do let me know.)
Purists might call the vodka martini an abomination of good taste. But whatever. The martini is all just a little too much booze and not enough dilution for me anyway, even if you try to dress it up with lemon peel or dirty it up with olives and some of that briny juice. My pallet simply craves a touch more flavor.
Thus it is that I went searching for a gin cocktail and discovered the sweet and bitter Martinez. Here’s the recipe I grabbed off the charming Hendrick’s gin website:
Of course I don’t have any maraschino liqueur, so in true guerrilla bar fashion I tried a couple of substitutions. First I added 1/5 part of my very own grenadine, which proved to be a little too sweet. Next I used a raspberry liqueur from one of our local distilleries, St. George, in Alameda, Ca. (I highly recommend the tour and a tasting of their fine spirits if you are in the area.) This combo proved a winner, well-balanced between the sweet and the bitter. I will try the original when I get a chance since I hear that maraschino and gin play particularly well together. But for now I’m a happy camper. 🙂
Oddly enough, my cocktail guide credits the town of Martinez, California with the invention of the classic martini. So I wondered how these two drinks, similar only in their inclusion of gin, could become so seemingly mixed up? How I wish I had stopped with that thought and simply enjoyed my drink in blissful ignorance! Instead I ended up being led down a twisting historical path with not only competing theories, but also multiple recipes for the two drinks which, as it turns out, really have the same origin.
According to the noted cocktail historian, David Wondrich, “the early recipes for the Martini (or Martinez, or Martine, or Turf Club) all called for sweet vermouth and Old Tom gin…” [David Wondrich, Imbibe! (New York: Penguin, 2009), p. 244.] I’ll refrain from going into detail but in short they go like this:
- The Martini was invented by the famed bartender Jerry Thomas in San Francisco in the early 1860’s.
- The Martinez was invented by a bartender named Julio Richelieu in Martinez in the mid-1870’s in exchange for a gold nugget and a bottle of whiskey from a returning gold miner.
- The Martini was invented by Judge Martine in New York at the Manhattan Club.
- The Turf Club in New York first mixed gin and vermouth, known as the Turf Club cocktail, sometime between 1880-1883 when the club was in operation.
If you are interested, I would recommend checking out Appendix III of Wondrich’s book, which goes through each theory in detail and concludes with, “in a muddle like this, anything is possible.” [ibid., p. 300.] As interesting as the different theories are, the early recipes are even more so. Wondrich lays out three of them:
FORMULA #1 (TURF CLUB)
TWO OR THREE DASHES OF PERUVIAN BITTERS
ONE-HALF WINE GLASS [1 ½ OZ] OF TOM GIN
ONE-HALF WINE GLASS [1 ½ OZ] OF ITALIAN VERMOUTH
Fill glass three-quarter full of fine ice, stir well with spoon and strain in fancy cocktail glass, then serve.
Source: HOW TO MIX DRINKS—BAR-KEEPERS HANDBOOK, 1884
FORMULA #2: MARTINEZ COCKTAIL
(USE SMALL BAR – GLASS)
TAKE 1 DASH OF BOKER’S BITTERS
2 DASHES [1 TSP] OF MARASCHINO
1 PONY [1 OZ] OF OLD TOM GIN
1 WINE-GLASS [2 OZ] OF VERMOUTH
2 SMALL LUMPS OF ICE
Shake up thoroughly , and strain into a large cocktail glass. Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve. If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes [1/2 tsp] of gum syrup.
Source: JERRY THOMAS’S BAR-TENDER’S GUIDE, 1887
Note: Wondrich recommends not to shake but to stir this cocktail.
FORMULA #3: FOURTH DEGREE
ONE-THIRD [1 OZ] ITALIAN VERMOUTH
TWO-THIRDS [2 OZ] PLYMOUTH GIN
DASH OF ABSINTHE
Source: ALBERT STEVENS CROCKETT, OLD WALDORF BAR DAYS (1931)
Note: Wondrich recommends to “stir with plenty of cracked ice and strain.” [Wondrich, Imbibe!, 244-246.]
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little jaunt into cocktail history. Until next time, cheers!
P.S. If anyone wants to help me figure out how to get my footnotes into footnotes without tearing my hair out, please don’t hesitate to send me a note.