The Martini remains one of the most fascinating cocktails around. This became evident with the response to both my earlier post (shared on the Wine Lovers Discussion Group---they also do spirits) and the subsequent tasting seminar at the Society of Wine Educators Annual Conference in Seattle last week.
with a twist
The seminar was a major success and got enthusiastic involvement from the participants, with major applause at the end and a very high rating. As the culminating seminar for the conference, it seemed to be a natural, leading the participants from cocktail hour to dinner. And it was fun to do.
Originally we had planned to pre-batch the cocktails, put them in clean bottles, and keep them in the freezer until serving so they were icy cold, as martinis should always be. However, at the last minute we decided to go ahead and make them the proper way, and set up the head table as a bar, batching each cocktail and pouring fresh as needed. (Many thanks to the able room crew, by the way; without them, the tasting would have been difficult.)
Turns out there were quite a few people in attendance who were learning about the lore of the Martini for the very first time. And most of them had never had the Martinez before!
We remedied that lack immediately. Much to their surprise they found the cocktail to be rather pleasant, albeit surprisingly sweet---after all, it was based on sweet red vermouth and was enhanced by liqueur, so how could it not be a little cloying?
The follow up of the Manhattan made perfect sense then---and at least one person learned how good Manhattans can be when made properly (stirred, not shaken) and with the right ingredients, most notably the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
And once again, there was surprise with the nature of the “original” Martini 1988---still with sweet vermouth and the remarkable shift over to an entirely different style only a few years later with the emergence of the first “Dry Martini”, the first made with dry white vermouth, in 1896.
The martini fans got back into more familiar territory with the Gibson and the Rockefeller Martini, and even perked up when the Vesper made its popular appearance. On the spur of the moment, after engaging in some serious bartender-centric dialogue on shaking versus stirring, we decided to mix up two Vespers, one shaken, as per Bond’s precise instruction, and one stirred, as would be the normal procedure in this type of cocktail.
What we ended up with was two very different Vespers. The shaking noticeably changes the nature of the drink, both in taste and mouthfeel, through greater dilution with the ice and in aerating the drink and entirely changing the texture and mouthfeel.
By the time we reached the ultimate Extra Dry Martini---and by the way, we used a Wondrich-approved Alfred Trumer version of a 4:1 ration, which worked out beautifully---the room was both mellow and enthusiastic. Small servings were poured, but we did pour nine of them, after all.
The seminar was an enjoyable action- and information-packed hour, fun to participate in and fun to perform. Now we’re ready to go it again. Fresh batching nine cocktails for an eager audience in one hour is a challenge…but it sure can make for a good seminar! The tips were lousy though. Bunch of pikers, those wine geeks.