DRY JANUARY IS OVER!
If you want to sound like you know your booze, in a classy sort of way (we're going for more dark, panelled cocktail bars where people debate politics and less cans on the canal...) then know how to order a proper martini.
My personal poison is a wet vodka martini with either a twist of lemon or an olive. Lemon pre-dinner and olives post is my general rule of thumb. Martinis are a recent revelation for me and their main draw was that they tend to be the least calorific of the cocktail options when out and about.
Disclaimer. They can be expensive. I ordered my usual (more on which below) in a bar in town and the barman turned to my husband and said "Jesus you'd know it isn't her round anyway!" The cheek.
Vermouth (particularly extra dry vermouth) is super low-cal so a good option for the weight watchers among us is an extra wet martini. (Nope it's not logical that more dry vermouth makes a wetter martini but them's the rules.)
So, how to order a martini? If you've tried before and been put off by the follow up questions (Wet or dry? Shaken or stirred? Lemon or olive? Preferred vodka?*) then this guide is for you. I believe I sound exceptionally chic at the bar ordering "an extra wet Belvedere vodka martini, twist of lemon, shaken please". Most bartenders smirk or roll their eyes but I'll live with that for a great martini! Great bartenders usually thank for me for making it easier for them. Crap bartenders ask me if I want it dirty. I won't even dignify that with a response because a dirty martini is an abomination and an egregious insult to the best bartender I know, Paul Lambert of the Blind Pig.
Wet or Dry? A classic martini is probably about 50/50 vermouth (such as Martini...the clue is in the name) to vodka. The more vermouth you want, the more wet it is, so an extra dry martini is basically just vodka. Which means the vodka has to be top shelf stuff. This is not a job for Smirnoff (perish the thought) or even that cocktail stalwart Absolut.
I love love love Grey Goose. It's crisp, clean tasting and fresh on the palate. And I didn't even DRINK vodka until last year so this is high praise. But given that a Grey Goose martini will set you back about €16 to €19 euro* it's worth having other options on standby.
Belvedere is another premium vodka which is a little lighter on the pocket than Grey Goose. Still delicious though, it makes a great martini and it replaced Smirnoff (and to a lesser extent Finlandia) as the vodka of choice for James' martinis in the Bond instalment, Spectre.
I often have an 'I made it through another week' martini on a Friday evening. Happily, I'm working my way through a litre of Grey Goose from the duty free! I like it extra wet; a mixture of about 60/40 dry vermouth to vodka, shaken with ice and garnished with an olive or lemon twist.
Why shaken? Well it's partly affectation when I'm ordering in a bar (I'm an obnoxious drunk) but mostly because vodka should be served cold and shaken with ice, while a gin martini should be at room temperature and simply stirred.
The concept of a martini has evolved in recent years so now anything served in a martini glass is fair game on the cocktail menu. One such bastardisation of the martini which is becoming a cocktail classic in its own right is the espresso martini. Of course it's not a martini at all; there's no vermouth in it, but it is delicious and a real after dinner pick me up. Many bartenders claim to have invented it but as the story goes, a supermodel, jet lagged and potentially under the influence of more than just jumping timezones, ordered a drink that would wake her up and f*ck her up too.
The espresso martini was born.
Like everyone else, I'm watching my sugar intake so my homemade espresso martinis make elegant but light desserts when we've dinner guests. Once again, a good vodka is the base ingredient. I used to use Kahlua (a perfectly respectable coffee liqueur which I discovered when I met my now husband who used to drink white russians made of milk, Kahlua and vodka) but I've graduated to tequila based liqueur. Patron XO Cafe is the new go-to booze for my espresso martinis, on the recommendation of the best cocktail bar in Dublin. They also rate Fair Spirits fairtrade coffee liqueur but I've yet to try it.
My tip for delicious no aded sugar espresso martinis is to use good quality vodka (that way you don't have to add sugar to mask the taste of the booze) and flavoured Nespresso (like caramel or vanilla favour pods) for the sweetness. I'm currently shaking up: one shot of Grey Goose, one shot of Patron XO Cafe and a shot of Nespresso vanilla espresso - all shaken vigorously with ice. That creamy froth at the top is made when the coffee liqueur and the ice mix. To finish them off, I grate 80% cocoa dark chocolate over them for garnish and a little chocolatey kick, then serve and enjoy! A sweet surprise is to pop one chocolate coated coffee bean into the glass too. Delish. And not the worst dessert if you've over indulged on dinner either. Bonus.
it goes without saying that too many of these babies isn't a good thing. See the title...I've been there.
*We're assuming vodka martinis here. Gin martinis are not for me for reasons best left vague.
**I learned this the hard way, tipsy and feeling flush with cash in The Bodaga in Cork at a hen party. To be fair, each time I ordered the barman asked me about ten times was I sure I wanted Grey Goose and that he could make it with a less pricey vodka. However drunken me insisted.
Kalak is a new Irish vodka made from barley. Very smooth with a distinctive taste and aroma. Could be worth a try in either a classic martini or the caffeinated version.
Grey Goose. My fave.
The husband brought me back a litre from the duty free on a recent business trip. He knows me so well! His colleagues must think I'm an alcoholic. Or as my favourite barmen say "an alcohol enthusiast". Does having favourite barmen make me an... I won't finish that question.