Friday, May 21, 2010

Bar exam: The Martinez Cocktail

In case you haven't figured it out by now I am a huge fan of the classics. Old Archie comics, early-60s American cars, the Three Stooges, hot dogs at the ballpark while watching my beloved Cubs sink into the abyss of another failed season, Schwarzenegger's early action movies. Speaking of Arnold, who among us can forget this classic exchange from "Total Recall":
Lori: "Doug, honey... you wouldn't hurt me, would you, sweetheart? Sweetheart, be reasonable. After all, we're married!" [Lori goes for her gun, Quaid shoots her in the head, killing her] Doug: "Consider that a divorce!"

You know, all the things that form America's cultural touchstones. And certainly not to leave off the historical cocktails from the early 1900s that shaped more minds than perhaps any other outside influence in the last 100 years. In my unending research to find out how we got from there to here I had read about Old Tom Gin, a slightly sweetened and lightly tawny colored form of my favorite cocktail fixin' that was very popular at pre-Prohibition bars. It had disappeared from American liquor shelves for decades (supposedly the closest thing to Old Tom that was available was Tanqueray Malacca gin before its untimely demise). I had read about its resurrection by a few artisinal producers, then a few weeks ago I was wandering the aisles of my local liquor store and saw that an Old Tom from Oregon's own Ransom Spirits (about $35) had a spot on the shelf (read about Ransom's distillation method and a bit of Old Tom history by clicking here). If for no other reason than to gain further historical perspective I had to buy my bottle. In the back of my mind I had remembered that my main influence of new and interesting ways to expand my libation library, The Washington Post's Jason Wilson, had done a piece about Old Tom that included the recipe for the Martinez Cocktail, the forerunner of so many good things in my life. Among Wilson's observations:
"Some crazy theories suggest that this was the original martini, but it was more probably a variation. In reality, all martinis are a variation on the Manhattan."
Whatever it was, whatever it inspired, the Martinez I made at home was a delicious peek into cocktails past and is absolutely worth searching out your own bottle of Old Tom. With that, here is Wilson's version of the classic Martinez....
***** ***** *****
Martinez Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Old Tom Gin
1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
2 dashes orange or aromatic bitters
1 twist of lemon or orange peel, for garnish

Fill a mixing glass halfway full with ice. Add the gin, vermouth, maraschino liqueur and bitters. Stir vigorously for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the lemon or orange peel twist.

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