Didn’t I promise you this some weeks ago? Yes, yes I did, and now here it is. Aren’t you thrilled?
You will be.
“This” is the Spanish Martini. Turns out, to my surprise, that I’m not the only person in the world to have imagined the exact same Martini and paired it with the exact same nomenclature, but hey, GMTA, eh?
A Spanish Martini is, in short, a classic gin Martini, but with a dry Sherry like Fino instead of vermouth.
And not too dry, mkay? You want that lovely sherry to open up into the gin and twist all those delicious savory and woodsy and salty notes throughout quite boldly, instead of hints and whispers. The Gin Queen suggests 3:1, and I suggest the somewhat more restrained 4:1. Nothing less. If your uncle wants his pretentious bone dry Martini, aka straight gin, he can sit in the corner and drink it from the bottle. With two straws.
This is not what you call a subtle Martini. It is, however, an excellent and proper Martini, as opposed to a random sweet cocktail served in a Martini glass and so-called by a pompadoured slickie who calls himself a “flair mixologist” and thinks Dorothy Parker was a character in the Wizard of Oz.
I ordered this, with The Botanical gin, at Riviera, one of my favourite restaurants in Ottawa. Normally I just order from their own list, which is excellent and created by the equally excellent Stephen Flood. His style is bold and flavourful, with a unique awareness and cultivation of aftertastes which makes his cocktails perfect for sipping and lingering over. But that day I was craving this specific drink, so I ordered it and he came over to chat about it, possibly just to make sure I knew what I was getting into and was happy with the result, which I was.
This led to a long conversation about the bar’s assortment of gins from around the world, which is indeed impressive and a good half of which I had never heard. Wondering now if there’s a Spanish gin which might work particularly well with this. Right now I’m recommending The Botanist, Tanqueray 10, Booths, Boodles, and Plymouth. I also very much like Dillon’s Unfiltered, which is local to Hamilton, Ontario. You want something with lots of juniper, not something floral like Bombay, because the salty, woody notes of the sherry harmonize with vegetal flavours and not with florals or fruits.
When it comes to sherry, the Gin Queen suggests Fino or Manzanilla, both dry sherries. I suggest sticking with fino, since I find chamomile rather soapy, and rather than the 80’s ubiquitous Tio Pepe (which is lovely in a tall glass with ice on a hot afternoon) I suggest Alvear’s fino, which is about $12 a bottle and widely available. But you can play with this; if you find another that works well, by all means let me know.
Garnish: your mileage may vary, but black Cerignola olives are my #1 choice. A close runner-up is smoked oysters (are you sensing a theme here?) and as The Gin Queen suggests, a roll of jamon iberico would also be a terrific choice. Failing these, any olive or onion fit to be in a cocktail would do, and you don’t need the fancy ones packed in vermouth; in fact, those would sort of negate the entire freaking concept, but you’re smart and you’d know better, right? RIGHT? Oh, and keep them in the fridge. This is not so much to keep them fresh, as to make sure they don’t warm up your cocktail when you drop them in.
Have you noticed the glass in the picture is NOT a stereotypical Martini glass, and yet I haven’t bitched about it yet? That’s because it’s 100% correct, as would be the stereotypical Martini glass. Yes, the Nick and Nora is quite proper for a Martini, and lovely to look at besides.
By the way, if your glass is room temperature the moment your cocktail is finished, either your cocktail was too big, or you drank it too slowly.
Now get buying, get chilling, and get drinking. And get inviting me over, mkay?