My Tale Begins with the Martinez

Martinez 2016

The Martinez

As I prepare for my first Tales of the Cocktail I began thinking about what’s putting me on that airplane to New Orleans. It’s actually easy to pinpoint where this journey began.

Although I worked in retail liquor stores for several years during and after college, and had a very brief stint as an editor at Cheers, Beverage Dynamics and Stateways magazines, it was an article in the Atlantic that really got things going. Wayne Curtis’ April 2009 piece “Cocktails of the Past” that highlighted Haus Alpenz lit the fuse. Looking back on it now I realize it was probably the first time I had heard of TOTC.

Most critically, the description of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin intrigued me enough to seek out a spirit I had not tried since a bad high school experience many years…OK, decades earlier. There are now 10 different gins in my liquor cabinet today, down a few that haven’t yet been replaced.

On the Hayman’s bottle was a recipe for the Martinez, which I discovered was about as classic a cocktail as there is. Ever the history buff, that’s where the experiments would begin. Outside of the Hayman’s, it is scary to recall the ingredients today…how old and how cheap was that vermouth? And what is maraschino liqueur? Surely the juices from the jar of bright red maraschino cherries would work.

I continued to improve my ingredients over time, quickly moving on to actual maraschino liqueur from the family run Italian distillery Luxardo (and I also dumped the store brand maraschino cherries for those from Luxardo). I had also been improving my vermouth selections. When Brad Thomas Parsons’ book “Bitters” came out I got the final pieces to a really great cocktail.

While I stuck with Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, and not the Ransom Old Tom that Thomas calls for, I added the Carpano Antica (a vermouth in the Fratelli Branca stable of products) and most importantly Boker’s Bitters. Adam Elmegirab reformulated the 19th Century Boker’s Bitters formula and it really makes the Martinez an exceptional cocktail. Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s business continues to grow (expanding in both geographical distribution and in the product line with new beard oils on the market) and any—or all—of the bitters will improve your bar.

The Martinez recipe as listed in Parsons’ “Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All”:

1 ounce Old Tom Gin

2 ounces sweet vermouth, preferably Carpano Antica

1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Boker’s Bitters (or Angostura Bitters)

Garnish: lemon twist

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

Tasty Brexit bargains recover nicely


Negroni at  Harry’s Cafe NYC

A couple of weeks ago I shared a link from CNBC in which Mario Gabelli, Chairman and CEO of Gamco Investors, mentioned several buying opportunities in the wake of Brexit, including Diageo (DEO) and Davide Campari Milano (DVDCY). So far, both have recovered quite well from their Brexit dip.

Diageo is up nearly 9% from its June 27 low, closing at $112.80 on Friday. Since the UK referendum, Diageo has invested in the British non-alcoholic spirits distiller Seedlip. It is reported to be the first time Diageo—which is typically invested in 8-10 businesses according to the Financial Times—has taken a stake in a non-alcoholic beverage company. In a world of consumers growing ever more health conscious and drinking less, with UK alcohol consumption down 26% 2002-2012, it seems to be a pretty logical extension of their business. Seedlip had a nice write-up at Tales Of the Cocktail last October, and worth a read here. That announcement was made at the beginning of last week and, after a slight initial decline, by the end of the week Diageo was trading at levels last seen in mid December.

Campari finished last week at $4.80, up 6.4% from the June 27 Brexit low. Gabelli noted they had recently added Wild Turkey and were buying Grand Marnier, details of which hit around the same time. Campari stock jumped in early March and has maintained a steady range between $4.75 and $4.90 since. While the current level is about 4% off the early June peak, it remains 25% above the end of February level.

In the US, the aperitif Campari has seen growing popularity, moving from a long-standing case volume of around 50,000 to 100,000 cases the past five years, according to Fortune Magazine. No better example of this heightened interest that with the Negroni – the go to cocktail at Gin & Bitters. Negroni Week itself provides some evidence as the June week-long charity event keeps getting bigger. Started in 2013, Negroni Week last year raised $321,000 from 3,500 venues. The amount raised last month has yet to be announced, but the number of venues alone was up 71% to 6,000 in 61 countries and 47 states.

Once again, market turmoil provided some very good buying opportunities, and in this case also brought the ingredients to toast your success.


America in decline!

The beer anyway, the one formerly known as Budweiser (Ticker: BUD), after RBS Capital Markets downgraded AB InBev to Underperform on Wednesday. Seems they don’t see the SABMiller deal doing all that much for AB InBev. Though perhaps while they’re both focused on this deal they will leave the craft beer brewers alone for a while. While the news dropped Bud’s US shares to $128.07 (a mere .39% decline for the day) they are only down 3.6% from their 52-week high, and they have climbed 5.5% from the post-Brexit low on June 27.


This is the post excerpt.

Two and a half years later, Gin & Bitters is back. After upheaval in the day job and a cross country move, I am getting back to looking at the business end of cocktails and craft beers, as well as where to drink them and how make some interesting ones at home.