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.