The martini is arguably one of the most sophisticated cocktails, while simple in nature its build is quite complex also making it one of the most difficult cocktails to craft.
The martini really is a build of 'drinkers choice', the first step is choosing the base; gin or vodka. Vodka is a generally flavourless spirit which means majority of the drinks pallet comes from the additives and their quantity, in some ways this means a more forgiving approach when crafting. Gin however, rich in botanicals, comes with its own flavour base. Each gin is uniquely crafted with differing flavours, so when it comes to mixing drinks and specifically a martini it is important to match your additives with the correct gin. So, how do you choose? When starting out stick with what you know, choose a spirit your familiar with and understand the flavour notes, this will make selecting complimentary flavours easier.
What do you add? Traditionally a martini is made up of your chosen base spirit (60ml) and vermouth - the amount of which is determined by the result you're looking to achieve. The vermouth is mixed with ice to flavour it, it is then discarded. For a dry martini the entire amount is drained, for a sweeter taste some is reserved; the more reserved vermouth the sweeter the martini.
The method of mixing your spirit is extremely important - especially when it comes to a gin martini. Due to the botanical make up of gin, when shaken its flavour shifts significantly, often becoming fuller in harsh flavours as they bruise the softer notes occasionally diminishing them completely. By stirring the spirit over the ice, the spirit is gently infused with the seasonings without crushing its original make up.
So why does Bond prefer it 'shaken not stirred'? The famous 007 martini is a vodka base so the method of shaken or stirred is less important as it will not change the base spirit in complexity. When shaken the ice will break up more, creating a softer drink and infusing the pre-seasoned ice deeper within the final product.
Once strained into a chilled glass - as cold as possible, the garnish is the final but all important step. The classic choice of olive or lemon twist really comes to the drinkers personal preference. When using a lemon twist it its important to form the twist over the drink, the juice from the zesty rind adds another layer to the drink.
Once you've mastered the traditional make up of a martini it can be time to experiment with flavours, follow the link below to try my favourite martini of the moment.