Homemade Gin, Round 3

Round 3 Homemade Gin!   And, yes, I am learning, albeit slowly.   This batch is significantly better than my two previous efforts!  (You can find my posts on those here:   “I made Gin!!”   and here:  “Homemade Gin, Round 2” .)

This time I backed up significantly, starting much simpler.  First of all I used just a very few botanicals.  Obviously Juniper is required so that goes in.  Coriander is very mild with a slight musty hay (think alfalfa) scent.  It doesn’t so much as add flavor as it seems to add some complexity to the flavor.  Then a very tiny bit of Cardamom, pepper, and lemon.

The second major change from previous batches was that I only steeped the botanicals for about 40 hours.  (I was going for 48 hours but sadly my real job got in the way and didn’t allow that.)

Here’s the process for this batch:
Day 0:  I assembled the following botanicals:
Juniper, 1 tablespoon
Coriander, 1 teaspoon
Cardamon, 1 Pod broken
Green peppercorn, 2 corns
All of these items I put into 375 ml of 100 proof Vodka.  Unlike previous batched I did not grind up any of these ingredients.

+24 hours:  I added the following.
Dried Lemon Peel,  Approx 1/2 tsp

I also tried the gin, just to see how it was going.  I was pleasantly surprised!  No bitterness at all and mild flavors.

+42 hours:   I strained all remains and remnants from the liquid.

At this point the Gin really tasted like ‘gin’!  A bit light on the juniper but overall mildly spicy with just a hint of lemon.  (Next time I’ll add a bit more citrus.)  As expected it is not clear having a nice mild amber tinge to the gin.  That’s easily fixable with an activated carbon filter (Brita, for example) but for the  moment I’m pleased with the gin ‘as is’.

Finally I let it sit for a couple of days in the pantry, just to let the flavors meld (?).   Then made a very cold, very welcome, Martini!  It was totally acceptable.  Certainly not worthy of even a single stem rating* of course, but a big step in the  right direction!

Keep your eyes out for the results of Batch 4 coming soon to a blog near you.

 

* If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

Does Vermouth Matter?

Vermouth Ad 1

Of course it does.   Vermouth transforms chilled gin into a Martini!  Therefore it is indeed a magical liquid!

But what type of Vermouth?  Will just any do?  Is there a difference?

I’ve already written about the importance of keeping your chosen Vermouth chilled (Vermouth Storage?) and how much to add (How Dry Can You Go?).   This article discusses the impact of different Vermouths.

First of all lets get the sweet vs. dry Vermouth settled.  The original “traditional” martini calls for dry Vermouth.  All of my previous reviews and comments on Martinis have used dry Vermouth.  If you use sweet Vermouth then you’re making a ‘Sweet Martini’.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s your preference.

So, does it really matter which dry Vermouth?

I set up a little Martini taste test with a couple of popular and readily available Dry Vermouths:  Martini & Rossi (15% ABV), Noilly Prat (18% ABV), and Dolin (17.5% ABV).   The Martinis were prepared with New Amsterdam Gin.  This was chosen because it is pretty neutral with mild juniper and slightly on the sweet side. The proportions were 2 1/2 oz. Gin and 1/2 oz. Vermouth. For simplicity and consistency there was no garnish.

I then wrangled up a small team of amateur tasters to sample each of these Martinis.  I emphasize “Amateur”.  Initially some of the team were a bit dubious about the whole process, but eventually we all had a good time.  The team, self dubbed the “The Taste Buds“, tried each Vermouth in identical chilled Martinis and then by a few also tried the Vermouths neat at room temperature.

Martini Tasting Notes:
Dolin Noilly Prat Martini & Rossi
Color Clear Very pale yellow Almost clear, tinge of Yellow
W1 Sweet Sweet+ Sweet-, Tart, Earthy, Spicy
W2 Dry, Spicy (Ginger?) Spicy-, more Bold
C Fruity, Floral Dryer, less Fruity Citrus, Sweet
L “Meh”, Fruity, Tangy “Punched in Face” Smooth, Sweet
R Similar to “NP” Similar to “D” Harsher

Each taster offered honest comments as they saw fit.  Some were comparative, some were impressions, some tried to discern individual flavors or aromas.  There isn’t any consistency, nor should there be.  The bottom line is, by unanimous agreement, that the different Vermouths affected the taste of the Martinis.

I asked each ‘Taste Bud’ to choose a first and second favorite Vermouth with 2 points awarded to a first choice and 1 point awarded to the second choice.  The ‘winner’ was Dolin, Matini & Rossi came in 2nd, and NP finished last.  For what it’s worth, I was the only who liked the Noilly Prat the best!

Only Vermouth Tasting Notes (room temp):
Dolin:  Spicy Aroma, Floral, Sweet, Earthy Front End, Little Spicy, Little Earthy, No aftertaste
Noilly Prat: Musty Aroma (port?), Lots of Grape, Bold, Spicy, Earthy, Bitter Finish, Neutral
Martini & Rossi:  Musty Aroma, Bitter Grape, Earthy, Citrusy, “most like white wine”
I made no attempt to attribute these comments to the tasters.

As a side comment, I personally sampled these Vermouths well chilled.  The only difference I noted from the room temperature tastings were that the chilled samples were less pungent.  As expected.

Conclusions: 
First, each of the sample Vermouths were individually different.  More so than I expected.  While they are all fortified wines with definite grape flavor, the method of fortification varies as does the underlying wine base.

Second, while the Vermouths were indeed different, everyone agreed that their impact on the overall taste of the Martini was minimal.  Discernible, yes, but the biggest impact to the taste of the Martini is, as it should be, the Gin!

Third, while minimal, the review team were unanimous in the opinion that the choice of Vermouth does change the taste of the Martini.  So, YES, your choice of Vermouth does matter.

Final though: 
It is definitely worth exploring different Vermouths, especially if you have a favorite Gin.  You might just find one that perfectly compliments your chosen Gin.

Expanded List of Botanical Elements

juniper-berry-2

I received an comment from a newer reader complimenting me on my page “Botanical Elements of Gin“.  Then she asked if I knew of a resource for ingredients in specific gins.  I don’t have such a resource but it got me thinking.

So I started doing some very exhausting and time consuming research and came up with a few examples.  (Ok, I picked up a few bottles and read the ingredients.)

In any case, I’ve listed the ingredients in several popular gins in the same page noted above.  If you haven’t checked it out in the past, follow the link above and take a look.  Here’s an example of what you’ll find:

Bombay Sapphire:  Juniper Berries, Lemon Peel, Coriander, Angelica, Orris, Grains of Paradise, Cubeb Berries, Cassia Bark, Almonds, & Liquorice.
Bombay Sapphire East adds Lemongrass & Black Pepper to the above list.

 

What is a Martini?

After my recent post on Eggnog Martini (Egg Nog Martini??? Really?) in which I generally described my amusement, if not disdain, of various cocktails described as “Martinis”… or more typically, ‘somthing‘tini a person very close to me asked “OK, what makes a Martini a Martini”.

To answer that I’ll ask, “What makes a chocolate chip cookie a chocolate chip cookie”?  Bear with me here and all will be clear.

There are a lot of ‘-tinis’ out there that are, or have been, popular, even trendy;  Appletini, Chocotini, Cranberrytini, Peachtini, Watermellontini, Peppermintini, Bacontini, etc.  These cocktails may indeed  be delicious, fun, and frivolous.  The common element in these cocktails is that they are served in a martini stem and usually made with vodka.

But a martini stem does not a Martini make.   Similarly a small baked bit of batter alone does not a Chocolate Chip Cookie make.

A Martini has a definite recipe.  It is composed of Gin, Vermouth, and a garnish.  Vodka is an acceptable, if not traditional, substitute for Gin.  The garnish may be an olive or twist.  And it’s traditionally served in a martini stem, but that does not make it a Martini.

A Chocolate Chip Cookie has a definite recipe with very few variations.  It is a cookie made with Chocolate Chips.   And maybe some walnuts and / or marshmallows.  It is not a biscotti, or bagel, or muffin.  It is a cookie.  And it must have Chocolate Chips.

A Martini does not have apple, chocolate, peach, peppermint, or Eggnog.  A Chocolate Chip Cookie does not have raisins, lemon peel, oatmeal, cranberries, or peanuts.

Oatmeal raisin cookies are delicious and a personal favorite.  The look very similar to Chocolate Chip cookies, but they are not a “Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip cookie”.   And an Appletini maybe fun and tasty, but it is not a Martini.

So what makes a Martini a Martini?  Gin, Vermouth (proportions to personal taste) and a garnish; olive or twist.  Preferably served chilled in a chilled martini stem.

Alcohol Diet!

Alcohol diet?  Is that a real thing?  Well, no, not really.  But it offers a starting point to think about our diet, and Martini, choices.

If you’re like most of us you’re probably ‘counting’ calories in one form or another.  Not necessarily keeping a daily diary of everything you eat, but most of us are aware that it takes 24 minutes of brisk walking to burn off the calories in one can of coke.   And an hour and 10 minutes to burn off the calories in one slice of pizza and a can of coke.

Each of us has our own idea of weight, exercise, and food balance. And we all make choices.  That’s true in our choices for adult beverages.

The standard 1.5 oz serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories before you add any mixers.  Bombay Sapphire is 97 proof and has 114 calories.   So a dry martini would have approximately 100 calories, depending on Gin, number of olives (5 calories each, if that’s your choice), and whether its ‘wet’ or ‘dry’.

Comparing to other cocktails:  Gin & Tonic 187, Mai Tai 306, Pina Colada 320, Margarita 327, Rum & Coke 361, Mudslide 820

And how many calories in desert?  Chocolate Cake without frosting: about 352 , 1/2 cup Ice Cream 137 , 1/2 cup Chocolate Mousse 454 , and Creme Brulee 210.

So if you’re counting calories which would you pick?  Cake or Martini?  My choice is clear; I haven’t had dessert in a long long time.

 

The calorie numbers above are taken from various internet sources and are representative and for comparison purposes & humor.

ALWAYS Drink responsibly.
We do NOT endorse excessive alcohol consumption.
Know the law, know your limits: drink to the lesser of the two.

Dilution, Myth or Reality

Have you heard anyone say that a Martini needs to be properly diluted when mixed?? To what are they referring?  What does that mean?

Depending on distiller, gin varies from about 80 proof to 100 proof, or 40% ABV to 50% ABV (Alcohol By Volume).   It also varies from country to country, depending on local laws and customs.   For example, my favorite, Bombay Sapphire (US) is 94 proof or 47% ABV .   Now quiz time: what is the rest of the volume?  Answer: water.  More precisely filtered purified, possibly distilled, water.

When you dilute the Martini you’re adding water to the mix and in doing so lowering the ABV level!  If that’s what you want then why not just use a less strong gin to begin with??

Furthermore, when you dilute the drink by extended mixing you’re adding water which has melted from the mixing ice.  Ice which has come, most likely from the bar or restaurant’s ice maker.  Does your bar use filtered purified water in their ice maker?  I doubt it.  And when was the last time your bar actually cleaned their ice maker?  Who knows what is growing in there.

You might want to look back at my post on “Cold Ice” to see additional comments about bar ice.

Personally I like my Martini full strength with absolutely minimal dilution and absolutely no extra melted ice from a questionable ice source.

Just for fun, here is a brief sampling of ABV levels of various popular gins:
Gordon’s 37.5% ABV (UK)
Gordon’s 40% ABV (US)
Beefeater 40% ABV (UK)
Beefeater 47% ABV (US)
Tanqueray No. Ten 47.3% ABV
Hendrick’s 44% ABV
Bombay Sapphire 47% ABV  (US)
Bombay Sapphire 40% ABV (UK)
Boodles 45.2% ABV (US)
Boodles 40% ABV (UK)

If you enjoy these posts, please tell your friends.  Comments are always welcome.

Olives or Twist

This may be the second most discussed question about Martinis. As noted, my preference is a twist; when I drink Bombay. To me the lemon flavors compliment the herbs of Bombay while the saltiness of the olives seems to overpower the subtleties of the herbal notes.

However, if my barkeep of the moment doesn’t have a herbal noted Gin available, such as Nolet’s or Lavender, then I will ask for olives.  They are a  better contrast to those floral flavors.

Shaken or Stirred, Part Two

A few more thoughts on “Shaken vs. Stirred”…..

The most convincing argument I’ve heard in favor of a stirred martini is the silky mouth feel that I mentioned early.

The shaken drink tends to be aerated, at least at first, which gives it a different mouth feel. I will acknowledge that the feel of a stirred martini is awesome. But just as the aerated mouth feel of the shaken martini fades, so does the silkiness of the stirred. So for 84.5% of the time I’m savoring my martini, the mouth feel of the two mixing methods is identical.

Then it comes down to temperature and the shaken martin is always colder. Checkmate.

My Preference

I think it only fair to let you, my dedicated reader, know my preferences.   I order Bombay Sapphire Martini shaken with just a splash of Vermouth served in a very well chilled Martini glass with a twist of lemon.

I will occasionally order Bombay Sapphire East, when available. If so I skip the Vermouth entirely. If a lime wedge is offered I occasionally choose that over lemon but the difference is very subtle and either is excellent if fresh

Things that make a Martini special, other than an abundance of gin, include having it served ice cold, with freshly peeled garnish. Martini pet peeves include a small serving, excessive Vermouth, having it mildly chilled and/or diluted, and a stale or small twist

The Perfect Martini

So what is the Perfect Martini? It’s often said that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and so it is with Martinis. My perfect Martini may not be the same as yours. Gin or Vodka, Shaken or Stirred, Olive or Twist? These are all personal preference and each may be part of your perfect Martini.

The perfect Martini is the one that not only quenches your thirst but causes one to stop, just momentarily after the first taste, the first savor, and not just experience the taste on the tongue, but feel it in the heart and soul. The first taste of the perfect Martini should feel like your first kiss.

I’m still searching for mine. It may be a long hard search over miles and years, but I’m up to it. I’ve dedicated my life to it, well this blog anyway.