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.

The Perfect Martini Process, V2.0

martini-with-twist

I wrote The Perfect Martini Process, V1.0 back in November of 2015, though it didn’t have the “V1.0” notation back then.  Since then, I’ve been thinking that it really needed an update to make it more readable, logically organized, and visually appealing.

So I’ve created “V2.0”.   The information and process hasn’t significantly changed, but has been tweaked – just a bit.  So here we go!

TAPS Martini

Introduction:

Since this blog has existed, I’ve advocated and supported the concept that your Perfect Martini is just that, yours.  My Perfect Martini is mine.  And the two may not be identical.   What is important is that we find that which works for each of us.

Having said that, in fairness, I thought it time to share what I believe works best for me.  Interestingly over the course of the last years researching for this blog and writing about Martinis and Martini Preparation my taste has ‘evolved’.  My preference has moved a bit drier and I’m garnishing with a twist much more often.  Lime if available.

Note that the title of this post is Martini Process, not recipe.   The recipe is important, of course, and will be presented in it’s place.  But the components of the recipe can be thrown together in many ways, each of which may result in a different tasting experience.

The  components in a chocolate cake can be assembled and cooked in many ways but I strongly suspect that the results of many of those permutations would be far from palatable.    The process is critical.

Advanced Preparation:

The entire Martini Making process starts with advanced preparation. And by ‘advance’ I mean several hours ahead of time.   If you want that Martini immediately upon your arrival at home after a long day at the office, then this should be done in the morning before you leave.   Or, better yet, the night before.

Put your favorite bottle of Gin and your Martini stem in the freezer and the vermouth in the refrigerator, if it isn’t already.  Vermouth should always be stored in the fridge.  See Vermouth Storage? if you want to know more about that.

IF you use a massive (heavy) shaker, that should go in the freezer too.

You may have a collection of gins and can’t (or don’t want) to put all the bottles in the freezer.  What I do is transfer enough gin for a couple martinis from the lager bottles into smaller glass containers and put them in the freezer.   Properly marked, of course.  ( I buy smaller bottles of the same brand of gin for use in the freezer.  Sapphire goes in to Sapphire, Aviation into Aviation, etc. )

If you’re making Martinis for a group and you have lots of stems with little freezer space, at least make room for them in the fridge.

Immediate Pre-Processing:

Make the twist.
I always prepare the twist before the martini so that the martini doesn’t wait, and get warm, if the twist is crafted at the end of the process.  No, the twist will not wilt or dry out in the 90 seconds or so that it takes you to make the Martini!  It will be just fine waiting for its grand entry at the end of the process.

This goes for olives too, if you prefer them; spear them before starting the martini.

The Recipe:

3 ounces of your favorite Gin,
(That’s 6 tablespoons or 3/8 cup if you don’t have a jigger.)
1/2 ounce of Dry Vermouth, and
(Or fill the cap from the Vermouth bottle,)
a lemon or lime twist.

Final Processing:

Making the Martini proper.  Fill the shaker with about a cup of cold ice.   (See Cold Ice Please! for comments and description of “Cold Ice”).  Take the Vermouth and put that in the shaker with the cold ice.  Swirl or shake the Vermouth and ice briefly and then drain the Vermouth.  Keep the ice, of course.

Next put your Gin into the shaker.  Shake the shaker vigorously for about 10 seconds.   10 seconds is all you need as the liquids have already been chilled.  Any more than 10 seconds and your just working your biceps, triceps, and delts.

At this point I’m reminded of the following quote from ‘The Thin Man’:
“See, in mixing the important thing is the rhythm. Always have a rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan, you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time. But a Martini, you always shake to waltz time.”  Nick Charles

Does shaking to 3/4 time really help?  I have no clue, but it sure makes the process more fun.

Now, quickly remove the Martini stem from the freezer and strain the Martini from the shaker into the Stem.  Take the twist and lightly run the rind around the edge of the stem, squeeze a bit of the oils into the liquid, and drop it gently into the Martini.

That’s it, you’re done.  Now on to the best part.

Post-Processing:

Finally take the Martini out to the porch, sit comfortably, look at the sunset over the beach or the pool, and enjoy the Perfect Martini.

Enjoying a Martini at Sunset overlooking the ocean.

Summer Evening Martini

2nd Anniversary!

This month, December 24th to be exact, completes the second full year of exciting Martini making and mayhem.  Its been a great fun writing and I hope to continue through my third year.

I want to take a moment and thank my faithful readers.  Your comments and support have been very much appreciated and have helped keep me going on those occasions when I have been a bit less motivated to write.  I really couldn’t have done as much without you.

Looking back, I’d like to point out that my second year marked the first post written by a ‘guest’ author!  That is much appreciated and I hope to get a few more next year, hopefully by another guest author, or two.   Restaurant and Martini reviews are ALWAYS welcome here.  Especially Martini Reviews!

Going into the third year I plan on starting to review Gins.  This seems like a logical extension to Restaurant Reviews and general Martini musings.  Please forward any suggestions along this line and I’ll make a point of commenting on your suggestions.

I would also like to take a moment to pat myself on the back …. the “Martini Quotes” page is, I believe, currently the best collection of Martini Quotes anywhere!   But if I’ve missed one, please let me know.  I also have a Martini Jokes page!  But it appears to be a bit weak at this time.   While I keep my eyes open to new, or at least uncollected, jokes your suggestions would be greatly welcomed.

This blog has evolved over time and will continue to evolve.  But I do plan on keeping the posts at least remotely related to Martinis.   As the tag line says “A blog for thoughts, ideas, comments, about the Perfect Martini: How to make, how to enjoy, where to enjoy.

twitter For those of you who also frequent the ‘twitterverse’, you can find more Martini mayhem, along with a myriad of other “finer things in life”, at @Shkn_Nt_Strrd.   Comments there are always welcome also.

pinterest-logo-2    There is also a Pinterest page where you can find may of the photos that appear in these blogs: https://www.pinterest.com/PerfectMartini/martini-photos/

If you like these posts and want to be notified by email when they come in, please subscribe to the blog…. over on the left column.     😉

The Perfect Martini “How To”s Collected

martini-with-twist

Over the course of the almost two years that I’ve been writing this blog I’ve posted many random martini quotes, several reviews of restaurant and bars, made opinionated comments about stemware, and expounded on my pet peeves.  And, of course, I’ve also written extensively on what I believe makes a great Martini.  But these “How To” posts are scattered throughout this website and are hard to find.   No Longer!

Here, finally, is a compendium of links to the “How To” articles of Martini Making.  These describe my thoughts and beliefs of making the “Perfect Martini”.  Or to be most precise, my perfect martini.   The posts describe more than just the recipe and process of assembling the finest cocktail, but give some of the technical background of ‘what’ and ‘why’.

So here below for the first time are assembled the heart of Martini Magic…..

Here’s where we start, the art of creation:
The Perfect Martini Process

This link will help you find the answer to the age old question that keeps us awake at nights …. is Shaken really better than Stirred?   And why?
Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Conclusion.

If you just want to really know what they mean when some Gin snob warns you about ‘Bruising’, here’s the real deal.  (Hint; its not what you think.  But then, it’s not what they think either!)
Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited : Bruising

Are there really differences between Shaking and Stirring??? Yes!  And here are the two most significant differences.
Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Dilution
Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature.

Finally, does Shaking taste better?  Read below to find out.
Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste

Cold Ice is critical to making the perfect Martini.  If you’re confused about the difference between warm and cold ice, check this out.
Cold Ice Please!

Of course a great Martini needs a suitable container from which to sip this marvelous beverage.   Here are a few thoughts on stemware.
Thoughts on Stemware, Part One
Thoughts on Stemware, Part Two
Thoughts on Stemware, Part Three
And even…..
To Stem or Not to Stem

As always, comments are very welcome.  Please let me know what you think especially if you disagree with my comments.

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Bar Review: Larsen’s Steakhouse, Valencia, CA

larsens-front-logo

Larsen’s Steakhouse in Valencia is a hidden jewel, well worth the effort to find it.

Because getting into Larson’s is not obvious.  It is located within the Westfield Valencia Town Center.  That is easy to find via the usual assortment of Android and iPhone apps.

As you approach the restaurant you will easily see the “Larsen’s Steakhouse” neon sign.  And you will immediately notice a brightly lit patio with heaters and an entrance doors just below and to the right of the Larsen’s sign.  You can see past the entrance inside to several TV monitors with the usual gamut of sports games on.  That is BJ’s Bar and Grill, that is NOT what you want.

So walk up to the Larsen’s neon sign and proceed left.   Just there is a nondescript door with very small lettering stating “Larsen’s Steakhouse” and the ‘LS’ logo above.  That’s the right spot.

The interior is clean, comfortable, and inviting.  There’s white walls with lots of dark wood accents, white table cloths.   The two times I’ve been there they had live music in the lounge playing.

The Martinis were excellent.  Nicely chilled stems, well prepared, and amble.  The barkeep asked if I wanted it stirred or shaken, offered several options for garnish, and allowed me to sample the gin before specifying my choice.

On that note, I sampled the Uncle Val’s!  Very very intense juniper with subtle accents of citrus and herbs.  But the juniper easily overpowered all flavors.  I had Val’s in my second Martini and it was good.  But I think that it is better suited for a G&T.

Larsen’s is the only Restaurant that I’ve visited recently that has Nolet’s Gold!  So if you’re looking to try this elite and highly rated and reviewed gin, here’s a great place for it.  While I would have loved to try Nolet’s Gold, it was just a bit outside my price comfort range.  But I’m saving my nickels for the right occasion.

Overall I give Larsen’s Steakhouse the coveted two Stems.  This is a place that I would definitely go for the Martini alone.

Martini Glass UprightMartini Glass Upright

For Gin selection, Larson’s gets an A.   Their selection includes:  Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Tanqueray Ten, Tanqueray Rangpur, Beefeater, Beefeater 24, Hendricks, Boodles, Caorunn, Uncle Val’s, Plymouth, St. George Botanivore, Nolet’s Silver, and Nolet’s Gold.

Latest “Pet Peeve” of Martini Making

Pet Peeve

I recently had an odd experience that quickly escalated into a new “Pet Peeve”!

In case you missed it, I previously identified several “Pet Peeves”.  If you want a laugh you can look back at my previous post: Martini Making Pet Peeves.  If you want a teaser, one of my (minor) Martini Making Pet Peeves is not preparing the garnish first!

But back to my story.  I was at a local lounge on one of my travels and asked for a Martini while I sat comfortably watching some sporting event on the TV.  The Martini itself was good, if slightly small.  However the stem was excellently chilled from the bar refrigerator upon being served.

Having finished my first Martini I was easily convinced to have another.   The barkeep picked up my stem and I expected it to placed with the other dirty glassware.  But no, the barkeep took it over to the prep station and proceeded to use it for my next Martini!  I was instantly peeved.  Not only that, she used the same garnish!

What’s the point of placing your stems in a refrigerator and chilling them if you’re not going to use them?   Maybe you saved a couple of cents in electricity by not using a new chilled stem and not having to wash this one?

But the story goes on.  I had seen this happen just once or twice in the past and it immediately cuts my bar tip drastically.  But this time I was engrossed in the sports and didn’t want to leave the lounge.

So after finishing the second Martini, which was ok despite being served in the used and warm stem, I placed the stem on the bar back drop…. you know that small area behind the bartop which usually has a logo’d black plastic mat to contain splashed or spilled liquid.  (I’m sure there’s a name for it, I just don’t know what its called.)

When the bar keep came by I asked for another Martini.  She looked around a bit and spied my stem on the back drop.  Clearly off the bar top!  She picked it up and then proceeded to make my third Martin in the same stem.  With the same garnish!

Had I ever envisioned coming back to this place I would have said something to her or the manager.   Instead, she got a trivial tip for her efforts.  I do mean trivial!

 

 

 

Bar Review: The Cat and the Custard Cup, La Habra, CA

“The Cat” as locals call it, is a hidden gem in this quite bedroom community in North Orange County.  It has been here hidden in the hills since 1979, but its root go back even further.  It is part of the family run and operated El Cholo chain which was founded in 1923.  But this is not your typical Mexican restaurant, or even your atypical one.

The structure and interior are English Tudor style with lots of dark wood trim and beams, and a huge Kitchen Hearth in the middle of the restaurant, though it didn’t look like they used it very often.  But there are also Southwest elements to the decor.  The menu is typical Cal-continental with a few unusual items such as Red Deer.

I stopped in the other day on my travels to try out their Martini.  It was excellent.  The stems are pre-chilled in a dedicated cooler which is always a pleasant sign for me.  Their Martini was stirred, not shaken as is my preference but it was served quite cold.  It was amply and promptly served by a very attentive barkeep.

I also observed something novel, at least to me.  If the stem out of  their cooler is not ‘cold enough’ they keep a basin of chipped ice in a drawer in a freezer just for chilling the stem.  They do not use this ice for mixing drinks as there is another larger basin of cubed ice for that.  The simple fact that they keep a separate container of cold chip ice for chilling your Martini glass is a great idea and contributes to their rating of two stems:  Martini Glass Upright Martini Glass Upright

For selection The Cat gets a “B+”.
Their selection includes the “Big Five” as I now call them:   Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Tanqueray Ten, and Hendrick’s.  Not necessarily because these are the best 5 gins, but because they are ubiquitous.   Additionally The Cat stocks Oxley, Leopold, Hayman’s Old Tom, and Beefeater.

http://www.catandcustardcup.com/

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*****   Rating Definitions   ****