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

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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The Perfect Martini Stem “Bowl” Shape!

Have you ever sat there with a Martini comfortably cradled in your hand and wonder what is the optimum bowl shape for a Martini?  Is it a very wide flaring bowl?  A very narrow tall bowl, almost a flute?

stem-wide                 or                         stem-tall

I’m not talking aesthetics here, that is an individual’s preference.  Some people like the crooked stem or the stem that connects at the top of the bowl, and some the bulbous stem.  (I’ve expressed my personal opinion on these in the past:  To Stem or Not to StemThoughts on Stemware, Part Three).  Others like colored glass stemware, especially in the base.

No, I’m thinking more from an engineering point of view.  Is there an optimum geometry to the fundamental inverted cone shape of a Martini stem?  What’s the optimum height?  Cross section?  And how is optimum defined?

stem-geometry      stem-equations

Alright, I’m sure most people never worry about such things.  I guess this is the curse of being an Engineer.  But there is one important consideration that came from my pondering.  From a strictly geometric point of view, what shape will keep my Martini coldest the longest?

The liquid enters the stem at a given temperature, hopefully very well chilled.  Then it gains heat through both the glass of the stem and the surface area of the liquid.  For the sake of my geometric analysis I made a couple of assumptions:
1.  The heat transfer rate is the same between the glass of the stem and the air above the liquid.  This is dependent on assumption 2.   (I am ignoring heat transfer from the drinker’s hands or the bar top through the stem.  I’m also ignoring radiated heat, such as from the lights.)
2.  Any heat transfer from the glass bowl to the liquid would be transferred via the glass from the air surrounding the bowl.   So, in essence all heat enters the Martini from the air, either directly from above or via the glass sides.   (It isn’t strictly true, but that’s another analysis for another day.)
3.  The optimum shape will be that which maximizes the ration of liquid volume (V) to surface area (SA).

Before I jumped into a bunch of algebra, I did a couple of mental experiments so I would know what to expect from the algebra, and if those answers made sense.   If I keep the radius constant and vary the height, how does the volume vary?  How does the surface area vary?  Contrarily, if I keep the height constant and varied the radius, what happens.  While that proved interesting, it really didn’t help  But if you want to see what came out of it, I’ve included a few observations at the very end of this post.

Clearly this was going to be a multi dimensional analysis.  In order to keep the algebra, and potentially calculus, manageable I made one more assumption:
4.  Set the Martini volume to 1.
(It could be anything, since I’m looking for the optimum cone, and cones are proportional, I can scale the volume after I find the best geometry.)

So what’s the answer?  42!  No wait, that’s something else.  The ‘right’ answer for a Martini stem is,  interestingly, 45 degrees.  Specifically, the cone half angle (α) should be 45 degrees.  The full angle is therefore 90 degrees.  To convert that to an appropriately sized stem, lets pick a reasonable bowl height, such as 2 inches.  Then r would also be 2 inches and the diameter of the bowl would be 4 inches.  So what does that geometry look like?  Something like this:

stem-shape-final

Well it turns out that “typical” martini stem we all know and love is actually pretty darn close to optimum shape.  Sure stems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the traditional martini stem is very close to perfect!  Now I just wonder if the manufacturers really designed this for thermodynamic optimization?  Or because is just looks pretty?

 

 

Random thoughts:

If the radius is constant, then the maximum volume to surface area occurs with an infinitely tall Martini “column”.  Not a useful stem, though the Martini volume would be great.  The volume to surface area (V/SA) approaches 1/3 in the extreme.

If the height is constant, then the maximum volume to surface area occurs with an infinitely wide Martini ‘disk’.  Difficult to lift and unwieldy, but again a nice large Martini.   Here the volume to surface area (V/SA) approaches 1/6 in the extreme.

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.

Shaken, Stirred, or Smashed???

Not long ago while on travel I stopped in at a fine restaurant for a ‘nite cap’ on my way ‘home’, i.e., the current hotel.  I ordered my usual dry Sapphire martini.

The bartender took a stem from the freezer and placed in on the bar.  Next he took a metal shaker, put ice in it, and then poured in the gin.  Finally instead of putting the top on the shaker he took out a long stirring spoon.  At this point I thought he was going to stir the drink.  Not a problem, I always let the local barkeep make the Martini at his discretion.  At least the first one.  😉

To my amusement and surprise he proceed to pound the ice with the spoon.  Sort of like a muddler with mint for a Mojito, but with much more enthusiasm.

When he served the martini I jokingly asked if that was considered “Shaken or Stirred”.  He smiled and responded with “Well, more like smashed or crushed”.  He went on to explain that this establishment liked to serve their Martinis with a thin layer of crushed ice on the surface of the drink and this was the best way to achieve that effect.  I think he referred to it as the ‘ice rink’ style.

Personally I don’t mind a few ice chips floating in the martini.  Not sure about a full layer of chips though.   And I think you could easily do that with vigorously shaking the Martini as well.  Having said that, the Martini was excellent.

The Perfect Martini Process, V1.0

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, I thought it time to share what I believe works best for me.  Interestingly over the course of the last year 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.

Anyway, here is my process.  Note that I say ‘process’, not recipe.  The recipe is pretty simple:  3 ounces of chilled Bombay Sapphire Gin, a capful of Vermouth, and a twist.  But it is the process of putting that together that really makes the Perfect Martini.

The process starts with advanced preparation.  Put the bottle of Gin and your Martini stem in the freezer and the vermouth in the refrigerator.   IF you use a massive shaker, that should go in the freezer too.  This should be done well before you need to prepare the Martini.  (I just leave my gin in the freezer and vermouth in the fridge permanently.)

Then make the twist.  I always prepare the twist before the martini so that the martini doesn’t wait, and get warm, if I make the twist at the end of the process.  No, the twist will not wilt or dry out in the 90 seconds you make the Martini…. it will be just fine waiting for its grand entry at the end of the process.   This goes for olives, if you prefer them…. spear them before the martini.

Finally we start 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 cap off the Vermouth bottle, fill it with 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 3 ounces of Bombay Sapphire Gin into the shaker.  (That’s 6 tablespoons or a 3/8 cup if you don’t have a jigger.)  Shake the shaker vigorously for about 10 seconds.   10 seconds is all you need to chill the liquid, any more and your just working your biceps, triceps, and delts.

Now, quickly remove the Martini stem from the freezer and pour 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.

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