I recall many a family gathering where my dad generously played bartender, serving up orders from my uncle's Old Fashioned to my sister-in-law's customary glass of Chardonnay. With mom on food patrol, dad declares drinks his realm; before you even ask for it, you can count on him to whisk your empty glass away and return with a refill.
With Father's Day this Sunday, June 15, now's the perfect time to toast my beloved family barman and raise a glass to fathers everywhere. And nothing says, "Thanks, Dad!" like a good martini. So here are our guidelines for this old standby, as well as a tried and true recipe, courtesy of contributing editor Paul Clarke from his site, Cocktail Chronicles.
Imbibe's Tips for a Perfect Martini
- Chill out. A warm martini is no one's friend. Chill your cocktail glass with ice until you're ready to pour your cocktail. And whether you shake or stir (we won't go there), be sure to use plenty of ice.
- Go with gin. We know some people love their vodka martinis, but we think gin offers the right flavor and complexity for this classic cocktail. Try some of the top performers from the gin tasting in our Jan/Feb 2007 issue, like Old Raj Dry Gin.
- Splurge on the good stuff. There are only three ingredients in a martini, so be sure they're all up to snuff. Along with top-shelf gin, use a top-quality vermouth—it will make a huge difference. We like Vya a lot, and Noilly Pratt is always a good option too.
- Bitters make it better. Orange bitters add just the right balance to a classic martini, but not all orange bitters are the same, so play around with the one you like the best. You can't go wrong with Fee Brothers or Regan’s, and look out for the new Angostura orange bitters, which we're very excited about!
- Ditch the olives! There, we said it. Lemon twists are the way to go for a great martini. Lemon perfectly complements the citrus and botanical notes of gin and vermouth; olives tend to compete more with those nuances (they can work better if you're using vodka).
- Trust your palate. If you try one recipe and it doesn't appeal to you, play with the ratios (more or less vermouth, for example). Robert Hess' online essay, The Perfect Martini offers a variety of recipes and leaves it up to you decide on your preferred proportions. As with all imbibing, it's about what you like—your palate will lead you to your own version of perfect. That said, here's a recipe to start with:
Martini (Savoy Cocktail Book style)
2 oz. gin
1 oz. fresh dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Tools: mixing glass
Stir ingredients briskly with ice, then strain into a chilled glass. Twist a small strip of lemon peel over the drink. You may drop it in, if you prefer.
And if you're dad's not nearby, send him a nice glass to enjoy his next martini.