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Feb 17, 2003 05:25 PM

Best Gin Martinis?

  • d


I am a recent convert to gin martinis.

Before my conversion, my cocktail of choice while dining out was a "Double Tanqueray & Tonic."

However, I began to drift away from this particular drink because there seems to be too many bartenders who don't know how to make them properly.

I have found a great deal of inconsistency in how Double Tanqueray & Tonics are made. I've had many that only tasted like singles. I've had others that tasted like triples -- not that I am complaining.

Okay, back to gin martinis.

About two weeks ago, I was enjoying my second Tanqueray martini. I then asked the bartender: "In your opinion, which brand of gin makes the best gin martini."

He answered confidently and without hesitation: "Bombay. Then Bombay Sapphire."

This was news to me. I had been drinking Tanquray Gin just about all of my drinking life. It has always been my gin of choice. Now I learn that my favorite brand -- Tanqueray -- may not make the best martinis.

Last week, I went back to that same restaurant and asked the bartender to make me a Bombay Sapphire martini. He was right. It was smoother than a Tanquray martini.

For those of you who know your gin and gin martinis, would you agree with this bartender that Tanqueray is at the lower end of the totem pole as far as gin martinis are concerned -- and that Bombay and Bombay Sapphire do make a superior martini?

The bartender also told me that Bombay Sapphire is not the "final word" in gin martinis -- that there are at least a couple of brands that make an even better gin martini.

I told him that I would try one of these "better" brands during my next visit.

Do any of you know of any brand of gin which -- in your opinion -- makes a gin martini superior to one made with Bombay Sapphire?

Another question. For those who are into gin martinis,
which brand would you say makes the best gin martini in the world?

Any and all responses will be appreciated. Thanks in advance.


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  1. LOL! I'm just going to sit here and wait for the multitude of posts protesting the use -- nay the very existence -- of the term "gin martini", which serious martini drinkers believe that to be redundant, since the only real martinis are made with gin.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler
      Fred and Wilma

      Yes, but before they do, let's remember that "Gin" is by strict definition a flavoured "Vodka"

      Tanqueray did very well through marketing and by really pointing up the Juniper before anyone else did. (Of course they then had to out do themselves with their #10)

      The trouble with Bombay Sapphire (And also its appeal) is that it drinks like an overoaked wine. It cannot, then, act as a proper companion to vermouth. There is a sweetness to it that makes it quite cloying on the palate. I know it's hard to think of gin being cloying but Sapphire compared to Boodles, Plymouth or Hendricks, is like drinking milk.

      If you don't have vermouth, you don't have a martini. Nothing wrong with ice cold gin but it ain't a martini.

      I bartended for about 18 years in Manhattan and would always make Martini's with Boodles. This is a gin with all of the botanicals in balance and the proper spice to blend with the aromatics in the vermouth. This is what makes the "Martini" such a brilliant drink. It has great potential. If you like the olive, then just have one nestled in the bottom of the glass. I HATE when some yahoo waiter spears three on a stick. It displaces too much booze and ruins the drink.
      On top of that, if you take a twist, it should never stay in the glass. The barman should 'twist' it to spray the oils in the glass and then toss it. The inner part of the twist, the white pith, is bitter and throws off the aforementioned balance between the botanicals and the aromatics.

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Absolutely agree, Ruth. Vodka does not count when martinis are concerned - only gin does. D.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          I was poised to do exactly that! They are called "vodka martinis" to distinguish them from true martinis.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            A martini is gin! Anything else is , well, not a martini!

          2. There are different gins for different occasions, depending on what you want. If you want a dry, light, delicate martini, I recommend either Bombay Sapphire or Citadelle, a wonderful French gin. I like Tanqueray in my medium Martinis, Tanqueray No. Ten if I really want a lush juniper drink. If I want a martini with a little distinction or body to it, I use Tanqueray Malacca (also very good in G & Ts). It's been a while since I've had either Boodles or Plymouth in one, but I recall both of them being good in different ways. Not a big fan of either Gordon's or Beefeater; I find Beefeater too harsh and Gordon's unremarkable.

            The vermouth used (and proportion thereof) also plays on different elements of the gin used. Noilly Prat is very in-your-face and can overpower the more delicate gins; Martini & Rossi (my preferred) and Cinzano, not so much.

            Enjoy your martini adventures!


            1. At least the poster above saved me from having to do the gin & martini redundancy thing....

              For years the only martini I would drink (& I tried others when I had to or on a lark) was Bombay Sapphire very dry - in fact no vermouth is sometimes ok with me. The absolute best IMHO. Then I was dining at Chef Mavro's in Honolulu last year and lo, they did not have it. Our server suggested I try Citadel Gin and with a pout, I agreed. It is the smoothest, most flavorful gin I have had the pleasure of drinking. Even my SO (who prior to this hated gin & would always order vodka martinis) has started drinking it - and that is saying a lot. If you have not tried it, I urge you to do so. As far as the best gin in the world, well so far I don't have the answer to that but will continue my research!

              1. By far the smoothest martinis are made with Boodles gin and Martini & Rossi dry vermouth. You will avoid any of the issues that seem to have driven most people to vodka.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Steve

                  Of course one of the main issues is the huge difference in calorie intake......

                  1. re: djk

                    Huge difference in calorie intake between what and what? All unsweetened distilled spirits with the same alcohol content have the same calorie count.

                2. Hooh-boy, expect a lot of responses on this one!

                  First, I'd like to point out that if a bartender can't make a good Tanqueray and Tonic, there's _no way_ she'll be able to make a good cocktail. Don't expect switching to Martinis to solve any poor bartender problem.

                  Second, although the gin has a large effect on the flavor of a martini, so does the vermouth, its proportions, and its dilution and chilling. It's very, very possible to find a "Bombay Sapphire Martini" that's exquisite at one bar, and one that's just awful at another bar. If you get a Martini you don't like, don't be too quick to blame the gin...

                  Now, on to the gins. Once you get past store-brand gin, the differences are more in flavor than in quality. Try many different gins. Try them neat. Try them in Martinis. Try them with different proportions of vermouth. Try them with green eggs and ham! :-)

                  I choose my gin and the proportions (and even the garnish - sometimes I want a Gibson instead) depending on the occasion, my mood, the weather, the anticipated meal...

                  Bombay Sapphire is very light and fragrant... I'd even call its flavor (and nose) fragile. It's excellent neat or over crushed ice, and calls for a rather dry Martini. If you mix it as a classic dry martini (2:1 gin:vermouth), a lot of its subtlety will be lost. This should probably be drunk before a meal, not during.

                  Citadelle is like Sapphire, only more so.

                  Tanqueray has a more robust (but maybe simpler) flavor, and can stand up to more vermouth if you are looking for a less dry Martini. In a drier Martini, it can still compete with heartier flavors, like if you're having it with a meal or strongly flavored appetizers.

                  Tanqueray No. 10 is wonderful, and has much "juicier" flavor than other gins. It's robust enough for a lot of vermouth, but I think its flavor is special enough to be highlighted with a drier Martini.

                  Other gins are worth trying, too. Some are quite different (Tanqueray Malacca), and most fall somewhere between Tanqueray and Sapphire with a balance of robust juniper and fragrant botanicals.

                  One final comment - if you don't already, you should definitely get a mixing glass, jigger, bar spoon, strainer, and cocktail glass and make some yourself. It's the only way to experiment with different ingredients and proportions and know for certain what you're getting. The things you learn will give you a great background for experiencing Martinis in bars.