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Martini taste-test, anyone?

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So I'm going to be mixing some martinis for friends soon, and we want to do a taste-test of different martini possibilities. I'm going to get Plymouth as the classic, Platonic ideal of a gin for martinis, and we were thinking of balancing it with Hendricks on the floral side and Junípero on the juniper side.

The Platonic martini would be this:

4 parts Plymouth
1 part vermouth (Vya Extra Dry if I can find it, or Noilly Prat)
*possibly* a dash of orange bitters
stirred until very cold
sprayed with a twist of lemon (but not inserted into the drink)

What recipes would you recommend for the Hendricks and Junípero to bring out their unique qualities? We could try other garnishes, other vermouths, other ratios.

With Hendricks, I like this:

5 parts Hendricks
2 parts Noilly Prat
stirred until very cold
garnished with a slice of cucumber

but was wondering what it would be like with, say, Carpano Antica.

I'm a little unsure of how to mix with the Junípero, which I personally don't like all that much but others do.

Are there other gins you'd suggest to round it out? (Not Old Raj--I'm not spending that much!)

Thanks!

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  1. I love Plymouth, but usually drink it on the rocks. I make my martinis with a London Dry Gin. Never had Junipero, but maybe its more that style.

    1. Carpano Antica Formula is a sweet vermouth, not something I'd mix with gin, though it is a spectacular product by itself, and great with cocktails that call for sweet vermouth.

      I too prefer Plymouth in Martinis, though Hendricks, Bombay Extra Dry (not Sapphire, which I dislike), and plain old Gordon's London Dry are also on my bar. Among domestic gins, I recently came across one called New Amsterdam, which has a mild, citrus-tinged, Tanqueray Ten-like quality -- interesting, but not my favorite for this cocktail. I'm still waiting to find Bluecoat, from PA, about which I've read good things, in Boston.

      For Martinis, I favor dry vermouths from France, like Noilly Prat and Boissiere to Italian makers, whose sweet vermouths I tend to prefer. Other vermouth options you should consider include Vya Extra Dry, a wonderful artisanal vermouth from the Quady winery in Madera, CA (their Sweet is also outstanding); Lillet Blanc (not quite vermouth, but French, white, fortified, and aromatized); and Martini & Rossi Bianco (a rather different and harder-to-find product than their Extra Dry, more highly aromatized, with a distinct vanilla note). I've tried Dubonnet Blanc in Martinis, too, but can't recommend it.

      I'm a big fan of orange bitters in my Martinis. Regan's, Fee Brothers, and Stirrings Blood Orange aren't too hard to find, and all have their virtues (I've listed them in order from bitterest to sweetest). I'm still on the lookout for a German maker of orange bitters called The Bitter Truth. I've sampled cocktails made from Angostura Orange (smuggled from the UK), but it's not distributed in the USA yet.

      My favored recipe is the so-called Nick and Nora Charles Martini, for the 3:1 gin/vermouth ratio favored by Martini drinkers in the 1930s. I think 4:1 also works well, and is about as dry as I like to go.

      I stir if the drink includes bitters, otherwise, I shake. Garnishes vary with my fancy, but I tend to prefer a wide shaving of lemon peel or a classic cocktail olive (i.e., unstuffed).

      1. Vya Extra Dry is so nice that I make my Martinis 2:1 Plymouth:Vya, with one drop Regan's orange bitters, garnish with a lemon twist.

        Hendrick's is the one subtly-flavored gin that benefits from a very slight addition of vermouth in a Martini, IMO. Just an ice rinse or maybe 6:1, garnish with cucumber, then the rose and cucumber notes are really nice. Vya might work best, then maybe you could use a little more vermouth. I have been meaning to try one with a dash of rosewater.

        I don't really like Junipero. It has sort of a sweet thing going on, I would use Noilly Prat with it and bitters, maybe 4:1.

        Using Carpano Antica makes a sweet Martini, it should be delicious but certainly a different beast. You might even try Vya sweet vermouth...I haven't had much luck using that in cocktails yet, it has such a different character than Italian vermouths.

        1 Reply
        1. re: kenito799

          I should clarify: I routinely mix sweet vermouth with gin in Negronis (with the requisite Campari), but am not a fan of the Sweet Martini.

        2. j. boissiere vermouth instead of noilly prat