Friday Happy Hour: The Martinez

The Martini and the Manhattan, at first glance, don’t seem to have a lot in common except for their use of vermouth.  The Martini is dry and tangy; the Manhattan is sweet and spicy.  But they may share a common ancestor, the Martinez, a fantastic drink that shares some traits of the other two but which stands apart from both.  For a long time, the Martinez was out of reach, but thanks to the reproduction and importation of missing ingredients, we can once again enjoy this previously-lost drink.

Read below for the full recipe!

The Martinez

2 oz Old Tom Gin or Genever
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
4 Dashes Orange Bitters

Combine the ingredients with ice, stir well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy.

Take a sip of a Martinez and you’ll see why this is a good bet for the original version of two very dissimilar drinks.  It combines the rich juniper and other botanicals of gin with the sweetness of the Italian Vermouth and almond sweetness of the liqueur.  The Martinez dates back (maybe? probably? it’s not really clear) to the 1860s, a time when Americans liked their drinks a lot sweeter than they did just a short time later, but it’s more rich than sweet, with a malty roundness that balances the sugar nicely.

 

The Martinez was first made with Old Tom Gin, the precursor to modern English dry gin.  Until the 1890s, this is what people were drinking when they were drinking gin: sweeter and with more complex botanical flavors than modern dry gin, with just a hint of malt.  Old Tom was unavailable for a long time, but it’s being manufactured again.  I’ve been enjoying a bottle of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, imported by my favorite, Haus Alpenz.

But I really love my Martinez with Genever, also (confusingly) called Jenever, Genièvre, Dutch or Holland Gin, and a few other names.  Genever is the oldest form of gin, and it’s still made this way in the Netherlands, Belgium, and a handful of other places (and being imported again!).  Unlike dry gin, which starts life as neutral spirits that are redistilled with botanicals, Genever adds the botanical flavors to malted grain alcohol (“malt wine”), which creates a spirit that is sharp but sweet, with gin’s familiar juniper flavors but a maltiness that makes it almost as much a whiskey as a gin.  In other words, it’s delicious.  I’m a fan of Bols Genever, which is sweeter and sharper than some others that are malty and smooth and great in their own right.  Play around!

Is the Martinez really the origin of two such different drinks?  The history of cocktails is a little fuzzy; most mixologists were probably too busy making and drinking their drinks to write down their stories, and most people involved were probably a little too tipsy to remember things clearly anyway.  So it’s not entirely clear where these drinks came from, but it’s as good an explanation as any.

Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper

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