1In the beginning there was rye and sweet vermouth.
2And the cocktail was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the Barkeep. And the Spirit of Bartender moved upon the face of the firewaters.
3And Bartenders said, Let there be Manhattan: and there was Manhattan.
4And Bartenders drank the Manhattan, and it was good; yet rye metamorphosized into gin.
Thus and so, the Martinez Cocktail was created. Forgoing the weird biblical lampoonery, the point I am trying to make is that the Martinez was an evolution of the Manhattan. By the 1880s, sweet vermouth had demonstrated its phenomenal compatibility with whiskey. Bartenders, not being ones to sit around with their thumbs up their asses, began experimenting with the other spirits they had lying around the bar. Vermouth worked with whiskey, why couldn’t it work with, say… gin? And so, the whistle was blown, whiskey hit the showers, and gin was taken off the bench and put into play with staggering results.
Who was the first to marry gin and vermouth? That is a question that has befuddled many a cocktail historian and inquisitive bartender alike. Pursuant to David Wondrich’s thorough research and subsequent findings – which are presented in Appendix III of “Imbibe!” – there are two theories worth consideration:
The cocktail was created by none other than Jerry Thomas at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco for a traveller that was passing through on route to Martinez, CA in search of gold in them hills – extremely unlikely.
Julio Richelieu, proprietor and bartender of a bar on Ferry St. in Martinez, CA created the drink in the mid-1870s as change for a gold nugget a miner gave him in return for a bottle of whiskey – quite improbable.
Other tall tales with little accompanying evidence:
- Named after the popular Italian vermouth, Martini & Rossi
- Named after Martini di Arma di Taggia, a bartender at Knickerbocker Hotel, NY, who purportedly created the drink
So who knows. What is for certain is that the first known published recipe exists in The Modern Bartenders’ Guide, by O.H. Byron, published in 1884.
The original recipe calls for Old Tom Gin. Now, up until very recently Old Tom Gin had vanished from the modern drinkscape. Only in the past couple years has the spirit been revived by Ransom in Oregon and Hayman out of the UK. As you might have suspected, I’ve contact the fine people at the LCBO with regards to the disconcerting absence of Old Tom on their shelves. They had this to say:
“…the LCBO will be re listing the Hayman’s Old Tom Gin it will have a different product code 358218. The product however is still in a new item status and will have to go through LCBO lab testing before it gets released. This can take from 2-4 weeks.”
- 1½ oz. Bols Genever
- 1½ oz. Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
- ¼ oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
- 2 dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Boker’s bitters
Add everything to your mixing glass – I like to start at the bottom and work my way up: bitters, liqueurs, then base spirit(s) – along with enough ice to fill the glass to about ¾ full. Stir for about 30 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass of your choosing. Garnish at your peril (a lemon twist, if you insist).
Wondrich opines that Genever mixes poorly with vermouth; however, I feel that the Bols and Carpano work lovely together. He goes on to suggest that, in the absence of Old Tom, one could add a ½ oz. of gum syrup to a 750 mL bottle of London Dry (e.g. Tanqueray) to approximate the texture and sweetness of the old school gin (this equates to a mere ¼ tsp. of syrup to adequately sweeten 1½ oz. of gin if you wanted to approximate Old Tom à la minute).
This is a complex, albeit sweet, cocktail. If you’re not a fan of sweet cocktails, fear not – it’s far from saccharine. The maltiness of the genever blends well with the complex sweet and herbaceous notes of vermouth to produce something that tastes somewhere between a Manhattan and a Martini. Which is fitting, I suppose, given that this drink represents the link between these two icons of the cocktail world.
The Martinez is very sensitive to input variables, i.e. which gin and sweet vermouth you select. A Martinez made with a London Dry gin and Dolin Rouge vermouth would be expected to taste quite different than the drink featured in this post. The same can be said for one made with Old Tom gin and Punt e Mes or Tanqueray Malacca gin and Cinzano – you get the idea. A figurative goldmine of possibilities, if you will.
“There’s gold in them thar hills… there’s millions in it.“