On the surface of it, the question of ‘what’s a Martinez’ seems pretty self-explanatory; after all, you can walk into any good bar, order one and be pretty confident about what you’ll get in your glass. The chances are you’ll get a lot of sweet vermouth, a little bit of gin, a splash of maraschino and a dash or two of bitters. Occasionally there might be a bit more gin and a little less vermouth, or you might get Boker’s bitters or orange bitters; you might even get a splash of curacao instead of maraschino, but all in all you’re likely to receive a sweet vermouth and gin cocktail, with a splash of liqueur and a dose of bitters.
Over the years there has been much debate about the intertwined history of the Martinez cocktail and the Martini, with speculation about whether the Martinez might be the forefather of the Martini or, if in fact they were once the same drink, known by similar names but got confused over the years. The truth is we’re never likely to know, but somewhere along the way the two drinks have diverged to become completely different cocktails. It’s now accepted that the Martini is made with dry vermouth and the Martinez with sweet, the former has no liqueur added but the latter is usually enriched with a barspoon of maraschino. The Martini is heavy on gin, with vermouth playing a supporting role, whereas the Martinez is a vermouth-led cocktail. In other words they are only connected in as much as that they are in the broad family of gin and vermouth based drinks.
I have just returned from my annual Christmas and New Year escape. You see unlike many people I don’t particularly enjoy the ‘festive’ season so I normally grab a group of like-minded individuals and head for the hills. As well as being a keen imbiber I also enjoy mountain biking, so a trip to deepest darkest Wales for a week of playing in the mud and snow up the side of a mountain always cheers me up, while others sit watching TV re-runs and eating Turkey.
This year was no exception, but where as I usually accept a week of drinking beer in place of Manhattans, this year I decided no compromise would be allowed. Here’s my simple philosophy… ‘there is no excuse not to drink cocktails’. No matter where you are or what you are doing, cocktails enhance the occasion, so why compromise?
So with that in mind I set about planning which bottles should go to Wales, with the obvious dilemma of taking enough variety for 8 days drinking, whilst still being able to fit everything else into the car! I would have loved to have been able to take the entire 'drinking room' collection with me, but practicality forced me to dig deep and cull my packing to no more than a couple of boxes, covering spirits, syrups, bitters, tools and fruit. A real challenge!
I also decided that I should provide a cocktail list for my fellow mountain bikers, offering a broad range of drinks to suit their varied tastes. This made life both easier and harder; at least I could narrow down the list of ingredients to cover a small selection of drinks… but it also meant I had to bring enough ingredients to cover the whole range of drinks, not just the drinks I like best… so much for a bottle of rum, a bottle of bourbon and a bottle of Antica Formula vermouth!