Julie H. writes in to ask:
My brother recently turned 50 and we're having him and his partner over for dinner. I'd like to offer them some cool potent potable at this gala, yet casual, event.They mostly order dry martinis when we're out, but they love trying new things. Mostly they're not into sweet, but my brother occasionally orders Manhattans.
I have a drink to suggest: the Martinez. Depending on who you listen to, the Martinez is either the original Martini, a variation on the Manhattan -- or both. It was created in the late-19th century, maybe in California. The town of Martinez, CA likes to claim the drink was named after it, but there's no real evidence to support that. It was possibly invented by the great Jerry Thomas, the author of the world's first cocktail book, but the truth is nobody really knows.
You can make a Martinez
with London dry gin (the standard gin of today, like Tanqueray or
Beefeater), but originally it was made with Old Tom gin, a sweeter
gin that was very popular back in the day.
I, however, like to make them with genever. Genever (sometimes known as "Holland gin") was the original gin produced in the Netherlands before it was adopted by the English and adapted into their own style (London dry).
Genever has many of the same botanical flavors as London dry gin (juniper, etc.) but it is distilled at least partially from malt wine. It tastes somewhat similar to regular gin, due to the presence of the botanicals, but the malt gives it a grainy taste that more closely resembles whiskey. It has a rich flavor, along with a satiny mouthfeel that ordinary gin lacks.
I find it a very interesting spirit, because it's different from what most people are used to drinking. For many, many years it wasn't available in the U.S., but Bols recently created a new version that they now import to the U.S. Genever is a hip spirit, the kind of thing we cocktail geeks like to drink -- but I think anyone who likes gin will love it.
Here's the recipe:
Martinez (Genever Variant)
2 oz Bols Genever
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters or Orange Bitters
Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.Garnish with a lemon or orange twist.
This is sweeter than a Dry Martini, but
not too sweet. (At least, it's not too sweet in my opinion. Although
I should say that I do tend to like my drinks on the sweeter side.)
About the same as a Manhattan, I guess.
Typically the Martinez is made with equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, but I reduced the amount of vermouth in this recipe to make it less sweet. If you want to get fancy you can jazz it up with a small amount -- maybe 1/4 oz -- of orange curaçao or maraschino liqueur (which is a liqueur made from Maraska cherries, NOT the stuff that maraschino cherries come in). But that would require you to buy more booze, so you might not want to go that way.
Genever can also be used to make a Genever Old Fashioned, a Holland House, a Gin Fix, an Improved Gin Cocktail, or even a Tom Collins.