To most bar goers now, the martini is generic for vodka served up in a cocktail glass, or maybe even some flavored vodka concoction like a chocolotini or Appletini. But that’s not how the martini got its start. In the late 19th century up until at least the 1960s, the martini was a gin drink.
Many theories exist as to exactly how the martini was invented, exactly what it had in it, and who exactly created it, but all seem to miss complete conviction. We do know that right around the time the martini was established in a form more recognizable today (late 19th century), a drink existed known as The Martinez Cocktail: an interesting cocktail we’ll look at today.
Few drinks have persisted with the same voracity and fortitude as the martini and yet changed so much in meaning for each subsequent generation of young drinkers. Although less popular now, for many of our parents (or maybe grandparents) growing up, the Martini had dry vermouth in it. Dry vermouth was invented by Joseph Noilly in 1813 – a mixture of 20 herbs and spices macerated into the white wine for 3 weeks and aged in small oak casks exposed to the Mediterranean sun for 12 months.
The strong character of dry vermouth needs greater care in its use and storage behind a bar. Yet, after prohibition ended in 1933, the country found itself at a loss for knowledgeable purveyors of fine spirits and skilled artisans of the bar craft. Bar culture as we knew it had inexorably changed as respectable women were now frequent bar goers and our palates had shifted into a world of cocktails dominated by sugar and fruit juice which were needed for the 13 years of prohibition to mask the low quality black market spirit readily available.
Consequently, vermouth was now let to become stale as it lingered unrefrigerated behind the lay-bar as the knowledge of how to balance its complex nature was lost. Drinkers called for less and less vermouth in their martinis and recipes for the martini shrank in their use of vermouth as we moved further away from the end of prohibition. To what is now known as the dry martini, which calls for a whisper of dry vermouth, if even that.
From its early origins up to prohibition, the martini in America had much more dry vermouth in it. Indeed, since the rest of the world did not experience prohibition, outside the U.S. the martini to this day is still conceived of as heavily saturated with dry vermouth. In fact, if you ask for a martini in Paris today, chances are that you’ll get a drink which is 100% dry vermouth.
The first use of gin and vermouth together, as far as anyone can tell, was in a newspaper article which called to some confusion as to whether a manhattan was to use gin or whisky. This isn’t as crazy as you might think since gin’s roots in Holland were to use large portions of malted barley as a base to create the alcohol. In fact, the first published recipe for The Martinez, which many credit as appearing in O.H. Byron’s 1884 book The Modern Bartender, called for Genever, the very style of gin from Holland that used a malt heavy base.
Whether or not The Martinez was simply a variation of the manhattan, or serves as the root of what we now know as the martini, the person most often credited with its invention is Jerry Thomas. The man known as “the Professor” and the person who stylized our modern conception of the bartender as a persona and bartending as a profession, Jerry is famous for writing the first compendium dedicated to mixing drinks called The Bon Vivant’s Companion whose first edition appeared in 1862.
The Martinez calls for gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino cherry liqueur, and bitters. But today we’re making the Mar-tea-nez, a cocktail Beefeater created incorporating use of real tea to showcase its new product Beefeater 24. As gin makers use more exotic and experimental botanicals to flavor their gins, Beefeater, the only major producer of London Gin actually made in London, creates Beefeater 24, a super high end gin which uses tea leaves, among other botanicals, as a flavoring agent.
Desmond Payne, master distiller at Beefeater and creator of 24, was inspired by James Burrough, the father of Beefeater who was actually a tea merchant in the 19th century. Here is our recipe for The Mar-tea-nez using the super premium teas of Mighty Leaf which stands as our contribution honoring James Burrough’s roots in the world of tea and Beefeater 24s recognition of tea’s remarkable qualities.
1¼ oz Beefeater 24 gin
1¼ oz Sweet Vermouth (alt. Dubonnet or Lillet Rouge)
1 bar-spoon maraschino liqueur (i.e. Luxardo brand)
1 dash Angostura Aromatic bitters
1 Mighty Leaf Organic Earl Grey Tea Pouch
Add all ingredients into a small pot and bring to a boil. Steep the Mighty Leaf Organic Earl Grey Tea Pouch into ingredients for 4 minutes; remove Tea Pouch and let cool (for a more intense tea flavor let cool with Tea Pouch). Transfer ingredients (without Tea Pouch) into a mixing glass. Stir well over ice. Strain in to a martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.