Thursday 14 February 2019

Serious Martinis

So while the DIY booze fumes in the darkness (down from one hectic belch every second to a lethargic burp a minute) I decide to try out the pro cocktail making set my mixologist son gave me for Christmas. At the time, he handed it over with many stern injunctions as to the correct use of the various bits and which cocktails were best made with such uncompromising tools. I tried to retain this information but a) I have trouble remembering, among other things, who was The Beatles' producer, so it's pretty much in one ear these days and b) the only drink I really like out of all the confections open to me is a Dry Martini, or its equivalent, a Gin and French, veering towards the latter on account of a liking for French vermouths.

That said, it is a wonderful piece of kit. The mixing vessel is made of an incredibly durable glass with a lattice pattern cut into it for traction; you can clap the stainless steel strainer over the mouth of the vessel and pour single-handed, with one of those eye-boggling metre-long cascades from mixer to glass; there is a long-handled spoon with a special twist in the stem so that, with the correct grip, you can stir the ingredients in the latticed vessel without having to do anything more than merely shift your hand in a gentle sideways to-and-fro; there's is a measure with two sizes built in; there's even a vicious peeler for lemons and other fruit. Put together it has a purposeful solidity that you only find in motor cars from the 1950's or Joseph Conrad's prose.

And what do you know? Some people have come to stay with us and I am going to lay a Martini/Gin and French on them, because they don't have to try and get home afterwards. The gin is Tanqueray; the vermouth, Dolin; the extras are ice and a lemon twist. My son also gave me a lot of advice about how, exactly, to combine the twist with the contents of the glass and indeed, the glass itself (rubbing it around the rim so that the lemon zest reaches the drinker's nose a fraction of a second before the gin fumes; even applying it to the stem of the Martini glass so that the drinker's fingers, too, acquire a hint of playfulness) so I do my best. Holding the long-stemmed spoon between middle and third fingers in the approved style is weirdly satisfying, and, yes, the spoon does rotate unhurriedly, combining iced meltwater, gin and vermouth into a glistening, fragrant liquor, the scent of booze rising deliciously.

I take a couple of tastes to check for strength and quality then pour the precious stuff into some fabulous Martini glasses, also gifted to us and as stylish as the Empire State Building. I do my thing with the lemon twists. It's a kind of perfection - except, have I made enough? The Gin and French looks a tiny bit lost in the conical heaven of the glassware. I've used a single big measure of gin per person, plus a measure of Dolin in a four-to-one ratio. It tastes pretty damn good, but should I have doubled up the amounts? Only snag with that is, if you do get outside a really brimming glassful of basically gin, you, or at least I and people like me, find that speech is a thing of the past and that one's hands have turned into factory reject hands, useful only for pointing and spilling. Answer is obviously to go for 1½ measures of gin per person with French to match. But it doesn't occur to me in time.

As it is we make the most of our Gin and Frenches; getting the benefit without quite getting the full effect. A mood of very slight constraint descends upon us. It's possible that what everyone wanted, in the final analysis, was to get completely shitfaced - and this liberation, a liberation that only a drink like a Gin and French can provide, has been denied us. From which I think I take away the understanding that if I'm going to use my fabulous Martini kit in the future, I'm going to have to step up and make my drinks rhino-stoppingly strong. Otherwise the drama implicit in the act of taking out a cocktail mixer can never be fully realised; the intention is never properly consummated. And we all know what that leads to.


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