Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Page 43

From its Prohibition-era origins, the classic gin martini has developed
into a drink that takes many forms, and the City of London Distillery
has developed a range of gins to suit
or the martini drinker, the following
piece of information is vital if you
need to deploy any conversational
armoury to defend your adoration
of the world’s greatest cocktail:
Not only was the martini the favourite drink
of John D. Rockefeller, the US oil billionaire and
philanthropist, but he kept on drinking it right
until his death at the age of 97. Proof indeed
that the martini’s reputation as a tipple exuding
timelessness, wealth and glamour is fully earned.
The origins of the martini are as cloudy as
a ‘dirty’ variant with a little too much olive juice.
Did it evolve from the ‘Martinez Special’, a
concoction brewed up in Martinez, California
during the Gold Rush, to celebrate a
prospector’s big find? Or was it named after the
eponymous brand of vermouth that was used
in early versions of the cocktail?
Both are plausible tales. What’s certain is that
today’s drinkers would find early, Prohibition-era
versions of the martini revolting. These, after
all, were the days of dubious bathtub gins and
a propensity to mix a gin-to-vermouth ratio
of half-and-half. Today’s martinis have just the
lightest dash of vermouth.
As gin quality improved after Prohibition was
repealed, America entered the golden age of
the dry martini – the ‘three martini lunch’ was
its apotheosis, as later immortalised on
television by Don Draper and co in Mad Men.
In the UK, gin was on the wane. Mostly
drunk neat since the days it was immortalised
in the prints and paintings of 18th-century artist
William Hogarth, who depicted London’s
elaborate gin palaces, its status as a sophisticated
cocktail staple wasn’t helped by the fact that
vermouth, made on the Continent, was
unavailable during the Second World War.
“The only way to make a martini is with
ice-cold gin,” said Winston Churchill, “and a bow
in the direction of France.”
In 2012, the first gin distillery to open in the
Square Mile in nearly two centuries was
founded – The City of London Distillery, which
has already won plaudits for its many different
types of gin. But according to the firm’s brand
ambassador, Joe Brayford, there’s another
challenge that they’re attempting to conquer:
“For us, the biggest thing we want to do is help
to demystify the martini a little bit,” he says. “For
people who drink martini a lot, it can be easy to
get stuck in one way of drinking it, and for
people who have never tried one, it can be a
slightly daunting since it has just two ingredients
and a lot of gin! This is why we want to show
how diverse and exciting the martini can be.”
The City of London Distillery’s gin varieties
all have their uses in a plethora of modern
martini creations. The Square Mile variety has
a punch of juniper with plenty of peppery spice
and bright citrus, while the Christopher Wren
is more woody and robust. The new Six Bells
is a compellingly fresh and zesty creation.
Each City of London gin is suited to different
interpretations of the martini, a drink which,
despite having only two core ingredients, has
managed to evolve into an altogether more
complex and nuanced cocktail.
Legendary novelist Ernest Hemingway,
a committed fan of the dry martini, knew what
he was writing about when his protagonist
Frederic Henry expressed his appreciation for
the drink in A Farewell to Arms: “I had never
tasted anything so cool and clean. They made
me feel civilised.”
Thanks to City of London Distillery, that
civility is alive and well, with a bright future.

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