Shaking up the martini world
ASPEN The martini is a purist’s delight – a mix of gin, dry white vermouth and ice, maybe an olive, then shaken or stirred to melt the ice and dilute the drink just so. The substitution of vodka was permissible, but it absolutely had to be served in the signature martini glass with a signature shape.Martini purists should know that their beloved creation is not on as firm a foundation as they think. The martini derives from the Martinez, which consisted of Old Tom gin – a sweetened variant of the spirit – and an extra part of vermouth.”It was not exactly what we think of as a martini today,” observed Kim Haasarud, a Los Angeles-based “cocktail chef” whose company, Liquid Architecture, creates specialty drink recipes for restaurants, liquor companies and high-end parties.
Given that the history of the martini isn’t quite as pure as the stereotypical suit-and-tie businessman out on a long lunch might imagine, Haasarud has no qualms about messing with the formula. Haasarud’s new book puts a big twist on the traditional martini. Make that numerous twists: Her “101 Martinis” (Wiley) – which follows last year’s “101 Margaritas” – features recipes for such iconoclastic drinks as the peach granita martini, with peach schnapps and a peach puree/simple syrup/lemon juice blend called granita; and a candy cane martini, with vanilla vodka, white crème de cacao and peppermint schnapps. There are dessert martinis such as the tiramisu martini, featuring an egg, Kahlúa and espresso.Haasarud will sign copies of the book – and serve samples of No. 28, the Sangritini (citrus slices, orange vodka, Cointreau, inexpensive Merlot and pineapple juice – from 4-6 p.m. Friday at Explore Booksellers.The Lemon Drop tequini (tequila, lemon juice, simple syrup) and the blue Hawaiian (coconut rum, pineapple juice, blue curaçao) sound more like boat drinks that martinis. And Haasarud notes, they don’t taste much like the classic gin martini (No. 1 in the book, with four ingredients – lemon peel, vermouth, olives and gin, although the first three are all optional). Blame Carrie Bradshaw and her “Sex and the City” pals, with their obligatory Cosmopolitan (No. 12, with cranberry juice, citrus vodka, Cointreau and lime juice).
“Martinis started to explode in the early ’90s,” said Haasarud, who is also mixing cocktails for several Food & Wine Classic-related parties this weekend. “‘Sex and the City’ put the Cosmopolitan on the map – a pink martini, which even men drank.”Haasarud believes the popularity helped the martini: “It gave people a lot of creative license to think outside the box,” she said. There was a downside: “People put a lot of crappy ingredients,” Haasarud said. That violated her first rule of cocktailing: the need to use fresh ingredients and top-shelf spirits.Haasarud points out that, at least since the invention of the vodka martini, the drink has not been defined by the spirit, but by the glassware.
The broadening of the martini parameters allows Haasarud to indulge one of her passions, pairing cocktails with food. The classic martini didn’t offer too many options. But if a martini can have tequila, or citrus juice, or chocolate, it can be matched to almost any dish. In fact, “101 Martinis” has general recommendations accompanying most of the drink recipes. (The roasted ginger martini goes well with spicy foods.)Haasarud says she also loves the classic recipe. And, of course, she has some advice for martini drinkers: one of the most important elements is in the shaking (or stirring). If shaken, give it a 10-second shake; if stirred, go at least 30 seconds. That will dilute the drink to an ideal of 25 percent water.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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