November already! Hard to believe, but here we are mere weeks from the turkey-and-pie marathon known as Thanksgiving. Though what most of us engage in around Thanksgiving is certainly entertaining, it is a fair bit different from the sort of entertaining we’re inclined to do around the Christmas holidays. Judging by my own family, most of the drinking is casual—the real stars of Thanksgiving are food and football, so as long as the cocktails (and beer) are good, no one pays much attention. To aid everyone in making sure the drinks are simple and delicious, this month we’re covering cocktails that play nicely with food. This week we’re mixing aperitifs for your preprandial enjoyment; next week we’ll cover cocktails that can stand up to big portions and rich dishes; and finally, the week of Thanksgiving, we’ll have some digestif cocktails to settle the stomach and ease everyone into postprandial nap time.
I have had this post kicking around in my head for some time. You see, I am a Martini drinker—I like an old-fashioned 1:1 gin Martini, built around quality vermouth, orange bitters and a twist of lemon. It’s timeless, elegant and absolutely delightful. It allows for infinite variations, because every gin has its own particular flavor and the simplicity of the drink showcases the nuances of flavor brilliantly. I’m sure this sounds terrifying to those of you who are timid about gin or vermouth, but I can assure you that the essence of this cocktail is quality; a well-crafted gin, flavorful vermouth and good orange bitters are absolutely necessary to make a great Martini, and this is the best version I have hit upon.
Normally I am not particular about which specific brands of liquor need to be used in cocktail. One of the most enjoyable elements of cocktailing is playing with different brands and styles of liquor to find what works where, so I try not to demand specific brands in recipes unless it is necessary. In this cocktail, it is absolutely necessary. To make this Martini, you must use Citadelle Réserve gin and Dolin Blanc vermouth. No substitutions. No excuses. No surrender.
1½ oz Citadelle Réserve gin
1½ oz Dolin Blanc vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura Orange bitters (any good-quality orange bitters will work here)
Fill a mixing glass with ice and add the gin, vermouth and bitters. Stir until the glass is frosted and the drink is very cold, a minute or so. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, expel a bit of lemon oil from the peel over the top of the drink and gently rub the lip of the glass with the lemon twist. Garnish with the twist and serve.
Yes, I know that is a lot of gin and a lot of vermouth, more than is commonly seen in Martini recipes. Everyone has their own preference for how they take a Martini, and my personal preference is for the very old-fashioned 1:1 style. You can fudge this a bit and use less vermouth if that’s your preference, but you should really try it this way just once. The wonderful thing about this particular version is the sweetness—Citadelle Réserve is an aged gin released in vintage batches each year with a unique flavor all its own that stands out beautifully up against the lightly sweet Dolin Blanc. The orange bitters add a bit more depth and round out the edges, while the lemon adds this gorgeous brightness to the whole thing with the zing of citrus wafting around the glass like an exclamation point. I don’t know how many more ways I can gush about this drink, other than to say that one of these before dinner is the best note I can think of to start a meal. ¡Salud!