Blast from the Past: The Ultimate “Mad Men” Martini



The return of Mad Men on April 7 seems like a fine excuse to revive this post, which originally ran on March 18, 2012. A retro post about a retro show – Cheers!

Yes — I am one of those geeks counting the days until Mad Men returns (7 days left!). So I was happy to receive a copy of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, which is refreshing my memory about seasons past and teaching me a few new culinary history tidbits.

At first, I couldn’t decide which drink to make. The 21 Club’s version of the classic Bloody Mary? The campy Blue Hawaii? In the end, I decided simplicity was best, and opted for the sleek, streamlined Martini. (It didn’t hurt that I have a shiny new bottle of Imbue vermouth in my fridge.)

[A quick aside:  Ever try to photograph a Martini? They might taste crisp and refreshing, but they look like dullsville on film. My husband gets 99% of the credit for the photo above. Hey, I made the drink!]

Here’s the recipe from the book, by way of New York’s legendary Grand Central Oyster Bar. Although I have oversized glasses and thus made mine a double, the Oyster Bar likely wouldn’t approve. According to the book, the restaurant recommends using small martini glasses, because the martini gets too warm in a larger glass.


Courtesy of The Grand Central Oyster Bar, New York, NY

Note:  Serve in a small martini glass and put leftovers in a rocks glass.

1/8 ounce dry vermouth

2 1/2 ounces gin

1. Fill a martini glass with water and large ice cubes (enough to keep it cold while mixing drink).

2. Pour vermouth and gin into a mixing glass and stir.

3. Pour ice and water out of martini glass. Pour martini from mixing glass into martini glass.

Source: “The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook” by Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin.

Three things I’ve learned about…Non-London Dry Gin

Ready for Gin & Tonic season?  The April 2012 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine will include (among other things) my review column on Non London Dry Style Gin!  You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio.  Here’s what I learned:

1. New gins are coming to market in leaps and bounds. Long after I’d filed my review copy, I still continued to hear about new and intriguing gins, and eventually persuaded WE’s editors to run a story on “New Generation Gins.” Now…will we find enough drinkers to consume all of these gins? I’m skeptical, since the gin market runs far behind vodka, whiskey, and many other spirits in terms of market share. But its devotees are passionate, including the mixology community, so I’m hopeful.

2. Those damn botanicals again. As with other gin categories, botanicals (those natural “flavorings” like herbs and spices) figured into the mix. My favorite finding: Edinburgh Gin includes milk thistle among its botanicals. This is the same botanical that Elana Effrat, aka @theboozemuse, advised me to take before Tales of the Cocktail last year. As a hangover preventative! Nothing like having a hangover cure in your booze, is there?

3. There’s a fine line between gins considered “London Dry” and not. When I covered London Dry style gin last year, the first order of business was to figure out what the heck “London Dry style” meant. Essentially, it boiled down to juniper as the dominant botanical — and that was what differentiated it from the sweeter Old Tom style, the stronger-flavored Plymouth style, flavored/infused gins, aged “golden gins,” and Dutch genevers/jenevers.  

But really, where is the line of demarcation? A number of the Non London Dry gins still had a good dose of juniper, though overall they were more full-bodied, robust, and in some cases sweeter than traditional London Drys.

If you have a favorite gin (or gin cocktail!) I’d love to hear about it. Personally, I made a lot of Fitty-Fitty martinis (half gin, half dry vermouth…”50/50,” get it?) after the gin review sessions.

5 Things I’ve Learned About…London Dry Gin

The April 2011 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine is out, and it includes (among other things) my review column on London Dry Gin.  You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio.  Here’s what I learned:

1.  For me, the first educational hurdle arrived months ago, when we worked out which spirits to include on the editorial calendar. A broad call for “gin” would have yielded way too many samples. (See tequila overload. Lesson learned!)  For gin, the options boiled down to “London Dry” style gin, which differentiates it from the sweeter Old Tom style, the stronger-flavored Plymouth style, flavored/infused gins, aged “golden gins,” and Dutch genevers/jenevers.  Most dry style gins are light-bodied and aromatic.

2. I should probably emphasize, that’s London Dry style gin. Although the style originated in London, natch, excellent dry gins are produced elsewhere, including America and France.  (Even so, most of the best London Dry gins are made in England.)

3. Botanicals. This word gets thrown around a LOT when in comes to gin, and a number of other spirits too. In general, this is a fancy word for herbs, spices, flowers, and anything else that is used in the distillation process to add flavor and aroma. In London dry gin, the dominant botanical usually is juniper. If you’re wondering which one that is, uncork a bottle of gin and pick out the scent that reminds you of pine — that’s usually the juniper berry. Other botanicals commonly found in gin include spices (coriander, cardamom, anise, ginger); floral notes (iris, elderflower); tea, and citrus peel.

4. Repeat after me:  A real martini is made with gin. Not vodka.  But there are a number of amazing drinks made with gin beyond the classic martini — such as the Aviation, and the Corpse Reviver #2.

5. ….and a dry martini means that it’s made with relatively little vermouth. If you want to make a bartender snicker, ask for “a very, very, very dry martini.”  Some wise-acres will simply wave a bottle of vermouth over the glass!

If you have a favorite gin, or gin-based drink, I’d love to hear about it – please leave a comment below!  Oh man, I could go for a Corpse Reviver #2 right about now….