The quintessential cocktail—the cocktail that all others aspire to—has got to be the perfect dry Martini. More debate has surrounded the Martini than any other drink in history.
Straight up or on the rocks, olive or twist, shaken or stirred, vermouth, what is the perfect ratio of vermouth to gin? Is it best dry, extra-dry, Sahara Desert dry—and what of the garnish? Olive, twist, stuffed olive, onion, naked?
These are all very personal questions that only the drinker can ultimately answer, but one thing we should all agree on is the perfect dry Martini should be made with gin!
All of the following gins represent the different styles available, and each makes a wonderful martini. That said, I would be more inclined to feature the genever in a Holland House and the Old Tom in a Martinez than I would a Martini. My recipe for the perfect dry Martini is:
4 parts London Dry gin
1 part French dry vermouth
Stirred, served straight up
BOMBAY SAPPHIRE: 94 proof (Distilled in Chesire, England; vapor infused, 10 botanicals.)
Nose: Juniper is subtle but present, with bright citrus notes of orange and lemon. There are big spice notes of star anise mand white pepper, with just a touch of cinnamon.
Palate: Juniper is more pronounced on the palate, and them spice of the coriander is present with licorice and bitter almond in beautiful harmony. The finish is clean and bright, and medium in length with lovely acidity.
BEEFEATER: 94 proof (Distilled in Kensington, London, botanicals are steeped for 24 hours in neutral spirit, prior to distillation, eight botanicals.)
Nose: Big blast of juniper berry, almost a pine tree note, followed by a nice balance of sweet orange citrus and orange blossom.
Palate: The taste perfectly reflects the nose with big juniper and orange blossom and has a slightly oily mouth feel. There are also herbal notes of fresh oregano and orange peel. The finish is medium and dry, with light to medium acidity.
TANQUERAY: 94.6 proof (Distilled in Cameron Bridge, Scotland, botanicals proprietary.)
Nose: The nose reveals the classic London dry gin botanical of coriander spice and floral notes of angelica, supporting big juniper that defines this gin.
Palate: It comes in rather robust on the palate with nice viscosity. There are notes of citrus, and it is straightforward on the juniper and coriander that well represent the botanicals in the blend. It dries beautifully, revealing a long, warm, pleasant finish with medium acidity.
PLYMOUTH: 82.4 proof (Distilled at the Black Friars Distillery in Plymouth, England, from a blend of seven botanicals.)
Nose: Very round, harmonious, and fruity with notes of sweet orange, interwoven with subtle juniper. With an intoxicating cardamom spice note.
Palate: It answers on the palate what we picked up on the nose—the cardamom, citrus and juniper play beautifully together. It is full-bodied, round, and has a silky mouth feel. The finish is medium, warm, and memorable with medium acidity.
HENDRICK'S: 88 proof (Distilled in Ayrshire, Scotland of proprietary botanicals and infused with cucumber and Bulgarian rose petals.)
Nose: Very floral with a lavender perfume and a lemony citrus. The juniper is present but not overly pronounced with a vegetal note of sweet cucumber or green grass.
Palate: It is medium bodied and slightly oily, pronouncing big notes of licorice and rose. The juniper plays a supporting role. It has light to medium acidity, with a pleasantly lingering finish of licorice, lemon zest and floral notes.
BOLS GENEVER: 84 proof (Made in Amsterdam from 50% malt wine, triple distilled and infused with botanicals.)
Nose: Malt is very present, followed by sweet sherry with the juniper lurking in the shadows. There is a note of sweet corn mash.
Palate: Comes in very rich and creamy, with a yeasty, sweet grain followed by a green bell pepper spice. You are left with the faintest note of warm corn bread with syrup. The finish is memorable and medium to long, with mild acidity and a lingering grainy, yeasty sweetness.
RANSOME: 88 proof Old Tom gin (Distilled in Sheridan, Oregon from base wort of malted barley, combined with an infusion of botanicals in high-proof corn spirits.)
Nose: The nose explodes with liquid rum cake: dried fruits, citrus, clove, cinnamon, and honey.
Palate: All of the spices explode nicely on the palate with citrus and a beautifully balanced subtle sweetness—not as much of the dried fruits on the palate. It is all about the spice. The finish is long, memorable, lingering and pleasant.
Tony Abou-Ganim is the founder of Las Vegas-based cocktail consultancy The Modern Mixologist and the author of The Modern Mixologist—Contemporary Classic Cocktails.