The Dark Side of the Moon Martini
The Martini Cocktail. Who hasn't tried it at least once? And who, standing on the right side of the bar, didn't shake their head in disbelief, when a call for a Martini gets sullied with inferior Vermouth, rather than a clean and honest drink? The Martini is always a good source for debate. Will you have it dry or with a healthy measure of Vermouth? With an olive or make it a Gibson (you know, using a silver onion instead)? And, quite possibly the most infamous question of all, should it be shaken or stirred?
Since all these questions have been discussed many times, I will not delve any deeper, except to tell you: none of the above. Round about two years back I had the pleasure of discussing said drink with none other than British cocktail expert and journalist Jared Brown, and he pointed me in a very interesting direction: Who's to decide whether they want their drink shaken or stirred, when that's only two of – at least – four possible ways to prepare it? After all, people tend to forget about the original form of shaking, which was really throwing – resulting in just as much aeration, but very little dilution. And then there’s my favorite way of preparing a Martini, in which it is allowed to hang out and do its thing for a total of ten minutes, rather than shaking or stirring. Good things come to those who wait!
But first… time for a tea break. Really sit down, and chill with it. Tea is most certainly the oldest form of infusion known to man, quite a nice drink to enjoy. It is consumed in order to relax, as a substitute for coffee or – best of all – simply to relish its fine flavors. And now we're going to use it to infuse our gin!
The following mixture is more of a wake-up blend, with wormwood for an added punch of flavor (sage will work in a pinch if you can’t get wormwood.) Perhaps you were expecting a more relaxing Assam before proceeding to your Martini?
Fly Me to the Moon tea mix is courtesy of my friend Thomas Zilm, head bartender at Café Rückholz, Potsdam*. Makes a little over a pound of tea, so you have plenty on hand.
- 7oz (199g) wormwood (or dried sage if unavailable)* - 5.5oz (156g) dried hibiscus flower - 2oz (57g) dried peppermint - 1.5oz (43g) dried grapefruit zest - .35oz (10g) non-artificial stevia*
Handle with care! The wormwood content really gives this tea a killer kick. The hibiscus balances it out with a very citrusy and refreshing touch. The peppermint and grapefruit further add to its complex freshness, while the stevia is absolutely essential, to sweeten down the heavy bitter notes. All in all, quite a healthy mix, so you can lean back and smile, enjoying your Martini in good conscience.
While Thomas initially prepared this tea mix for Gin and Tonics, I like to use it for my take on the Martini.
The Dark Side of the Moon
In a Boston tin (metal is key for good thermal conduction) add the gin and the tea ball and let sit for 2-3 minutes – not longer, for the wormwood will add tannins quickly. Take out the tea ball, add the Vermouth and fill up with cubes. Put the whole tin in the ice well and let it sit for another 10 minutes; thermodynamics will take over from here and do the job of stirring for you. Strain into a chilled coupette, twist the lemon zest, rub it along the rim and stem and place it gently on the rim.
If you don’t like the green-brownish hue the drink gets due to the infusion, try adding a couple of drops of black food coloring and give it a very gentle stir, before placing it in the ice well. This way you will also avoid any questions about its name.
Preparing this drink ten-minute-style is just perfect. The result will be crisp, clear, very straight and virtually undiluted. Even though it's missing water, it's rather gentle on the palate, which I always credited to the drink being completely non-aerated as well as the time the spirits have to get to know each other. A rather soft gin like Tanqueray TEN with its strong citrus flavors and the touch of chamomile makes a perfect addition to the tea, which is the main focus.
*Author's note: As far as I know, use of wormwood is legal in the states, depending on the thujone level, as is stevia. Both might be a little hard to come by, though you should be able to find them at a well-sorted herb trader and definitely online. If you really have to substitute, go with sage for the wormwood to keep the taste and its effects. Stevia is sweeter and has more depth than caster sugar. To substitute you could also try grape sugar.
Should you ever find yourself in the close vicinity of Potsdam, make sure to pay a visit to Bar Rückholz, say hello to Thomas from me, and ask him for a Voodoogroni, one of his very own concoctions. I'll well be worth your while.