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I do adore a proper Martini in a proper Martini glass. Presentation and ritual really can trick your mind into thinking that something is better than it is when it is beautifully presented. For me sipping from a Martini glass is the epitome of elegance, and best done when wearing a pair of heels, a pretty dress and pearls.
My gin of choice for a Martini is Bombay Sapphire; export strength if you can (I used to have a job involving lots of travel and consequently lots of airport duty free), although these days I buy a bottle or two from Waitrose when it is on special offer.
My perfect Martini should be strong, very dry and very cold. As a friend once pointed out it is basically a bucket of frozen gin with a piece of lemon zest. They are not far wrong. The best Martinis in London are from Dukes Hotel, we go once or twice a year, for birthdays and celebrations, the Martinis are excellent, huge and eye-wateringly expensive.
Alessandro Palazzi, the bar manager at Dukes makes these legendary Martinis which are prepared in front of you; gin (or vodka) and glasses are stored in the freezer and brought on a trolley to your table. Your spirit of choice thick and sluggish with the cold, almost oily in texture, is poured into a Martini glass, topped with a few drops of vermouth and then a slither of lemon zest is pinched with a flourish and shrug of the shoulders to release a fine spray of citrus oil.
The first sip is the icy cold Martini turns to fire as it runs down your throat, so so delicious.
I have many memories of Dukes; the last visit was my 40th birthday when I was surrounded by friends I love, there was the time I drank 3 Martinis – an appallingly bad idea – fortunately a friend was not drinking and had a car and made sure I got home, astonishingly I made it into work on time the next day.
There was the time my friend Veronica picked up my mobile by accident and then on the way home phoned it to tell me she had it and could not work out where her bag was ringing.
There was the visit with my friend Matthew, when we listen to a young woman pour her heart out to her ex’s best – and much older – friend who plied her with three Martinis and offered to take her home. When he went to the loo we agonised as to whether we should suggest she get into a taxi before she did something she might regret.
We rarely drink a Duke’s style Martini at home; my Martini glasses are gigantic, I would not be able to stand straight if I drank one full of undiluted gin. A party drink needs to be longer and less lethal. You want to keep your guests on their feet and coherent for most of the party. So for my Christmas Martinis I have broken my rule and added crushed ice.
The vanilla syrup, cinnamon, orange and cranberries add a festive touch to a traditional drink – the colours look very pretty together too. the drink will sweeten as you sip nearer to the vanilla syrup at the bottom, or you can give it a quick stir with the cinnamon stick.
Mindful of presentation, I covered a chopping board with some richly coloured Christmas paper to serve the drinks on, and scattered some Christmas decorations around.
- Vanilla Syrup
- Orange - Strip of Zest
- Cinnamon Stick
- Gin - I used Bombay Sapphire
The morning or night before your party bash up some ice and return to the freezer with a few handfuls of cranberries.
Add a dash of vanilla syrup to the bottom of a Martini glass
Fill the glass with the crushed ice and frozen cranberries
Add a cinnamon stick and piece of orange zest
Top up with, preferably frozen but at least well chilled Bombay Sapphire
Sending this to Jen @ Blue Kitchen Bake’s Fresh Cranberry recipe link up.
Fuss Free Flavours encourages you to drink mindfully. For advice on sensible enjoyment of alcohol please visit Drinkaware.
The vanilla syrup in the photos was a gift from Selsley – they have a range of delicious fruit syrups, as well as a mulling syrup. Well worth a look.