by Pink Lady
“The proper union of gin and vermouth is a great and sudden glory; it is one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived.”
– Bernard De Voto
Yes, we are talking about vermouth again, both here and in our column in The Weekly Dig. I’ll admit, the story idea came to me after taking my sixth or seventh order for a “Grey Goose Martini, extra extra dry, extra extra dirty, with extra olives,” during a busy Thursday evening shift at Toro. “What if all of those drinkers put a spirit and a mixer with actual flavor into their glasses, rather than covering up chilled vodka with a tablespoonful of olive brine?” I wondered. I suspected these drinkers might enjoy a “wet” martini.
After my shift ended, I hopped back behind the bar with MiMi, who works at Toro too, and we put our theory to the test. We mixed up a massive glass of Grey Goose shaken with a generous dollop of olive brine, and a gin martini with 2 parts Bombay Sapphire and 1 part Martini & Rossi dry vermouth stirred over ice and tasted them against one another. The Grey Goose dirty thing tasted saltier than I remembered, presenting a flavor profile that no drink made sans olive brine could hope to match. But the gin martini tasted to both of us as we suspected: balanced and slightly savory.
All of this activity attracted the attention of the peanut gallery, and we ended up sharing our sips with a group of four friends/regulars who had been drinking at the end of the bar for a little over an hour. I also made them taste a splash of vermouth on its own. I’ll summarize their reactions below:
GUY #1: (A friend of GUY #4, who I suspect was more interested in talking to the pretty ladies.) So, wait…this one is the vodka thing? It’s good. And this one is the gin thing? This is the one you like better? Yeah…it’s delicious. So anyway, what’s your name?
GUY #2: (A chef who is well-acquainted with the local cocktail scene.) Yeah, it’s more balanced than the dirty vodka thing. And the vermouth is really light and refreshing. Can I have another PBR now?
GUY #3: (Clearly a bit more intoxicated than the rest.) So wait, this is Grey Goose? Yeah, that’s the best kind. This dirty martini is way, way better than the other one. Not even a question. The other one doesn’t even taste like vodka. I remember this one time when I was drinking vodka at a concert and [INSERT MEANDERING STORY WITH COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT POINT HERE].
GUY #4: (A beloved regular, also rather intoxicated.) What are we doing again? You want me to taste something?
To supplement our rather unhelpful experiment with the peanut gallery, I embarked on a little home experiment to compare and contrast how the various types of gin on my home bar (Plymouth, Hendricks, Genvieve) play with the two types of vermouth I have on hand in the fridge (Noilly Prat and Vya, which we mentioned in in our first post on vermouth and was also recently covered by The Leather District Gourmet here). I mixed martinis in a 2:1 ratio and tested them on my unsuspecting, non-cocktailian friend with the following results. I also made her drink Grey Goose + olive brine, for which was very forgiving:
Plymouth + Noilly Prat = “Delicious, refreshing. What’s in this again? So simple.”
Grey Goose + olive brine = “That’s really, really salty. Blech.”
Hendricks + Noilly Prat = “Very floral and much more crisp than the first.”
Genvieve + Noilly Prat = “Is this grappa?”
Plymouth + Vya = “Good. Richer. I like the first one better.”
Hendricks + Vya = “Crazy floral and herbaceous. Almost too much.”
Genevieve + Vya = “Super strong. I don’t think I could drink a whole glass of this, but again, I’m one of few Americans who actually likes grappa so I don’t hate it. Can we please stop drinking gin now?”
And the moral of the story is, when a LUPEC gal invites you over the taste-test martinis, it’s not a joke.