MARTINI & I
For a bartender's perspective, we turn our attention to Giovanni Graziadei. Principal bartender at Jigger & Pony, Giovanni shares his experience drinking and making the martini.
The martini and I are an exploration in possibilities. I have always liked martinis – both as a drinker and as a bartender. I started drinking martinis after I quit university in Italy to work in London, where some of the best bars in the world are. It was right in the middle of the gin craze and working at the Blind Pig gave me the chance to explore different gins and styles of martinis.
At that time, I enjoyed how a martini allowed you to taste the gin directly. These days, though, I enjoy the martini in a variety of styles, and recently, I’ve taken a liking to a lower ABV version, mainly because I’m trying so many drinks when I work.
Over the last few years, I’ve learnt there is no such thing as a true martini. I used to think it needed to be bone dry with almost no vermouth, but I’m much more open minded now. I like more dilution because the water from the melting ice helps to “stretch” the flavour, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you will taste less.
The time of the day also plays a part in choosing your style of martini; a martini at 6pm and a martini at 10pm are different creatures. At 6pm, it’s an aperitif, and I like it with a lower ABV so it’s more refreshing and doesn’t have so much of a burn. Don’t be afraid to consider a martini variation like a Tuxedo, made with dry vermouth and dry sherry. After dinner, though, the martini is a late-night drink, a last-drink-for-the-night kind of drink, so I tend to prefer a stiff martini with a higher ABV.
Shaken or stirred? From a bartending perspective, there are so many variables but ultimately it should be stirred. Stirring allows you to control how much dilution you want, and when you stir a martini, you can stop to taste it. With a shaken martini, you can’t do that. Yes, shaking results in a very steep curve of dilution and a drastic temperature drop – but shaking can also cause too much dilution.
Ultimately, I like all martinis... apart from a super dirty martini, that is. My go-to martini is with a lemon twist, and the colder, the better. I’m quite old school: I want my martini to stay cold for longer, so I constantly strive to create martinis that are served as cold as possible.
Am I afraid of the martini? No, I’m obsessed. It’s the ultimate drink. Everyone has an opinion about what is best, and if you’re a bartender, you will have your own preference and your own point of view. Why is the martini considered difficult? It’s because you have nowhere to hide with martini. In a drink with many ingredients, you won’t notice minor changes so much. But it is different with a martini. First of all it’s just two ingredients, not including a garnish like a lemon twist or olive. So, you will notice the smallest changes.
A martini may look very simple but every variable has an impact, and in the end it boils down to personal preference which is the hardest part. As a bartender, you have to read the customer to understand what kind of martini drinker he or she is. Furthermore, you definitely don’t want to rely on the “usual stereotypes”, because everyone is different.
A good bartender should be able to make the perfect version based on what a customer likes. The martini inspires me as a bartender to be open minded to cater to different requests, and recognising that the best martini doesn’t exist. It is all personal.