These fresh takes on the classic cocktail are so delicious they’d win over even the most committed martini purists.

By FRED SIGGINS

THE MARTINI IS the simplest, cleanest and most refined of mixed drinks, an icon of class and sophistication. With a healthy measure of gin or vodka and a splash of dry vermouth chilled to silken perfection, it is unabashedly boozy — and still as popular as ever.

Although it’s hard to improve on an enduring classic, these new twists strive to enhance the drink’s original, simple brilliance with modern techniques such as in-house fermentations and cold-vacuum distillation. Sip to your heart’s content.

The Loro Olive Martini

One of Australia’s most accomplished bartenders, Orlando Marzo has worked in some of Melbourne’s best restaurants and bars, and was crowned world’s best bartender in 2018. He now has his own range of bottled cocktails under the brand Loro.

Inspired by his youth in Puglia, Italy, where seven generations of his family have worked as olive growers, the Loro Olive Martini can be enjoyed at Melbourne eatery Oster, and purchased by the bottle at Blackhearts & Sparrows boutique bottle shops. “During harvest season [in Puglia], the smell coming off the press was this amazing fresh olive aroma. I wanted to capture that aroma without any oily texture, so we vacuum-distil extra virgin olive oil, then combine it with local gin and two kinds of dry vermouth,” he says.

Pre-mixed martinis, along with other serious ready-to-drink cocktails, are having a moment, giving at-home access to some of the best mixological minds in Australia.

Sydney’s Archie Rose Distillery has just released a limited-edition Caperberry Martini, featuring Belsazar Dry Vermouth, sake and caperberry, available in a 700ml bottle. Meanwhile, iconic Fitzroy cocktail bar The Everleigh sells The Everleigh Bottling Co. Martini online in both single-serve (80ml) and 500ml sizes, while Sydney’s Continental Delicatessen offers it delicious Mar-tinny (which comes in a can) for take away. These highly shelf-stable drinks are perfect for post‑apocalyptic emergencies.

The Atlas Martini

Singapore’s Atlas bar is one of the world’s most impressive drinking destinations, boasting 14-metre-high ceilings and décor reminiscent of New York’s Art Deco masterpieces. Consistently listed as one of the world’s top 50 bars, Atlas also has one of the world’s biggest gin collections (currently comprising more than 1,300 bottles), so their martini game is world class.

The Atlas house martini combines London dry gin, ambrato (amber) vermouth, orange bitters and a splash of champagne vinegar. Yana K, head bartender at Atlas, explains, “The champagne vinegar complements the floral vermouth. The two pillars of Atlas are gin and champagne, and this martini is a way to incorporate our love of champagne into the most classic of gin cocktails.”

The (Im)perfect Martini

London’s Lyaness bar is at the cutting edge of modern mixology, and was named the world’s best bar in 2018. Every drink and ingredient here is thoughtfully considered and usually produced in-house by dedicated team members, who are as much flavour scientists as they are bartenders, while never letting excellent service take a back seat.

The Lyaness (Im)perfect Martini is a combination of discarded grape-based vodka, house-made grass amazake, Fierfield Birch whisky and overripe nectarine. The Amazake is made with grasses, various malted grains and pumpkin seeds, then fermented with koji mould to create what is essentially a cloudy, low-alcohol sake with notes of biscuity grain and grassy brightness.

Alex Lawrence, global bar director for Lyaness’ parent company, describes the martini as “clean and bright, but with a savoury fruitiness at its core. The (Im)perfect Martini keeps the booze forward and maintains the delicate structure of the classic, but pulls it in a new direction with touches of fermentation and a vermouth alternative by way of the whisky-based Fierfield Birch. It’s familiar enough to be a comfort to a martini drinker, but different enough to be a unique experience for the guest, which is a balance we always aim for.”

MASTER THE PERFECT MARTINI AT HOME

BASE

The most important ingredient in your home bar is a good quality bottle of gin or vodka. There’s nowhere for poor quality to hide in this austere drink, so make sure you start well. Think classic, London dry-style gin with plenty of citrus and juniper, or a high quality and flavourful vodka. Keep your gin or vodka in the freezer for a silky and well-chilled martini every time.

VERMOUTH

For a classic dry martini, use a high quality French white wine vermouth such as Noilly Prat or Dolin — spending an extra $10 per bottle on vermouth makes a big difference in this very simple drink.

For something a touch sweeter and more aromatic, try Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano. Whichever vermouth you choose, always keep it in the refrigerator, and don’t keep it open for more than a few months. Vermouths are wines, so they will oxidise and start to taste funny after being opened for a while (probably the reason so many people think they don’t like vermouth).

GARNISH

Go for olives in brine, rather than oil. No one likes a greasy martini, and brine can be added to the drink for a dirty version. Green Sicilian olives work well and look a lot nicer than the sad grey ones from the supermarket. Pickled onions or other pickled vegetables add a welcome burst of vinegary pep, or a slice of fresh lemon or grapefruit peel is wonderful for a brighter, fresher- tasting martini.

METHOD

1. Place a martini glass in the freezer ahead of time.

2. Add 2 shots of cold gin or vodka and half a shot of cold vermouth to a cocktail mixing glass (a pint glass for beer can also be used).

3. Fill the glass with ice and stir with a long spoon, tasting occasionally until the desired dilution is reached.

4. Strain into the chilled martini glass and apply garnish of choice.