Mix This: The Dry Martini (By Max Seaman, GM at The Varnish)

July 16th, 2013 — 11:28am

A dry Martini may be the ultimate drinker’s drink: strong crisp and clean without any sugars or liqueurs, you can drink them all night long without getting bogged down. The key to a good dry Martini: Dry gin, high quality vermouth, cold ice and perfect dilution.

THE GIN: Make sure to use a good London Dry style gin. We prefer classics like Beefeater or Plymouth, but there are many great brands on the market. DO NOT use a modern-style gin like Hendrick’s. These types of gin are intended to be consumed on their own instead of mixed, and they do not “play well with others.” Hendrick’s, for example, is very sweet with a strong rose-water flavor that will clash with the vermouth and create an odd flavor. A London Dry style gin will integrate with the vermouth for a whole flavor greater than the sum of it’s parts.

THE VERMOUTH: We love Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Dry, but there are other good dry vermouths out there. Try some out and see what you like.

THE RATIO: For whatever reason, many modern drinkers have become afraid of the taste of vermouth. We think a real Martini needs a strong dose of vermouth. We like a ratio of 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, but some people prefer 3 to 1 or even 5 to 1. However, we recommend against the “Winston Churchill” school of drinking a straight glass of gin while looking at a bottle of vermouth from across the room.

THE ICE: Make sure to use ice straight from the freezer. Remember, your freezer is set to a temperature below 32 degrees, and the colder the starting point of the ice, the colder your Martini. Also keep in mind that ice may pick up flavors of whatever is in your freezer. We also recommend chilling your glassware in the freezer, as this will keep your Martini colder longer. Freeze both the mixing glass and your coupe or Martini glass.

STIR, NEVER SHAKE. Shaking adds air bubbles and will create a cloudy, watery mess of a Martini. James Bond was a great secret agent but didn’t know much about cocktails. Make sure to fill the mixing glass all the way to the top with ice – the more ice you use the colder the drink. Stir gently – the idea is to chill the drink and also add just the right amount of water – enough to mellow and integrate the flavors, but not enough so that the drink is a watery mess.

THE GARNISH: An olive vs. a twist is completely up to the drinker. (no shame in asking for both!) A lemon twist adds aroma and a touch of bitterness. An olive adds a tasty snack.

If garnishing with a twist, cut a small strip of lemon peel with as little white pith as possible. Hold with your forefingers high above the glass with the outside of the peel facing down. Gently squeeze out the essential oils, and try to “rain” them down evenly over the liquid. If you hold it too close to the glass, the Martini will be harsh and bitter. After you’ve squeezed the oils, gently brush the rim of the glass with the peel. If you like your Martini a bit more bitter, drop the peel into the glass. If not, set it aside.

If garnishing with an olive, be creative: no need to be limited by those olives stuffed with pimento. There are many delicious olive varieties in world. We like to use cerignola olives from Italy.

-2oz Beefeater Gin
-1oz Dolin Dry Vermouth.

Place ingredients in a frozen 16oz pint glass. Fill with very cold ice and stir gently until the ice has given up about .75-1oz water. Strain into a frozen coupe or Martini glass. Garnish with an olive or a lemon twist. (or both!)

Max Seaman, The Varnish, GM

Music Monday: Son Ark Live at Casey’s Friday July 19th!

July 15th, 2013 — 4:25pm

Son Ark has been filling establishments across Los Angeles with their unmistakably unique brand of folk rock and with lyrics that tell tales of bygone eras and heartbreaking love lost. Son Ark’s “unvarnished, heart-on-its-sleeve roots rock sneaks up on you like a speed trap on a two-lane highway” (Buzzband LA)

You can catch these dudes shaking things up Friday, July 19th at Casey’s. Tunes start at 10P and they go till they run out of songs.

Spirit Guide: Hello and Goodbye: Part I (by Ralph Vincent of 4100 Bar)

July 10th, 2013 — 11:33am

They’re simple words: “hello and goodbye.”  Although common, those two words carry much more weight in a cocktail bar than their casual use would lead you to believe.

The way that a bartender greets and parts ways with a guest are two of the most defining moments that occur in a proper bar service.  They are the opening scene and the closing scene in the story of that individual guest’s visit.  While this might seem obvious, it cannot be overstated that these two moments factor enormously into a guest’s overall opinion of an establishment.  Therefore, it is absolutely critical that these two moments are performed well!

There are several ways for a good bartender to greet a guest, however, the most important element in greeting a guest is to offer a friendly and welcoming presence.  A smile and a warm verbal greeting let’s the guest know that the bartender is there for them and that (s)he wants the guest to be comfortable.  Sometimes it’s appropriate to shake hands and exchange names with the guest.  It is always appropriate to be friendly and helpful!

Frequently, the bartender will be too busy to verbally greet each guest at the precise moment they reach the bar.  When this is the case, a good bartender will use eye contact to communicate with awaiting guests.  The use of eye contact is extremely helpful in assuring a waiting guest that (s)he will be served shortly.  While making eye contact with the guest, a bartender should smile and nod their head, or wave their hand, “hello,” in acknowledgement.  The subtext of these simple gestures is a mutual understanding that the acknowledged guest will be helped very soon; ideally next.  (The bartender must honor and keep track of these unspoken arrangements, in proper sequence, if they are to keep all of their guests happy.)  When the bartender is able to approach the guest to verbally greet them, (s)he can thank the guest for their patience and welcome them with a full measure of attention.

An overlooked point of greeting a guest at the bar involves bar top cleanliness.  It should be an automatic impulse for a bartender, when approaching a guest, to wipe the bar top with a towel and to place a fresh, new cocktail napkin in front of the guest.  If there are any empty glasses in the immediate vicinity of the guest, they must be cleared before service can commence.  The bar is, essentially, a long table in a restaurant.  One wouldn’t seat a dinner guest at a dirty or unset table.  Similarly, it is important to vigilantly clean the bar top and to set a place for each new guest.

At this point in the service, it is appropriate to present a cocktail menu and to help the guest to select a refreshment that will suit them.  This, “negotiation,” is an art form, in and of itself.  If you are negotiating the guest’s cocktail choice, certainly you have already greeted them.  Hopefully, you have made a great impression!

Saying, “goodbye,” to a guest is frequently paired with a version of, “Thank you for visiting.”  It’s extremely important to let a departing guest know that their patronage is appreciated.  Their exit is also an appropriate time to let the guest know that they are welcome back soon.  In my next installment, I will detail the elements that go into gracefully saying goodnight to a guest.


Ralph Vincent, 4100 Bar, GM