The Berkshire Martinez/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Last week’s post on the perfect martini evoked a heated, then spirited, back and forth on twitter, sparked by bartender Gerry Jobe. It ultimately resulted in his suggesting I give a martinez a go. I had a look at a tweeted link and then at my new favorite drink book, Bitters, by Brad Thomas Parsons; he dates the cocktail to 1887: two parts sweet vermouth, 1 part gin, maraschino liqueur, Boker’s bitters and a twist.

Sounded intriguing, sort of like a martini and a negroni doing a tango. But I prefer a more muscular cocktail—more gin, less sweetness—and offer here a variation on what was a week ago an unknown cocktail. I’m calling it The Berkshire Martinez, because that’s where it was first made, Berkshire Road, Cleveland Heights, last night and photographed by Donna. It inverts the gin vermouth proportions, and ups the bitters. I love bitters and like to use them not with a heavy hand but aggressively.

Both last week’s and this week’s cocktails use vermouth, which I called for at room temp in the martini last week, something a commenter called me out on and is very worth noting. Vermouth is a fortified wine and goes bad, something my madmen era dad didn’t realize, so I grew up looking at the Martini and Rossi vermouth in the cupboard (dry for his martinis, and sweet for his brother’s Manhattans).

I’ve called in some experts for their opinions on vermouth:

Paulius Nasvytis, of Cleveland’s Velvet Tango Room:

Personally, I’m a big fan of Vya.  I also like Noilly Prat.  If I need a sweet white vermouth, I would use Lillet, although technically it’s an aperitif.  Vermouth should be refrigerated after opening, and if you don’t use a lot, I recommend the small sized half-bottle.

Brad Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spritied History of a Classic Cure-All:

“For vermouth for home-use I recommend buying smaller bottles (unless you’re burning through a bottle a week). Vermouth should be treated like wine–as it is a fortified wine–and should be stored in the refrigerator once opened. It will last for a few months but the flavor will grow milder over time. If you must keep it on a shelf at least keep it out of direct sunlight.

“For sweet vermouth, especially in Manhattans, I recommend Carpano Antica Formula. Very herbal and complex. Great depth of flavor. About $25-$30/bottle. For a Negroni, I like something a little lighter, like Cinzano sweet vermouth or Dolin Rouge.

“I also highly recommend the Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry line. They have three kinds: “dry,” “rouge,” and “blanc” (blanc flavor is a sweet dry). They’re much lighter in flavor (and come in small bottles).

“I don’t drink many Martinis, but when I do I typically use Noilly Prat dry vermouth. And try your next martini with two dashes of orange bitters.

“And, especially with spring and warm weather, remember that sweet vermouth over ice is a perfect aperitif.”

And last, the man who got things rolling, Gerry Jobe, of RauDZ (he’s opinionated, see his credo here):

“For white vermouth, Noilly Prat is my weapon of choice. I put mine in an atomizer and thoroughly spritz the glass with it, ensuring that the guest is receiving its qualities from  the nose to the toes of the cocktail. For sweet vermouth, Cinzanno gets my vote, although Punt e Mes for its bitter quality works extremely well with Aperol (substituted for Campari) as a Negroni variation. I also enjoy the challenge of making vermouth. Last year both myself and my friend Lauren Mote of  Kale & Nori made separate versions of Dark Chocolate Cherry Vermouth and both turned out great. I encourage barkeeps everywhere to attempt to make their own.”

Thanks Jerry, want to do a guest post on that?

Below, the bitters I’ve been using, and the recipe for The Berkshire Martinez (names are important). I use a scale because it’s easier, but if use a two ounce measure and two teaspoons of marischino and one of bitters if you prefer volumes (and please don’t tell me scales are pretentious).

Happy weekend to all!

The Berkshire Martinez

  • 60 grams gin (2 ounces)
  • 30 grams sweet vermouth (1 ounce)
  • 10 grams maraschino liqueur (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 5 grams bitters (1/2 teaspoon)
  • squeeze of lemon or twist (I prefer a squeeze of lemon but a twist looks better)
  1. Combine all the ingredients except the lemon in a mixing glass.
  2. Add copious ice and stir well for a minute or two.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with lemon.

If you liked this post on the Martinez, check out these other links:

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved

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66 Wonderful responses to “Friday Cocktail Hour: The Berkshire Martinez”

  • Matt Savas

    Dear Mr. Ruhlman,

    Scales aren’t pretentious. They just take the fun out of drinking. It’s like having sex with a protractor.

  • Darcie

    This sounds excellent – I am a huge fan of gin cocktails. If you haven’t yet, you should try a Corpse Reviver (No. 2) (from the Savoy cocktail book; I found the recipe on eGullet). I am lucky to have homemade bitters made by an office mate from the teeny tiny oranges on the miniature tree in his office. We conspired on the bitters recipe, and had a wonderful little cocktail party after work when they were finished. It’s a lot harder to be a bartender than it looks. That’s why I admire skilled mixologists (is that the current preferred title?) like those at VTR and always tip my bartender.

    Here’s the Corpse Reviver (No. 2):
    3/4 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
    3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
    3/4 oz Cointreau
    3/4 oz gin
    1 Dash Absinthe (I sub Pernod)

    And I second a making your own vermouth post…

  • allen

    You keep posting great cocktails and i keep making/drinking them posting drunken rants. Your going to get me kicked off the site. Bless your heart!

  • Gerry Jobe

    Great Article Michael! Thanks to you and your followers for the great debate and conversations that followed! Would love to contribute a post on making Vermouth, both on a small scale, and how it’s made on a larger scale. If interested, let me know! Thanks again to you and your readership and Cheers!

  • Mantonat

    There are a few bars around town that have started doing barrel-aged cocktails in miniature oak casks. One of them did a barrel-aged Martinez which I definitely would like to try.

    Thanks for the recipe and the precision!

  • Hugh

    It’s one of life’s little ironies that calling something pretentious tends to be a pretentious thing to do. I remember being a bit taken aback by those comments because I use a scale to make my drinks – it’s quicker and allows me to scale drinks effortlessly if I’m in the mood for a larger or smaller cocktail than the standard size. If I wanted to be pretentious, I’d grow a moustache, get some tattoos and arm garters, and wax philosophical about the importance of measuring with jiggers.

  • John

    If gin cocktails are a weekly feature, I recommend the Jasmine which almost nobody has heard of but impresses most serious cocktail fans. It is gin, campari, cointreau and lemon juice. The original (Paul Harrington):

    http://www.kindredcocktails.com/cocktail/jasmine

    An adaptation by Robert Hess which increases the campari and cointreau.

    http://www.kindredcocktails.com/cocktail/jasmine-robert-hess

    I tend to make it as 1 1/2 oz gin, 3/4 oz campari, 1/2 oz lemon juice, 1/2 oz cointreau as to my taste the original does not have enough campari and Hess’s has too much cointreau.

  • Edwin

    Nothing like scaring the Friday the 13th demons away than with a good cocktail, nice recipe Michael, thanks again.

    • ruhlman

      are you kidding?! what an honor. expect you to give it your own twist as it were, or explain how and why you’d do what you do, like which bitter and how much, you talked about your vermouth. what gin, etc and why. wait a minute. you were kidding weren’t you… *sigh*

  • allen

    1905 hrs, chicken & vegies roasting in the oven = Hamma time:1St up the Berkshire Martinez

  • Amy lee

    Really enjoying the cocktail history,debates, and expert recommendations!

  • allen

    I made the Berkshire using the homemade house bitters from Brad Thomas Parsons book and my wife told me it tasted like mince meat pie, she doesn’t like mince meat pie but I do ( I plan to make one out of venison neck meat one of these days to keep it traditional).
    5 gr seemed like quite a lot of bitters, luckily I have a whole bunch on hand having made nearly all of them from the book and 4 or 5 from Chow.com recipes.
    Try a batch of Cherry Vanilla bitters from Chow.com, uses a whole vanilla bean and is great in a Manhattan, I have yet to try all of the ones from the Brad Thomas Parsons book, but I have them in the pantry and can say that the ones I’ve tried are great, a batch makes plenty for gifts too. You can get the cool little bottles like the ones at the bar in Cleveland from http://www.specialtybottle.com for great little gift packages.
    Would be realy great to get a homemade vermouth post from that master bartender!
    We are switching to Negroni’s and I will cease posting before the buzz kicks in.
    Cheers!!!

  • darren

    If you like bitters I do a version of a Sazerac that uses two. It can be a cocktail, but I typically add club soda and make it a fizz.

    Sazerac de Aldridge

    2oz bourbon or rye (Buffalo Trace is about the best for this)
    1/2 to 1oz absinthe (depends on your tolerance for licorice, I do 1/2)
    2 dashes (or more to taste) Angostura Bitters
    2 dashes (or more to taste) Peychaud’s Bitters
    1 tsp bar sugar (regular sugar blitzed in a blender until superfine–I do about a cup at a time)

    I shake these in a cocktail shaker without ice to fully dissolve the sugar. Pour over ice in an old fashioned glass (lowball glass). Top off with club soda. If it must be garnished use a wedge of lemon or orange on the rim or a zesty twist in it.

  • Lisa

    When I assemble the ingredients, I will try the Berkshire Martinez! Our vermouth is always in the fridge. thanks.

  • Sharon

    Mr. Ruhlman, I’m curious about why you weigh your drink ingredients here, but gave volume measurements in your latest book for the cocktail recipe there (in fact, if I recall correctly, you give volume measurements for liquids in all the recipes there).

    Also, it’s Cinzano (one “n,” not two). And please, for the love of all that’s holy, learn the difference between “its” and “it’s.”

    • Michael Ruhlman

      We’re slowly moving toward weights in all recipes. But people still use volumes, so must accommodate them. I do keep a scale on my bar; it’s just easier and no jigger to rinse. I’ve amended above recipe to include volumes.

      And many thanks for the copy-editing. I’m hopeless when it comes to the simplest of contractions. I just do too much writing every day to use the extra energy (considerable for me since it doesn’t come natrually), to fine-tooth-comb my prose. Thanks to people like you, the errors eventually get fixed!

      • Dave M

        OK… since we’re copyediting, please remember that “me” is still the objective form of the first person pronoun. If you said “Fred went to the bar with Bob and I” that’s wrong because you’d never say “Fred went… with I.”

        Thus, on the salumi post, I’d read the 2nd photo caption like: (Here’s a picture of…) “From left, ME, Brian and Jay tasting salumi.” You wouldn’t say “Here’s a picture of *I* tasting salumi.”

        OK, now I’ll shut up and get out my scale.

  • Russ B

    Amidst all the wonderful debate can I get a little respect for Boodles Gin? A smoothness to complement any drink.

    • Lisa

      Me!!! I like Boodles very much. But I find Gin to be a personal taste issue. Too much of that pine needles flavor can ruin the Gin. But Boodles is our go-to gin. Had a very excellent martini on a cruise that was made with Hendricks. But it was only once and since they the martinis have disappointed. I keep trying.

  • Tags

    Bitters and slices of lemon peel improve just about anything, especially the underside of the skin of a roasting chicken.

  • David

    It’s interesting to me that in such discussions, the main point of the exercise is rarely mentioned – ie that the cocktail is basically a drink to get one as hugely bombed as possible in as short a time as possible, short of an IV.
    Of course there are enjoyment aspects too, but if it’s a quick social window, or strong measures after a heavy duty day, the cocktail is the route to jump-starting Happy Hour.
    It’s sort of like tobacco being discussed as to flavor and enjoyment, when what people are usually after is the nicotine rush – another thing which is never mentioned.

  • Tags

    In his book “hints & pinches” Eugene Walter claims that gin “was first concocted in Holland in the late 15th or early 16th century to quell the menstrual pains of nuns,” and he knows a thing or two about nuns, having played a Mother Superior in Federico Fellini’s “Juliet of the Spirits.”

    In Henry McNulty’s “Drinking in Vogue” he says “a real fanatic pours the vermouth over the ice, drains it and then pours the gin on the aromatic ice.” Sounds like it might be worthwhile if you can drink it before the melting ice dilutes it.

  • Heather

    Thanks for the correction on the martini post – I had practically convinced myself you all are champion vermouth consumers.

    And thank you as well for this post; I’ve been looking to upgrade my vermouths. Will definitely do some experimenting with these!

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  • Darren

    This variation on the Martinez has already been discovered: it’s exactly what Gary Regan proposed in The Joy of Mixology. He notes that the 1887 recipe is from Jerry Thomas’ book, “The Bar-Tender’s Guide or How to Mix all Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks.” Gary also notes that this drink ‘was born of the Manhattan and is the father, or grandfather, of the Martini’. (paraphrased)

    The Martinez is one of my favorite drinks.

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