The Benjamin, a martini with garlic and pepper. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

I read about this impromptu cocktail in Molly Wizenberg’s new memoir, Delancey, about her and her husband’s opening of a restaurant in Seattle, one specializing in pizza, her Jersey-born husband’s culinary love. Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life and the blog Orangette, is a felicitous writer, and her latest is a lovely memoir about love and food and the crazy decisions we make based on nothing reliable and the risks we take, and the really, really hard work of running a restaurant, even a casual pizzeria.

Molly and Brandon’s good friend, Ben, offered this cocktail, which appealed to my inner skinflint, with its insistence on cheap gin. Love that. Wizenberg names it grandly: The Benjamin Wayne Smith. I am adding vermouth (because it benefits from it), which Wizenberg also suggests, and because of the modification and the low-budget nature of the cocktail, I’m shortening the name to the Benjamin. I’ve never met the guy but he sounds like someone I’d like to have a cocktail with.

This will not appeal to all palates. Almost all cocktails have a sweet element to them, whether in the spirit itself (rum, bourbon) or aromatic wine or liqueur, or sugar to offset bitters or acid. Something. The Benjamin is a 100% savory cocktail; there is no sweet element to it, and this may take getting used to. It’s spicy. I love a lot of pepper (Ben prefers a couple grinds—your call). This is what I would serve with skillet-fried steak. Gin and beef go great, as Julia was among the first to note, and the Benjamin, with its heavy garlic notes, would be the ideal pairing for a seared, bloody steak. Now that I’m thinking about it, damn, I can’t not! I guess I know what’s for dinner…

Happy Friday, all!

The Benjamin

  • 3 ounces inexpensive gin
  • Splash of dry vermouth (optional)
  • 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly and coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, gently cracked with the flat side of a knife
    1. Combine the gin, vermouth (if using), pepper, and 1 garlic clove in a shaker. Fill the shaker two-thirds with ice. Shake the hell out of it.
    2. Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with the second garlic clove.

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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.