There are times when I enjoy a good martini. I've noticed too that after my third, a mysterious transformation takes place: I begin channeling the voice of actor Sean Connery's most famous character, James Bond - master spy and fan of the vodka martini. Unfortunately, the channeling degenerates rapidly from rougish Scottish burr to full scale slurring, complete with stumbling actions. Nevertheless, the martini remains a favourite of mine.
I'm also prone to experimenting with my drinks. The beauty about the internets is that you'll invariably find folk out there who share your sense of adventure. One of those people is the delightful Alli from Pease Pudding, one of my favourite food blogs. Like me, Alli is based in New Zealand and creates the most amazing dishes, illustrated to good effect with her beautifully composed photography. Recently, she posted a recipe for lavender syrup and we got to talking about its potential for use in cocktails. With that in mind, we decided upon co-posting a recipe and chose the Lavender Martini. Take a look at Alli's recipe, based on one that's appeared in Kingsley Amis' work and while you're there, be sure to have a good look around Pease Pudding - it's elegant, professional and clearly run by someone with an obvious passion for her craft. All this and she surfs too!
As for my recipe, it was a trial and error process. We initially tried a Vodka Martini, thinking that the vodka's neutrality (we used 42 Below) wouldn't interfere with the delicacy of the lavender. Unfortunately, its harshness overwhelmed the flavour. We increased the lavender content from 5ml to 10ml; while the flavour was more pronounced, the harshness remained. Overall, not a winner.
Over to the Gin Martini. Comprising botanicals and aromatics, gin should complement the lavender (we used South gin), so with fingers crossed it was off to work. The result? The flavour was complex but the lavender was there, and was present as a finishing note - success!
Just a few notes: I used food colouring as per Alli's instructions, but all trace of colour disappeared during the shaking/stirrring process. You could get around this by using a blueberry or two, removing them when you go to strain the drink. Any flavour it imparts is quickly overwhelmed by the other heavy hitting flavour components. The presence of colour would aid in enhancing the perception of the lavender flavour.
What else? Reducing Alli's syrup by half would result in a more intense lavender flavour - just cook the syrup a little longer, making sure not to reduce it too much. Finally, purists would say that due to the lavender syrup's sugar composition, this is a sweetened martini and cannot be called, strictly speaking, a martini.
So there you go! Three martinis and a clutch of paper napkins covered in scrawled notes later, I was weaving down the street, talking to cats and threatening surly-looking letter boxes - mishon akomplished! Here's the recipe:
- 15ml vermouth
- 60ml gin
- 10ml lavender syrup
A big thank you to the following for their help and involvement: Simon, Louise, Zana, Stace and our Steph. And of course, Alli!
- Alli's lavender syrup recipe here at Pease Pudding
- Colour-changing martini clickety
- How to be a superstar bartender (great tips here) clickety
A tip from Steph: DIY infusions, such as vodka and cassia bark or whiskey and chamomile, can be hastened along by popping into a dishwasher for a cycle! To minimise the risk of it exploding, drain off a little of the spirit.