Patience Gould gets to grips with her new favourite read – and wishes she could ask the author some questions regarding the world’s current state
My Martini kit has been much in use these past few days and it’s all the fault of the magnificent sounding Kay Plunkett-Hogge, whose book, Make Mine a Martini, has just been published. Full marks for the mouth-watering title – I instantly did make me a Martini and settled down for a read. A rattling good read as it transpires. Here’s a woman who does not mince her words – in the first section, Before We Begin, she states simply “without spirits there are no cocktails” and continues in this flamboyant yet matter-of-fact vein.
“People spout a lot of blether about booze and wine, particularly about wine, but there is one golden rule – if you like it, it’s good. To hell with the pedants and snobs.” Hurrah! She’s fairly dismissive when it comes to vodka too – “any vodka can be improved by a pass through a bleached coffee filter paper” (have to say I have not tried that one) – but when it comes to gin she urges one to be more particular as there are so many tastes around.
Plunkett-Hogge’s trio of favourites are Beefeater, Plymouth and Sipsmith, but she hastens to add “that’s not to speak against Tanqueray, Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire, or any of the others, for that matter”. At least no G word mentioned here, though it is mentioned that James Bond preferred it in The Vesper, but P-H “prefers something with 40% alcohol”. Hurrah again!
And that’s about all you get on the branded front – no rums are singled out, but along with the favoured gins there are artist illustrations of Bacardi 151 and Maker’s Mark, Noilly Pratt is the favoured vermouth, while on the bitters front Angostora is a must, and the Bitter Truth’s five-bottle travel box, particularly the celery bitters – which makes for an “excellent Bloody Mary” – gets the thumbs up.
So, scene duly set, it was on to The Drinks section, with some recipes complete with suggested canapés. Suitably gin cocktails top the bill and it’s the Martini – but of course – which whets the appetite. Plunkett-Smith, as one might expect, is unequivocal. “A Martini is made with gin. A vodka Martini is made with vodka. Apple Martinis are an abomination. That is all.”
Salted almonds are the selected accompaniment; she concedes that a twist is a “matter of preference”, which is nice of her, but insists that “the twist should always be lemon – if you want lime, order a Gimlet and be done with it”. She adds: “If you like it ‘dirty’ – with a splash of the olive brine – be as dirty as you please”.
For P-H the attraction of a Martini is its “ice-cold clarity”. For instance she likes hers “stirred to the point where it’s as cold as the bottom of a penguin’s foot”.
Another Martini must is the vermouth. It is an essential ingredient, regardless of Noel Coward’s tendency to wave the shaker in the general direction of Italy. “This is a mixed drink, without the vermouth it’s not a Martini. It’s just a glass of cold gin”. I do so agree...