Early martinis generally included Old Tom Gin and sweet vermouth, and then a few dashes of bitters, a simple sugar syrup and usually a smidge of sweet liqueur such as curacao, maraschino or even absinthe.
For instance, in the 1882 classic "Harry Johnson's New and Improved Bartender's Manual," the Martini Cocktail recipe called for "a dash of curacao or absinthe, if required."
This is one variation that evolved using absinthe; it calls for Plymouth gin, which is more widely available than Old Tom. Some recipes call for a mix of sweet and dry vermouth, but Spirits columnist Jason Wilson suggests sticking with a basic sweet vermouth such as Martini & Rossi. He says Angostura bitters are acceptable, but Fee Brothers Old Fashion Aromatic Bitters work even better.
- 2 ounces Plymouth gin
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/2 teaspoon absinthe
- 2 dashes aromatic bitters
- 1 twist of lemon peel, for garnish
Fill a mixing glass halfway full with ice. Add the gin, vermouth, absinthe and bitters. Stir vigorously for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the twist of lemon peel.
Adapted from Albert Stevens Crockett's "Old Waldorf Bar Days" (Aventine, 1931).
Tested by Michael Taylor.
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