Here's a a few bibulous notes that I've gathered together in anticipation of the weekend.
First of all: someone please put in some more guesses as to the identity of Mystery bar number 16. Surely some of you venture beyond the CBD occasionally? I have some brand new mystery bars waiting in the wings, and want to clear the decks first.
I'm not usually one to plug books, but I'm sure many of you will appreciate Frank Moorhouse's Martini: A Memoir. Mixing fiction, reminiscence, anecdotes and musings on the lore and cultural significance of the Martini, it's inspiring, literate and relentlessly quotable. Moorhouse is not quite a true prescriptivist (see the Martini FAQ for those), but he is a traditionalist. It's worth it just for "The 13 Awarenesses", which parallels the ritual of appreciating a Martini to that of the Japanese tea ceremony. I think he's wrong about Dunedin, though.
Over at Dorking Labs, Stephen has been conducting Martini experiments that may not please the prescriptivists, but those of a more adventurous persuasion should be able to appreciate. There's the 1947 Martini, and now the Omega Martini: is this the Martini to end all Martinis?
Continuing with my Martini theme, I've decided that as part of my sacred quest (31 of 157 bars so far - yes, I keep discovering new ones), I will order and review a Dry Martini from any bar that looks like it deserves it. I've tried to ensure consistency by ordering a gin martini (any bartender who defaults to vodka should be shown the door, but it's wise to be specific) with an olive. I don't specify the brand of gin or vermouth, because I'm interested in testing their house Martini. Here are my results so far.
Pleasant, though not quite cold enough, with an intriguing "biscuity" aroma to start: perhaps due to the Plymouth Gin? A very generous pour: at least 40 sips. Three cocktail olives, giving a more savoury edge to the last few sips.
Oddly savoury on the palate, and though not unpleasant, it lacked the clarity of flavour that one expects from a proper Martini. Definite golden tinge, perhaps hinting at an excess of Noilly Prat. Three olives with pits intact, precariously attached to a strange arrangement of two cocktail sticks. Perhaps the olives were marinated, which would explain the unusual flavours. A miserly pour (barely covering the second olive), and though the barman reduced the price because of this and smaller Martinis are more traditional, it looked ridiculous in an oversized glass.
Generally acceptable, if not quite cold enough. The indigenous botanicals in South Gin very only subtly noticeable. Three cocktail olives. The barman was courteous and attentive, perhaps to a fault.
Southern Cross: 8
Well balanced, though could have been colder. Unusual olive treatment: two giant pimento-stuffed olives on a stick that seemed to have fashioned from a strip of bamboo, with a knot at the dry end.
Exquisitely smooth and perfectly cold. No fussing with the olives: just a single cocktail olive on a stick. The secret? Tanqueray 10 as standard.
Last Supper Club: 8
Quite a spicy, peppery bite. Crisp and cold. The only one that I asked for with a twist, which delivered a very subtle lemony edge.