Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


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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.

Sandwiches: 8
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.

Dojo: 6
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.

Chameleon: 7
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.

Matterhorn: 9
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.


At 1:58 pm, January 20, 2006, Blogger s. said...

Awww, Tom, it's beautiful. I don't believe it would be possible to better the Matterhorn's set menu, due principally to the Tanq' 10. Would be surprised if Plymouth delivered a 'biscuity' aroma. Would also be surprised if South had enough character to make a Martini out of, but then again, I do like surprises. I think those bamboo things are just flash toothpicks - I've seen them somewhere else - a japanese restaurant perchance?

I was thinking - and I may ammend my post to reflect this - I didn't mean to imply that I 'invented' the Omega Martini - it's effectively the same as, for example, the Gambata (sp?) as served at Good Luck, except there's no sake. Oh, I don't know, perhaps I did invent it.

BTW I didn't make a huge effort to catch up and talk to you at Laurie's on the weekend, as I was starting to worry that you'd think I was stalking you ;)

At 2:58 pm, January 20, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

It was hard to describe the aroma of the Sandwiches Martini. There was something biscuity, toasty, yeasty, shortbready - a bit like a good Champagne - but it was quite elusive. I wouldn't have expected it from Plymouth, either, although Plymouth's slight sweetness might have contributed. Some prescriptivists claim that a Martini can only be made with London Dry gin, but I beg to differ.

I generally quite like South, especially straight. The kawakawa and manuka give it a different edge, though I think you're right that the botanical character is more muted overall. Perhaps a thorough comparative tasting is in order: Juniper would be the obvious venue.

Your Omega Martini did bring Good Luck's Gambata to mind (incidentally, the name hints that it should be their signature cocktail). But without the sake, it must be a very different beastie.

I'm planning a series of my own Martini experiments, as soon as I can find a tame barman (I could always make them at home, but that's not quite the same). Coming up soon: The Grubby Martini, the Périgord Martini, and the Hundertwasser Martini.

Oh, and don't worry about not catching up at Lorrie's: all those sweaty artists crammed into that little dungeon didn't make for an atmosphere conducive to conversation. BTW, I was guilty of an appalling unintended double entendre earlier that evening when I told someone that "I'm just going to pop into Lorrie's opening". Ouch.

At 6:44 pm, January 22, 2006, Blogger s. said...

Hmmm. I'm thirsty. Perhaps we should convene at Juniper in the near future. I'm sure The Sifter could be persuaded to put on his dancing shoes as well.


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