I've always had a thing for crafted cocktails and have tried my hand at many over the years. But I have so much respect for the true professionals who not only know the classics like the back of their hands but can come up with new concoctions that are geniusly experimental yet extremely palatable. Talmadge Lowe of Pharmacie is one of the goodies. I remember when he and his team of dapper bartenders started serving cocktails at a lot of events around LA, and when I would spot a bowtie behind the bar, I knew we were in for a night of quality craft cocktails. I recently had a chance to hang with Tal at HiLo (check out my feature on that here if you missed it) and martinis were on the menu. Today he's sharing two versions with us: the classic, and his own take called the Starlet. I think it's time for a martini renaissance, don't you?
First, a little history lesson... "The origination of the Martini is a bit unclear, as many things are in the history of cocktails. It may be a direct descendant of a cocktail called The Martinez, created near San Fransisco in the 1860s. It may be be named after the Italian vermouth brand or, maybe a bartender from New York. We’ll never know. But what we do know is that a cold glass of gin and vermouth have stood the test of time. We’re still talking about them, we’re still drinking them.
As with it’s history, it’s recipe is also a subject of debate. I give mine here. It’s the way I prefer to drink them, but you will be the ultimate judge as to whether your palate requires more or less vermouth. Or an olive...
3oz Gin 1 oz Dry Vermouth Combine ingredients over ice into a cocktail carafe or mixing glass and stir steadily for 45 seconds. Strain into a cold (straight from the freezer) cocktail glass. I prefer a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
For gin, I like a solid London Dry (Sipsmith for example or even Plymouth) but the New American gins (Spring 44, Barr Hill) are playing with herbs and botanicals in a whole new way and if you are not a traditionalist like me, I suggest you take that route."
What's the inspiration behind the Starlet? "The Starlet cocktail stared with my dislike of dirty Martinis. I wanted to create a”clean” martini that deviated just slightly from the original recipe. I also wanted the cocktail to remain boozy and decidedly aromatic. Mint seemed right for that brisk, crisp, clean note and vodka for the non-gin drinkers. We kept the vermouth, as is.
The name came from an image I had of Marilyn Monroe or some other young starlet opting for one of these at Ciro’s, instead of the traditional martini.
3 oz Vodka 3/4 oz mint syrup* 3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
Combine ingredients over ice into a cocktail carafe or mixing glass and stir steadily for 45 seconds. Strain into a cold (straight from the freezer) cocktail glass. I prefer a coupe for this one. Add mint leaf garnish.
*Combine equal parts water and sugar (I cup of each) in a small pot and heat until the sugar dissolves. For mint simple syrup, add 4-5 bunches of mint to the syrup while hot and let steep for 2-3 hours. Always let it cool to room temperature before using. Refrigerating over night is preferred."
Thanks so much to Tal and HiLo for having us and showing us all the ways of the world of cocktails! I might just have to make this a monthly series. You know, research.
Photography by Ashley Burns