438 Church Street, Richmond (map)
This week I went along to the Martini Masterclass at everyone's favourite molecular cocktail bar, Der Raum. To accompany me I requested the presence of the charming J and his camera: many thanks to J for allowing me to use his photos in this post. As you can see, his lens is far, far, FAR superior to mine (I've learnt from bitter past experience that my camera and Der Raum just don't like each other)... I'm thinking that from now on I'll have to ask J to join me each time I'm dining in a dimly-lit restaurant. Either that or I'll just steal his camera.
The masterclass was conducted by Tanqueray brand ambassador Greg Sanderson (looking very suave in the photo below), with the Der Raum team assisting. We learned about the evolution of the martini, and tasted four variations (plus a taste of a fifth that Greg snuck into us). The class was excellent value at $60 a head ($45 for MTS members).
We arrived at 8pm, after a stomach-lining, booze-free dinner around the corner. Upon arrival we were given a palate-cleansing Chamomile Chroming: a sous vide infusion of French vermouth and chamomile, with delicate wisps of dry ice vapour sighing their way out of the little bottle (marked 'Poison') in which it is served.
The first cocktail, prepared by Luke from Der Raum, was the Chuncho Martini (named after the Peruvian Amargo Chuncho bitters included in its ingredients). The Chuncho Martini also used Tanqueray, Lillet Blanc and Marlborough syrup (a simple syrup made using Sauvignon Blanc instead of water). The grape used as a garnish had been carbonated (J dubbed it the 'Han Solo Grape', har har) using Lillet Blanc, so biting into it produced a crazy fizzy sensation on the tongue. We both LOVED this martini.
Then Greg took the reins and talked to us about the origins of the martini, generally regarded to be the Martinez cocktail. Various legends have sprung up regarding the Martinez origin story, most involving the Bay Area mining town of the same name.
Thank you to Greg for allowing me to reprint his Martinez recipe:
- 30ml Tanqueray
- 60ml Sweet Vermouth
- Dash Sugar Syrup
- Dash of Maraschino Liqueur
- Dash of Boker's Bitters (Angostura as a substitute)
- Stirred, into a chilled martini glass, large lemon twist garnish
It was at this point in the evening that the class got interactive: audience members were invited to come behind the Der Raum bar to mix up cocktails ourselves (with helpful tips from the staff). Nice! Here's the Martinez that J prepared.
For the third martini - the vodka martini - it was my turn to go behind the Der Raum bar and play bartender. After explaining (for the benefit of those who didn't know) what a dry martini is, Greg discussed various methods of getting the vermouth into a martini.
For my Vodka Martini (made with Ciroc Vodka), we coated the pitcher with vermouth, stirred it, then poured it out and added the vodka. Very dry. The olives as a garnish were skewered on a pipette filled with vermouth, so that the drinker could make the martini less dry by adding more vermouth if he or she chose to do so. Ay caramba, this martini was strong.
We also learned about the key botanicals used in gin: juniper berries, coriander seeds, chamomile flowers, licorice root, angelica root and citrus fruits such as grapefruit and bitter orange.
The extra martini we sampled was a Montgomery Martini made with Tanqueray 10 in a 15:1 ratio of gin to vermouth.
The final cocktail was a James Bond Vesper Martini. Greg read aloud the Ian Fleming passage from 'Casino Royale' in which the recipe is revealed:
"A dry martini," he said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."
"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"
"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
Kina Lillet has been unavailable since the 1960s (alas, when Daniel Craig orders it in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, it's an anachronism), so we had Lillet Blanc instead. The vodka was Smirnoff Black.
Greg brought along a number of martini accoutrements, including this curious little martini scale.
The class ended, but we stuck around chatting to fellow class participants. The Der Raum boys started making regular cocktails for those who (unfathomably) were still up for more alcohol. I spotted Josh making Der Raum favourite, the El Moroccan Blazer: a Hennessey, Cognac and sweet port concoction that involves flamed lime and pineapple, caramelised with a blowtorch in a miniature skillet.
Luke presented a Tanqueray 10 martini the way they are prepared at Der Raum: chilled with clouds of witch's-brew liquid nitrogen. The theatre of the Nitro Martini is always a crowd-pleaser!
Eeeeevil. But delicious.
My favourite line of the night was Greg's praise of the Der Raum team: "Coming to Der Raum and just ordering a vodka, lime and soda would be like going to Vue de Monde and just ordering a cheeseburger." :-)