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Rebel Bartender Original Recipe: Blood Orange Martini

“Gin, lemon juice, and blood-orange soda?”

“I think it’s good.”

“I don’t know, it just seems like…shouldn’t there be something more?”

“It’s three ingredients.  That makes a cocktail.”

While the Rebel Bartender is not one to generally trust to others’ declarations, in this instance, she decided to assent to her husband’s wisdom.  Because while there may be something impressive about a drink that delicately balances five or six different flavors like a juggler spinning plates, there’s also a lot to be said for simplicity.  And in this instance, simplicity works surprisingly well.

This recipe was actually devised at the request of one of the Bartender’s friends, who tried an advertised “Blood Orange Martini” at a restaurant and found it to be unimpressive.  The Bartender’s original idea for a nonalcoholic base – fresh-squeezed blood orange juice – was stymied by the relative lack of imagination in Arizona produce aisles.  Fortunately, however, she came across some Italian Blood Orange Soda at Trader Joe’s, and it turned out to go surprisingly well with (of all things) Bombay Sapphire gin.  Other gins would probably work, too, but be forewarned that you’ll likely be trading the subtlety of Sapphire for more of a strong juniper flavor.  Which, depending on your tastes, might be what you want.

Blood Orange Martini

1 1/2 ounces Bombay Sapphire
1/4 ounce lemon juice
3 ounces blood orange soda, chilled

Shake the gin and lemon juice with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.  Gently pour the soda in over the other ingredients, swirling to mix.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

Review: Hendrick’s Gin

It Is Not For Everyone.

Preferred By 1 Out Of 100 Gin Drinkers.

Loved By a Tiny Handful of People all Over The World.

Are the makers of Hendrick’s Gin attempting to market themselves the Anglophile-snob market, or simply to find some way to emphasize how their gin (and their campaign) is different from the usual crowd?  Frankly, it’s anyone’s guess.  But let the record show that the Bartender is a sucker for the elitist appeal, and would therefore likely have been interested in the stuff even if her favorite barkeep hadn’t recommended it to her.

And in all fairness, the product is something new and different.  Still gin, yes, but significantly less juniper-y than usual, with some surprising notes in the nose.  The makers claim to infuse it with cucumber and rose petal essences, and while the Bartender’s faith in her own nose isn’t quite strong enough to override her knowledge of the powers of suggestion, she won’t argue with the assertion.  There’s also very little harshness, other than what you might expect from the alcohol vapors.

It’s on the tongue where the stuff really differentiates itself, though.  The initial impression is very strongly sweet and floral, but a secondary fruitiness – yes, possibly English cucumber – slowly spreads over the tongue.  The traditional “gin” flavor comes out more towards the end, with juniper and perhaps a touch of coriander on the finish.

Much as with Cîroc, if you’re a gin purist, this likely won’t be your cup of tea.  But if you’re tired of Tanqueray and its ilk, or even if you just want something that “tastes a lot less like licking a pine tree” (to use the Rebel Spouse’s words), this is well worth trying out.  A++ with cherries on top

Note:  Their website, while it strongly plays up the “whimsy” aspect to their marketing, is also worth exploring – in addition to the amusing design, you get some tasty recipes, clever ad copy, and surprisingly good ideas for cucumber garnish.  Might the Bartender recommend, from personal experience, a bone-dry martini garnished with cucumber balls on a pick and a rose petal or two floated on the surface?  

Recipe: Pomegranate Martini

Funny thing about buying pomegranate juice to make grenadine – you end up with a lot of juice left over.  Not one to waste perfectly good ingredients, the Bartender flipped back through some of her older recipes to see if there were any that might prove assistive in putting the stuff to use.

This particular recipe actually proved doubly helpful; a while back, she had also purchased a bottle of Cîroc, but it had proven too bitter for her initial “shake it up straight for a martini” idea.  The fruity richness that sets it apart from other vodkas, however, both stands up to and complements the strong flavor of the pomegranate juice, while said flavor is more than enough to hide the vodka’s bitterness that otherwise comes out along the sides of the tongue.

Should you find yourself without grape-based vodka, however, your regular mixer should do the trick, if with a slight loss in depth of flavor.

Pomegranate Martini

1 1/2 ounces Cîroc vodka
1 1/2 ounces pomegranate juice
3/4 ounce triple sec
Lime wedge

Pour first three ingredients into the shaker; add ice and squeeze lime wedge into it.  Shake and strain into chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a lime wheel, or something involving pomegranate seeds if you’re feeling extra-creative.

Recipe: Peartini, Perfected

After the Bartender waved goodbye to the last batch of guests (Rebel Houseguests?), she discovered to her delight that they had left a present on her home bar; specifically, a bottle of Grey Goose La Poire.  This particular spirit had been on her to-try list for a while – pear vodka is fairly unusual – but given its cost and her generally-unimpressed reaction to the classic Goose, it had never quite made it to an actual purchase.  So what better way to try the stuff out than on someone else’s dime?

Fortunately, it’s a much more interesting spirit than plain Grey Goose.  Surprisingly strong and non-sweet for such a fruity spirit, it could add an extra dimension to a number of drinks, and likely wouldn’t need to be used in large quantities to do so.  This Peartini recipe is an exception, designed to complement and show off La Poire’s qualities.  It comes originally from the Grey Goose website, although the Bartender has done a bit of tweaking to get the sweet-sour balance just right – hence the name.

Peartini, Perfected

2 ounces Grey Goose La Poire
1/4 ounce amaretto
3/4 ounce syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1 ripe pear

Shake all (liquid) ingredients and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Cut a thin, nearly translucent slice of pear and lay it along the inside of the glass.  Enjoy the rest of the pear with the martini – they’re tasty!

Recipe: Vodka Martini

Given that it’s Vodka Week, and given that the Bartender has (until today) been short a set of shot glasses to properly freeze, she has been evaluating each in the next best medium:  the vodka martini.  Not only has it provided a framework within which each spirit can display its talents, but her general preference for gin martinis has assured her ability to simultaneously discern the vermouth from the spirit itself, judge how the two combine (if at all), and also to analyze how the vodka versions stack up in terms of overall flavor.

The vodka martini is perhaps best-known as James Bond’s preferred drink, and as with so many things, Agent 007 knew exactly the right way to do it.  “Ice cold” is your watchphrase here, and as we’ve learned, shaking tends to make a drink colder and slightly more diluted than stirring. Gin martinis are traditionally stirred, true, but a vodka martini both benefits from the additional chill of shaking and bears the dilution far better than its cousin.

One final note:  while the Bartender does not believe in bone-dry Martinis of either sort (what’s the point of making the Martini if there’s no vermouth flavor to complement the spirit?), vodka has a naturally subtler flavor than gin, and therefore works best in a drier setting.  Your ultimate preferred proportions will likely take a few tries to discover, but hey – the trial-and-error is part of the fun!

Vodka Martini

2 oz. high-quality vodka
1/4 oz. dry vermouth

Shake both ingredients with a good handful of ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with your favorite Martini garnish – lemon twist, olives, cocktail onion, etc.  Bonus points if you manage to come up with a garnish especially appropriate to the vodka brand used.

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