The Martini. Hailed as the ‘King of Cocktails’, it is a serve that on the surface appears so simple. After all, at its foundation level it is a drink comprised of just two ingredients; gin and vermouth. Right?…Right??!…
If there is beauty in simplicity, it then comes as an ironic twist of fate that something seemingly so ‘easy’ to throw together can actually be a pretty complicated beast to nail…
For starters, what gin are you going to opt for? In itself this can be a time consuming process to whittle down exactly what kind of flavour profile you’re looking for, not least owing the sheer vastness of options available. Sure, we all have our favourite gins – but in the search for excellence in a Martini serve, just where the heck do you start?!
Ok, congratulations, so you’ve sussed your gin. Now you’ve got to figure out what vermouth you’re going to use. And if you thought gins could be complex, with 20-47 botanicals tending to be within the upper echelons, then vermouths usually begin with 20-30 botanicals rising to 60 or so in the super complex offerings! With flavour profiles spanning the broad range of the tasting wheel, from dry to sweet, herbal to floral or spiced (and everything in between), it can be a minefield to navigate. Albeit a delicious minefield!
Thought you were done? Think again! Time to consider your garnish game, and how you’re going to ‘dress’ your cocktail. A classic lemon twist or a skewer of olives? What about heading down the pickled onion route for a classic Gibson Martini? Or throw caution to the wind and chuck in a slug of olive brine for a crowd splitting Dirty Martini if you dare…
Next up, we start to get in to ratios – thought your secondary school maths was behind you? Wrong! What did BODMAS stand for again?!…will you prefer your Martini wet (a higher ratio of vermouth) or dry (essentially, a much smaller amount of vermouth to gin)? And how dry is dry? 5:1? 8:1? Bone Dry? Naked?!
Note to reader: Don’t misinterpret the ‘Naked’ serve. It refers to the classic ‘Churchill’ method of serving ‘direct’ from the freezer without the addition of vermouth, rather than indicating that the drink is best enjoyed wearing nothing more than your ‘birthday suit’ and a smile!
And what about the treacherous terrain that is picking the right glassware? Where does the dividing line get drawn between the classic ‘V’ shape vessel and the increasingly popular coupe? Or perhaps you could go uber fancy with a Nick and Nora?!
Suffice to say then that it can all be a bit of an intimidating prospect!
World Martini Day 2021
But fear not friends, help is at hand! Saturday 19th June 2021 will see the introduction of the inaugural World Martini Day, which comes with a specific and simple goal in mind: “to create more Martini drinkers”. In catching up with founder Julian Vallis, he goes on to explain that World Martini Day is “a day for anyone who hasn’t got confidence ordering Martinis to try one. So #TryAMartini for #WorldMartiniDay is the primary message of the day” whilst also being at pains to ensure that “battle hardened Mummified-in-Martini drinkers” are also catered for.
You can check out my full World Martini Day Meet the Maker (Part 1) Q&A with Julian Vallis here:
Friends with benefits…
Each year, World Martini Day will invite a distiller to create a one-off batch of something truly special and unique to celebrate the occasion. And it would be fair to say that Vallis has opted to kick off proceedings in style! In collaborating with Sheffield based northern heroes Locksley Distilling Co. a true ‘juniper powerhouse’ has been enlisted to make sure that the true ‘Spirit’ of the day is in encapsulated in a gin of very exciting proportions.
As one of my favourite distilleries on the planet, Locksley Distilling Co’s involvement in the project had ratcheted up my excitement levels to 11; with their name and expertise as a hallmark of quality, I was left in little doubt that the end gin would be excellent and the perfect foothold on which to start a long lasting legacy for this celebration of Martinis.
You can find my previous write ups of the teams flagship ‘Sir Robin of Locksley Gin’ and the incredible ‘Very Special Old Tom (VSOT)’ here:
And so I was delighted to have the opportunity to catch up with Locksley co-founders John Cherry & Cynthia King to learn a little more about their involvement in World Martini Day, their exciting and highly innovative limited edition gin launch and to get a sneak peak at what the future may hold for their awesome brand.
Locksley Distilling Co. World Gin Day Q&A:
The Gin Shelf (TGS): Hi John & Cynthia! So, Locksley have helped to create the first gin collaboration product for the inaugural World Martini Day; exciting news! How did it all come about?
Locksley: Hi Matt! I think Jules (Julian Vallis) mentioned we were his second choice (not offended, as his first choice is a good friend of theirs and we’re big fans as well! I’m sure you’ll be seeing something form that distillery another year).
We knew of and had met Jules and Sandra (@therealjuniperchick), but had never really chatted much. They started watching Cynthia’s Insta live cocktail events, and were incredibly supportive; a relationship naturally developed. So when choice number one had to step down and they asked us (with a very short development time) we jumped at the chance!
TGS: So tell us all about this exciting, very new & very limited, gin launch in celebration of the inaugural World Martini Day?!
Locksley: Jules and Sandra asked us if we’d create a gin that was “The Best Martini Gin” – to us. Easy peasy right? Ha!
Martini drinkers are probably the truest fans of gin and juniper. Where else does a gin shine so brightly? In a Martini, the gin is absolutely centre stage, standing there practically naked for all the world to try to find its flaws.
To me (Cynthia), trying to create the “perfect” Martini gin is like performing stand up comedy – there’s nowhere to hide, no-one else to put any blame on; it’s all you out there. But, like with stand up comedy, the reward is the greatest, the gin is not an actor in someone else’s play. So when Jules and Sandra gave sample #5 two thumbs up, we were thrilled.
TGS: Why was this project important to you to be involved in?
Locksley: We were definitely honoured to be asked to do this. It feels kind of perfect, as people often ask why Americans don’t like gin as much as Brits! I (Cynthia) say we do like gin, but it’s more about cocktails; gin and tonics are still not a young person’s drink. We do like gin, just in a different way.
So to be asked to create a gin that will suit the ‘King of Cocktails’ just seemed to make sense for us.
We are also known for a quirkier take on gin. We’ve done a few London Dry Gins for other collaborations, but they were tailored to the restaurants we were partnering with.
So this almost feels like our first London Dry Gin and our first for the ‘purists’.
TGS: What goes in the the gin, and what makes it special?
Locksley: Jules knows we have a Rotovap Vacuum Still, and he knows with that, we like to experiment with more unusual botanicals. So he asked if we might be able to distill Vermouth.
The answer is we can distill almost anything in there, and we can vaguely guess how it will taste when it comes out, but trying it out is the only way to know for sure…We tried it a few different ways (details of the trials will remain our secret!), until ultimately we landed on something we liked.
We also played with juniper, it has to be big for a martini, and decided to layer the flavours by distilling it in two different ways.
TGS: How did you guys come up with the recipe? And how was the creative process split between yourselves and Julian?
Locksley: I touched on this a bit in the last question, and I think Jules talks a bit about it too (note to reader: check out my Meet the Maker Q&A Part 1 with Julian Vallis for more detail). Jules had a few ideas, and then let us run with it.
I think the use of Vermouth was a fantastic idea. It is subtle, but an important part of what makes it special. It creates a truly dry Dry Martini, perfect for a Churchill Martini. We created four samples with a few differences, to gauge what direction Julian and Sandra would like to go in – they sent feedback almost immediately. It was really great to work with them as their feedback was incredibly well thought out and made perfect sense. We felt like we knew where they wanted to go with it.
We made one more sample based on their notes and thought we nailed it, or were at least pretty close. We were very lucky to be able to hand deliver it to them at an event in London. They tried it, thought it was spot on, and at the end of a long event Jules brought us a “Bangin” Martini.
TGS: Obvious question…clearly this gin has to be tried in a Martini right?! How are you serving yours?
Locksley: It’s funny, since making the final batch, we’ve not had a lot of time to play around with it. Jules has created several fantastic sounding serves that we can’t wait to try.
I think we are most looking forward to trying it in a Gibson. During advent I made my own pickled onions (with four types of vinegar) and have stirred down some pretty great Gibsons. We became kind of obsessed with them, like the rest of the world, while watching the Queen’s Gambit!
Ultimately, I’m going to defer to Jules on the Martini front – the man knows his Martinis! Like his notes on the gin samples, he puts incredibly careful thought into his cocktails, so he won’t steer you wrong.
TGS: Any other serves of note that you’d call out?
Locksley: Haha, see the previous answer! Follow Jules’s lead and you won’t be let down…
TGS: What’s next for Locksley Distilling Co.? Any sneak previews of upcoming plans that you’re willing to share?
Locksley: Thanks for asking! We’ve always got a lot percolating in the background.
We have a few ideas for some limited editions of our own. During lockdown our street (like so many streets around the country) had a WhatsApp group, checking in on neighbours who might need a hand, offers of grocery shopping, or dog walks for those who needed to isolate – even spare loo roll in the early days! We got to know neighbours that we’d walked by for years. Suddenly there were offers of rhubarb, and crab apples, damsons and quince. We have dehydrated some and distilled some fresh and hope to launch a line called ‘The Fruits of our Neighbours’ (now that is a name that YOU must appreciate!).
We have also started to do more contract work (gotta pay the bills!) and are particularly excited to be working with Dan Walsh (of Rascal Gin). He’s been visiting Locksley fairly regularly to create his soon to be released Pepper Berry Rascal which we will be making for him.
Note to reader: You can check out my previous write up of Rascal Gin here:
Our new website should also be going live fairly soon. We are hoping that 2021 will be a big year for Locksley…#watchthisspace
With huge thanks, as always, to John and Cynthia of Locksley Distilling Co. for their time and enthusiasm! Make sure you’re following the next chapters of their exciting story at their website and across social media!
Facebook: Locksley Distilling Co. Ltd.
And be sure to follow the World Martini Day event across social media – it’s sure to be a blast and a date that will claim its place on the calendar for years to come!
Facebook: World Martini Day
You will also want to check out Martini Club UK (@MartiniClubUK) – with a range of events throughout the year to celebrate the classic short serve cocktail, it’s a club that you’re going to want to be a part of…
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Stop by, say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!