Before the omicron surge really hit the Berkshires hard, my wife and I had dinner plans. In fact, we had two (much needed) date nights planned. A babysitter was booked for one night and a visit from my in-laws was going to offer us another adult evening out.
Unfortunately, both dinners were canceled as infection rates rose throughout the county. I am still anxious to get over to the Ostrich Room for some proper martinis eventually but now was not the time to pretend the pandemic had passed.
Instead, we try to have date nights at home, after our little guys go to sleep. This can be as complicated as dressing up and having a second dinner together or as simple as sharing dessert.
Recently, my wife told me that what she craved most from a night out was a nice cocktail. I decided I would dust off my old bar kit and mix up cocktails for the two of us.
In my previous life working in restaurants, I have worked a bar. I am by no means an expert cocktail maker nor do I really like to drink cocktails when I go out. I’m usually partial to a tumbler of neat bourbon or mezcal instead of fruity drinks that mask a good spirit’s true character.
When I am in a cocktail mood, I almost always order the simple, sophisticated and austere grandfather of the cocktail world, a gin martini. Apologies to the vodka-drinkers out there, but in my humble opinion, vodka is a characterless grain alcohol with little flavor. Vodka is meant to be mixed into drinks and forgotten, not savored.
For a great primer on how to make both gin or vodka martinis, read Maggy Button’s National Martini Day story from 2020 to learn all about shaking versus stirring. Olives versus lemon twists. To vermouth or not to vermouth.
Keep in mind that vermouth is a fortified wine, not a spirit. It does have a limited shelf life of a couple months and should be refrigerated to maintain its freshness.
Recently, a box of Meyer lemons arrived from my parents in California influencing my decision to try my own twist (wink) at a fancy martini. It was also an excuse to run out to the store and pick up a bottle of Berkshire Mountain Distillers Greylock Gin and a fresh bottle of vermouth.
My wife doesn’t love gin so I found a long-forgotten bottle of ginger beer that had been sitting in the pantry, a lime and a bottle of straight bourbon to make her a Kentucky Mule (the Cold War cousin to the vodka-centric Moscow Mule).
Here’s to the joy of mixing drinks on a winter’s night and date nights during a pandemic.
MEYER LEMON MARTINI
3 ounces Berkshire Mountain Distillers Greylock Gin (or vodka)
1 ounce extra dry vermouth
Small squeeze of Meyer lemon juice
Twist of Meyer lemon rind for garnish
Fill glass or cocktail shaker with ice. Add gin (or vodka), vermouth, lemon juice and stir swiftly. Pour through cocktail strainer into chilled glass and garnish with lemon twist.
3 ounces straight bourbon whiskey
2 ounces ginger beer
Splash of seltzer water
1/2 ounce lime juice
Lime wedge or fresh mint for garnish
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Garnish with a lime wedge or sprig of fresh mint.