Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Martini Cocktails, Vermouth and Olive Liqueur

A chilled Martini garnished with cocktail olives is heavenly on hot summer days. I love the olives that are stuffed with anchovies as their briny flavour gives a salty tang to the sweetness of the drink and starts your mouth watering. There are traditionally 3 olives in a Martini cocktail, the first is eaten after the first sip, the second midway through and the last is saved till the drink has finished. It soaks up some of the flavours of the Martini and is very moreish.

Traditional Three Olive Martini

2 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
3 green olives skewered on a pick for garnish

Pour the gin and dry vermouth into a mixing glass. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the olives.

The Martini dates back to the late 19th century and no one knows where it originated or who invented it but in 1863 an Italian Vermouth maker started marketing their product under the brand name of Martini & Rossi. Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with herbs, spices, barks, roots and seeds. Its name comes from the German word 'Wermut' for Wormwood and it was made in Germany, the Piedmont in Italy and France in the 16th century.

Vermouth was usually made from the white grapes Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Clairette Blanche, Piquepoul and Catarratto, flavoured with cloves, cinnamon, quinine, citrus peel , cardamom, marjoram, chamomile, coriander, juniper, hyssop, gentian, nutmeg and ginger. Grape spirit (Brandy or Eau de Vie de Vin) was added to fortify the wine and in sweeter versions sugar syrup was added.

Vermouths can come in dry white versions but are also made golden, ros
é and red versions – Chambéry (Savoie) in France has its own AOC for Vermouths produced there, which include a strawberry one called Chambéryzette. I can remember my grand mother drinking the very dry white Noilly Prat Vermouth whose company is based in Marseillan in the Languedoc Roussilon. It was founded in 1813 by Joseph Noilly who matured wines in oak barrels outside in the open air as part of the process. (If you'd like to know more about Vermouth check out Nick's blog on Fortified Wines, Ancient Egypt and Vermouth).

Strangely enough there is actually a liqueur made from olives that is made in Italy. It's made in the home or by artisan producers. It's made from olive leaves and bark steeped in Grappa. Dante mentions it in his poetry so it has been made since at least the 13
th century.

Producers are
Giuliano Berloni, (Marche) Liquor d'Ulivi, the Cazzetta family, Infusione di Olive a Base di Grappa (Apuila) and Masseria Il Frantoio (Apuila) – which is a farm, guest house and restaurant and produce several liqueurs, Rosoli di Foglie d'Olivo.

There are some producers in France that make Olive Liqueur as well: Philippe Bronzini of Moulin de Chartreuse and the Manguin Distillerie in Villeneuve les Avignon near Nimes in the Languedoc Roussillon. I have never tasted an Olive Liqueur before but they are said to have digestive virtues, a sweet balsamic flavour and can be slightly bitter. It does sound like an acquired taste – has anyone tried it?

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