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Mixology: Martinis

A sweeter martini is achieved by substituting pomegranate liqueur for classic vermouth.

By Ashley Jakubczyk

Jan. 27, 2014 12:00 a.m.

There are loads of trendy and diverse cocktails out there with complex and confusing flavors. Sometimes, though, it’s great to sip on a classic drink that’ll never quite go out of style. You know what you’re eating – shouldn’t you also know what you’re drinking?

Each week, columnist Ashley Jakubczyk will talk about a new mixed drink, where to get it in Westwood and how you can concoct your own version at home.

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I’ve been a fan of Agent 007 since I was a child. So when my parents took me out for a celebratory 21st birthday dinner last spring, I already knew exactly what drink I was going to order first: a martini, shaken – not stirred.

James Bond’s drink of choice, the martini, is usually made of gin and an aromatized fortified wine called vermouth, although many recipes replace the gin with a simple vodka. A martini is traditionally served in a V-shaped cocktail glass, and is usually garnished with cocktail olives (although fresh herbs, rinds of citrus and cherries also add a decorative and flavorful twist).

There remains a constant debate among connoisseurs and bartenders alike as to how a martini is best prepared. Some traditionalists believe that stirring the drink is better, as it allows the flavors to distinguish themselves from each other.

However, Mr. Bond may have been on to something with his personal preference for a shaken drink. A study from the British Medical Journal found there are both taste and health benefits to ordering your martini prepared with the use of a cocktail shaker, as this method of mixing leaves more antioxidants than a stirred martini does.

What it all truly comes down to is personal preference. When ordering a martini, don’t be afraid to ask for it shaken or stirred; experiment with taste to find out what works for you.

If you want to start with the basics, Skylight Gardens in Westwood serves a great classic martini, garnished with Gorgonzola-stuffed olives. Though these olives aren’t traditional per se, the kick of the cheese adds an extra layer of flavor that actually complements the potent taste of vermouth. Palomino boasts an interesting menu as well, including a ginger-pear variation, if you’re feeling more adventurous.

The following recipe cites vodka as the main ingredient, and pomegranate liqueur is substituted for vermouth for a sweeter taste. Although it seems odd to include in a martini, basil is a spice that can be paired with a variety of flavors, including watermelon, pear, grapefruit, ginger and even jalapeno. If pomegranate is not your fruit of choice, try substituting the juice or flavors of one of these options for another instead.

Pomegranate Basil Martini

2 fresh basil leaves

2 fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon simple syrup (sugar and water)

1.5 ounces vodka

½ ounce pomegranate liqueur

Splash of cranberry juice

In a separate bowl, muddle the herbs with the simple syrup. Then in a shaker with ice, combine the basil, mint, vodka, pomegranate liqueur and cranberry juice. Strain the mixture into a martini glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Optional: top off the glass with Champagne or sparkling wine.

Pomegranate Basil Martini (non-alcoholic)

2 fresh basil leaves

2 fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon simple syrup (sugar and water)

1.5 ounces tonic water

½ ounce pomegranate juice

Splash of cranberry juice

In a separate bowl, muddle the herbs with the simple syrup. Then in a shaker with ice, combine the basil, mint, tonic water, pomegranate juice and cranberry juice. Strain the mixture into a martini glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Do you agree with Jakubczyk’s martini choices? Have another favorite? Comment below or email Jakubczyk at [email protected]

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Ashley Jakubczyk
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