Photo credit: Casey Dunn
Happy Friday! And almost Happy Hour. You want to make yourself a martini tonight, but the task feels a little daunting, the antithesis of what a post-work, wind-down drink is all about. Do you need special equipment? Do you have the right garnish? What is the right garnish?
Enter Christopher Thomas Jacobs, of Jeffrey’s in Austin, whose official title is captain (“like a super hands-on floor manager”), but who we sought out because he’s the Martini Guy. Jeffrey’s is a steakhouse without calling itself (or feeling like) one, and it’s known for its throwback-done-right approach to fine dining: the wedge salad gets pickled shallots, the lobster thermidor is wood-roasted, and the cheese and martini carts are helmed by experts like Jacobs.
“We do a really classic martini,” he says. “We didn’t invent it.” No, they didn’t, but they sure do execute them expertly (this writer can attest). Here, he breaks down the classic for you:
Photo credit: Casey Dunn
What you’re looking for: “You just need a good balance, really. That’s it,” says Jacobs. “A martini can be a pretty intense thing—you’re really just drinking straight booze—so it needs to be prepared correctly. You want the vermouth to compliment the spirit.”
The thing about vermouth: “A lot of people have this notion that they don’t like vermouth,” says Jacobs, but he thinks it’s likely because they’re drinking, well, bad vermouth. “Vermouth is a wine, so you should keep it just as you would keep any fine bottle of wine.” Once opened, in other words, it’s only good for a day or two. To lengthen its life to about a week, keep it in the fridge or stop it up with a wine pump.
Vodka or gin: Gin is the classic choice, says Jacobs, but he stocks potato vodka and wheat vodka on the cart, as well. As for the gin, he says a London Dry-style like Beefeater or Aviation is most well-suited to a martini. “It has a nice balance of clean and bright body with good character and botanicals.” But if you want something super clean and crisp, try Plymouth.
Shaken or stirred: “Really a martini should be stirred to avoid imparting too much water into the cocktail,” says Jacobs. “There’s a misconception that shaking it is going to be colder, but really that’s just imparting little shards of ice into the drink and diluting it more. A martini should be focused on the spirits.” That said, if you like it a little more diluted, by all means, shake away. “It’s just a preference.”
Put it all together: Pour 2 1/2 ounces of your spirit and 1/2 ounce of dry vermouth (Dolin is the standard) into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Stir “for a minute and a half,” says Jacobs, or cover and shake for about 30 seconds. “Then just take your Julep strainer and pour the liquid into a martini glass.” That’s it.
Top it off: “The most classic would be a [lemon] twist,” says Jacobs, “but more popular is going to be an olive.” Also, Jeffrey’s pickles cocktail onions in-house, which this writer could eat like potato chips.