This is also my first time using the visual editor here on WordPress now that our very helpful friend Victor has upgraded it for us. I’ve had that weird kind of busy/not-busy time at work lately where I just never managed to get to it, but I also knew HTML much better than Marshall so being stuck with the HTML editor didn’t bother me as much. That’s what I had to code in the whole time I was in E3 for GamersInfo, after all. (EDIT: Hmmm, and I see I made a mess of my images…I’m going to try to fix them, but if they’re still ugly – uh – well, damn, I guess it’s all my fault.)
But one of the interesting things about moving to our own domain is the increase in visibility we seemed to have gotten from marketing/PR type of people out there. We welcome it – I’m going to be honest, I like the chance to take a look at new stuff and/or talk to people about it – but we’re always going to be completely up front and straight forward with our readers about our experiences. Y’all saw that with trips to places like Central Michel Richard and New Heights as well as when Bulleit Bourbon sent us some info and a bottle before the June Mixology Monday. And you’re going to see more stuff like that coming up.
A little while ago we got an e-mail from Martini & Rossi advertising cocktails based off Andy Warhol and etc. Now, there’s two things about that for me:
1. I’ve honestly never really known much about Andy Warhol nor have I ever really cared…and
2. I’ve bagged on Martini & Rossi vermouths more than a couple of times – and at the point that I was going into this, I owned no Martini & Rossi products.
Obviously, I knew a few things about Andy Warhol. I knew his phrase about fifteen minutes of fame, that he did iconic pop art such as the Campbell’s soup can and Marilyn Monroe. I knew he went to Studio 54 and what he looked like. I just, mostly, really didn’t care because, well, it never really came up.
I hit Wikipedia and read up on him, did some Googling on Edie Sedgwick.
I had initially thought “I’ll do the drinks that they list with whatever vermouth I already have in my bar” which means, basically, Noilly Prat, Vya, and Carpano Antica. But that didn’t seem like it’d be a worthwhile endeavour, and if one of their “key markets” that they’ll be rolling out these is our own Washington DC (you know, where we, like, live and stuff) I thought I should do it right.
I drove out to the ABC store and Harris Teeter. I went for the smaller bottles of the rosso and extra dry vermouth at the ABC store ($6.40 – Teeter didn’t carry them) and got a bottle of the Martini & Rossi prosecco at Teeter for about $13.99. I also stocked up on the few ingredients I was still missing, mostly mint, rosemary, raspberries, and orange juice (I’d drank up all the OJ during various hangovers). From there I headed over to Total Wine & More to buy a bottle of the bianco vermouth ($7.99 for a bigger bottle) and inwardly sigh when I saw the same size bottles of rosso and extra dry were only $4.99 there. I made up for it by buying copious amounts of beer.
Now that I was stocked up, it was time to buy some ice – our lack of an icemaker means I was stuck with a 20 pound bag of ice sitting on my doorstep in 90+ degree heat until I could make all these drinks – and head home to get ready for round after round of drinks.
We got ourselves settled, and I made it a point to make at least a couple of them while Cathy was around because I know she likes wine-based cocktails. All of the ones in the “Gallery of Cocktails” document I was sent were vermouth based and only one had any additional liquor in it – I’d grabbed the Dewar’s White Label in minis that it asked for at ABC as well (if you didn’t know, Martini & Rossi is owned by Bacardi, which also makes Dewar’s).
The first drink up was the “Factory Martini”. Of course, it suffers from the fact that they insist on calling it a martini when there’s not even vodka, and most definitely not gin, in it. But at least versus so many martinis these days it has vermouth in it. The recipe was as follows:
3 parts Martini & Rossi extra dry vermouth
1/2 lemon in wedges
1/2 part simple syrup
3-4 mint leaves
club soda, chilled
Muddle lemon wedges and mint leaves in the base of a shaker. Add MARTINI & ROSSI® Extra Dry vermouth, simple syrup and ice. Shake well and strain into a martini cocktail glass. Top with club soda. Garnish with remaining lemon twist.
Gah. Imprecise measurements. I hate that. You have “parts” instead of, perhaps, you know, ounces or whatever, half a lemon – however big your lemon might be this time – and, you know, three or four mint leaves. I like mint, so I went with four, and I counted a “part” as an ounce.
I even broke out an old school martini glass for it – one of the ones my friends from Georgia had sent me about a year ago. They are, I believe, around the same size or maybe a bit bigger than my usual cocktail glasses so I thought they’d work well. The first thing I noticed was that the drink was nowhere near as clear as the picture in the document. My simple syrup, however, is made from demerara sugar, so that might’ve been part of it – but it was just generally cloudy.
I enjoyed the drink a good bit. It seemed to me like it’d make a good apertif. It was light and delicate with much more of a lemon taste than mint. Cathy and Matt both thought it should be sweeter, to be more like “lemonade”, but I thought that the tart taste to it worked for it.
Off to the next drink…
1 part Martini & Rossi rosso vermouth
1 part Dewar’s White Label blended scotch
3 cherries soaked in premium orange liqueur
Shake liquid ingredients with ice and strain into a martini cocktail glass or pour over ice in a rocks glass. Drop in cherries.
The big thing for me on this one was the cherries – I wasn’t going to soak fresh cherries in orange liqueur just for this, but I did have some I did in a combination of bourbon and Grand Marnier, so I figured those would work. I poured one and a half ounces (most of a mini) of Dewar’s in, used the same amount of vermouth, and lamented the lack of bitters in the “Manhattan” – which, being that it used scotch really should’ve been called a “Rob Roy”.
This drink sucked. I couldn’t drink it, I dumped it out – something I almost never do. The vermouth pretty much completely overpowered the scotch except for a dry taste left on the tongue, the lack of bitters really showed through (I think some form of bitters might’ve helped salvage this train wreck of a drink), and really – who shakes a Manhattan other than Dr. Cocktail? Seriously. You need a lot less vermouth (I tend to use 1/2 to 1/3rd as much vermouth as whiskey) and/or go with a more assertive scotch or with a sweet bourbon whiskey.
Blech. It was, however, maybe the closest cocktail I made to looking like the one in the picture. Hoorah.
That’s the lowest spot on the list, however. The next up was the Velvet Edie, named after the Velvet Underground and Edie Sedgwick.
3 parts Martini & Rossi bianco vermouth
1 part lemon juice
1/2 part simple syrup
2 mint leaves
In base of martini shaker, gently muddle one raspberry and one mint leaf with simple syrup. Add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake well and strain over cracked ice in decorative stem less glass. Garnish with quarter slice of lemon, remaining berry and mint leaf.
This one really got us all good. It was a damn tasty drink. Nice and pink, it reminded me of pink lemonade, and both Matt and Cathy thought it was really good as well. Later, when my neighbor Conroy came up to watch football and Generation Kill, I made him one and he liked it a lot. The fact that it’s quite weak (come on, only 3 ounces of wine, basically) was a surprise to the drinkers, not that it tasted like alcohol, but they just liked it a whole lot. (Don’t worry, Conroy switched to Redbreast Irish whisky later.)
Okay, so we hit a good one. Next up was the Pop Art ‘tini…oh, come on! You don’t need to add “-tini” to freaking EVERYTHING! GAH!
Pop Art [redacted]
1.5 ounces Martini & Rossi dry vermouth (I’ve never seen just “dry” Martini & Rossi, so I assumed they meant the extra dry.)
2 ounces cranberry juice
.5 ounces pineapple juice
1.5 ounces top with Martini & Rossi prosecco
Fill mixing tin halfway with ice. Pour in M&R Dry Vermouth, Cranberry and Pineapple Juice. Shake with ice 8-10 times. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with M&R Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon and lime twisted together.
Unfortunately for your humble narrator, I forgot to buy more limes at the store, so the garnish had to be a sole lemon twist. I really liked the look of the drink when it was done, especially the foamy pink head on the dark red beverage. I ignored the “shake 8-10 times” part, because that’s dumb, but I did appreciate the fact that it had actual real honest to god measurements for the cocktail.
The drink was tart but refreshing – I’d call it a good digestif, like the Velvet Edie, myself. Matt actually liked it too and the only bad part was that it led us on to believe that the Martini & Rossi prosecco wasn’t bad.
I’m going to be honest – the prosecco, like I’ve found with the rosso vermouth, I’m not a fan of. I’m not going to come out and say “it’s bad and here’s why” but what I am going to say is, honestly, I can not recommend them. I’d have to sit down with each and compare them to good versions to really break down the problems (such as Noilly Prat or Vya for the rosso vermouth (Carpano Antica being in a whole ‘nother category all together in my opinion) or the Vino Frizzante Prosecco dei Colli Trevigiani that’s sitting next to me as I write this) but I’ve come close to that for the vermouth already and I’m not really a wine guy in general. Maybe, if you’re lucky, and they’re around, one of the really smart wine guys who I know read this occasionally (looks around for Jake and/or Joe) can say “here’s why those two products aren’t so great”.
But the bianco and extra dry, on the other hand, were better than I remembered, especially in these cocktails. The next two feature rosso vermouth, unfortunately, so you can guess where it goes from there.
1.5 ounces Martini & Rossi rosso vermouth
2 ounces orange juice
1 ounce cranberry juice
.25 ounces grenadine
Fill mixing tin halfway with ice. Pour in M&R Rosso Vermouth, Orange Juice and Cranberry Juice. Pour Grenadine down the inside of the drink and let settle to the bottom of the martini glass. Garnish with an orange wheel cut in half and placed on top of ice.
Yes, it’s called a cocktail but doesn’t have bitters. But if you see this in a restaurant, I’d have to say, for me, order it, because mine doesn’t look like the picture they sent me (but don’t order it if your tastes are exactly the same as mine, because I wasn’t the hugest fan of it in the world).
It wasn’t bad, per se, as the tart actually worked rather well with the rosso vermouth. But it didn’t help completely, and maybe that’s compounded by the fact that I also didn’t have any oranges and so I couldn’t add the orange garnish that might’ve covered up a bit more of the vermouth taste.
The other big thing is that if you read the instructions they appear – well – wrong. They’re kind of screwy compared to the picture that was provided. And in my picture, you can see how dark it came out, while in the picture they sent, it was a very clear yellow-ish drink that had the dark red of grenadine in the bottom. I have no idea what they did to get theirs to look that way but mine sure as heck didn’t do that.
It’s not a bad idea, maybe, for a sweet vermouth-based cocktail, but the implementation is still off. It could use some work.
The final cocktail on the list was the “Celebrity Crush”, which, like the Pop Art and the Bohemian Cocktail, had no little story along with it to describe things about it. But it did have rosemary. Lots of rosemary.
12 each fresh rosemary needles
6 each fresh raspberries
.75 ounces simple syrup
1.5 ounces Martini & Rossi rosso vermouth
2 ounces cranberry juice
Muddle in a mixing glass: Rosemary, Raspberries and Simple Syrup. Fill halfway with ice and add: M&R Rosso Vermouth and Cranberry Juice. Shake with ice 8-10 times. Double strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with 3 fresh Raspberries speared by a Rosemary sprig.
That’s a lot to muddle but it works out okay. I wasn’t certain if it meant individual needles or the little clusters of needles for rosemary but I guessed on the former, and I had to laugh because I’ve never seen a recipe call for (to use an example) “6 old, stale raspberries”.
The rosemary, I felt, really helped the balance of the cocktail, along with the tart of the cranberry juice and the taste of the vermouth. Unlike some of the other rosso vermouth based cocktails in the list I didn’t feel like this one was worse off due to the presence of the specific brand of vermouth – instead, I would be more likely to say it’s not bad at all but not necessarily my cup of tea. If I knew someone who loved rosemary, for instance, and who was looking for a weak, fruity drink (say, one certain chef friend of ours in New York City, and no, I don’t mean your fiancee, ED), I would definitely recommend the drink.
That’s kind of one of the points overall for me. These are not bad drinks – with the exception of the one “strong” drink, the kind of drink we Scofflaws often prefer. In fact, I went into this whole exercise very skeptical that anything good could come out of it and I found a couple of drinks that I would not hesitate to make for other people.
Would I make them for myself? Uh, that’s a harder question. I’m saving what’s left of the prosecco (the “champagne stoppers” you can get at Total Wine are a god-send for saving sparkling wine) for maybe making more Pop Arts for, well, other people – and maybe me if I need something light – and I’m definitely keeping the bianco vermouth to make more Velvet Edies. In fact, I kept all the vermouths for now, where my original plan had to been to get rid of them, though I’m having a hard time thinking of a good reason to keep the rosso when I already have Vya, Noilly Prat, Carpano, and Dubonnet, except, perhaps, to do a taste test between them.
What this means for you is – keep an open mind. Everywhere out there, even in some of the most unlikely of places, there are good drinks, you just have to find them. Sometimes it means venturing out of your own comfort zone and doing something different. Honestly, if I’d seen a Velvet Edie on a bar menu, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but now there are four of us who have tried it and said “hey, wow, this is a pretty good drink!”
And you know what? Andy Warhol was actually kind of an interesting guy. The theories on his art work and how it relates to capitalism are something I’d like to look into a bit more. Then again, I am an unrepentant capitalist…but do not assume any politics on me due to that statement.