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Miller's Residence hotel in LondonHow to make the perfect martini? Book yourself a martini-making masterclass. Shimpulsh, as the famously compared meerkat would say (or Mr Smith, after a few extra dry martinis). Since we at Smith pride ourselves on being tastemakers, able to spot the best cocktails in London at 100 paces, we thought a refresher course was in order (you may have seen Anthony’s post on St James’s Hotel cocktail classes). And, as a self-confessed hater of badly made martinis, I couldn’t wait to join hotelier Martin Miller‘s ‘Gintelligentsia’ at boho London boutique hotel Miller’s Residence.

Mix the perfect martini

The most commonly asked question a martini aficionado ever answers: shaken or stirred? If, like me, you’re thinking: you don’t shake, because you’ll bruise the gin, and it’s awfully common to shake, and James Bond had it all wrong, and what did he know anyway, he was drinking vodka martinis for chrissakes (sacrilege!)… well, you would be wrong. Shaking is apparently good: for temperature, for the perfect mix, and (a little bit) for drama. Since the no-shaking concept is one I have held onto with iron grip, dined (or rather drunk) out on more times than I care to recall, and held aloft as a gem in my treasure chest of cocktail connoisseurship, the news that this information is in fact UNTRUE has left me – ahem – shaken.

The perfect martini masterclassThis pearl of wisdom was imparted to an intrepid duo of Smith bloggers (I went with Anthony) at last night’s martini masterclass, a regular weekly sipping seminar hosted the ever-affable Martin Miller and his gin expert and mixologist Craig Harper. There’s not a single fact this high-energy Scot doesn’t know about martinis, gin, or indeed alcohol in general; our 90-minute sozzle session was crammed with after-dinner anecdotes, historical precedent and amusing quotes, all with a liberal sprinkling of liquid legend and lore. Many of which I’d love to re-regale you with, but, owing to a large number of martini samples and an insufficient information-to-memory-space ratio, I’ve had to summarise a few choice bits below.

Martin Miller's GinThe super-premium spirit for our martini-mixing tutorial was (of course) the multi-award-winning Martin Miller’s Gin, created by Martin himself more than a decade ago because he simply couldn’t find a brand of gin he liked enough to drink. This top tipple was showcased in a demonstration mix of five martini recipes that took us through martini history, from 1884’s rich and rounded Martinez to the 1950s Super Dry Martini Doble via the classic Dry Martini from Harry’s Bar in Venice.

The Martinez, equal parts gin and sweet Vermouth with hints of curacao and bitters, was a revelation; as were the stories about the Trinidadian Angostura bitters bottle with its ill-fitting label (somewhat reminiscent of Nasa’s metric measurements boob, only less catastrophic or costly); the origins of the phrase Dutch courage; the derring do of prohibition hero Charles H Baker; and many other things besides. See, you really had to be there…

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