The slippery ascent of the olive-oil Martini
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Is your Martini lacking a little something? It could be olive oil – the ingredient that’s making a surprise appearance on cocktail lists from New York to Copenhagen this season. “A great-quality olive oil can add texture to a drink, as well as the flavour of the oil, be that green and grassy or peppery,” says Max Venning of London bar Three Sheets, which has showcased olive oil in everything from Martinis to fizzes.
Crispin Olio Martini
Adapted from a recipe by Jason Patrick Glynn of Crispin, Spitalfields, London E1
50ml olio gin (see below)
5ml strong, cold green tea (see below)
Few drops of dry vermouth
Glass: cocktail glass
Garnish: lemon twist, spritzed over the surface of the drink and discarded, and a dot of olive oil
Method: stir with ice and strain
To make 500ml olio gin:
100g olive oil
Method: Blend the gin and oil thoroughly, then freeze until the oil has set in a layer on top. Crack the surface, strain the gin and bottle.
To make 200ml strong green tea:
200ml lukewarm water
20g loose leaf green tea (I use sencha)
Method: Steep for five minutes, then strain off the leaves.
At Crispin bar in Spitalfields they make an Olio Martini (above) using a technique known as “fat-washing”, which imbues the drink with the flavour of the oil and a subtle, silky texture without turning it into an alcoholic slick. “We blend five parts London dry gin with one part Citizens of Soil olive oil and freeze it overnight,” explains manager Jason Patrick Glynn. “Then we crack the top, fine-strain the gin, stir it with cold green tea, a little dry vermouth and garnish with a dot of olive oil and a lemon twist.” I had a go at this recipe (which you can find below) at home, and it’s delicious and easy to make.
Temple bar in NYC uses a similar fat-washing technique for its Olive Oil Martini. But instead of green tea they stir their gin with a blend of dry and sweet white vermouths, garnishing with an olive or two. Ruby in Copenhagen offers a Scarlett Negroni made with olive-oil-washed Tanqueray No Ten, saffron, yuzu sake and Bèrto bitter. At NoMad London’s new bar Common Decency, an Old Fashioned is made with olive-oil-washed bourbon, stirred down with cobnut-infused rye, chocolate bitters and maple syrup.
A Martini can also be very good with just a few jewel-like dots of oil droppered on top. The savoury Caprese Martini at The Umbrella Workshop, London, is inspired by the Italian salad: it sees vodka, gin and dry vermouth stirred down with La Tomato, a crystal-clear tomato liqueur, then anointed with basil-scented olive oil.
Bog-standard cooking olive oil won’t cut it. For cocktails it must be the best: single estate, extra virgin and, preferably, the current vintage so the flavours are as lively as possible. Two of my favourite Tuscan producers are Fontodi, whose picante oils are grassy and intense, and Capezzana, whose organic, unfiltered oils have a soft, almost chamomile-like note. The 2022 vintage, on release right now, “is shaping up to be the best in Italy since 2018”, says Elizabeth Berger, founder of frantoi.org, a retailer specialising in single estate and single variety olive oils. Berger is keeping orders for the new vintage open for FT readers until 4 December – so stock up to make an unlikely, but exciting, addition to your drinks cabinet.