When is a martini not a martini?

Considering its status as the canon’s most iconic cocktail, it’s remarkable that the martini doesn’t have a single agreed upon recipe. Like many great drinks it comes with more of a template than exact specifications, which basically dares us to riff on the formula. Historically, this has meant altering the garnish – swapping the olive for a cocktail onion, perhaps – or adding a dash of bitters. Today, though, a whole generation of bartenders is using the martini to channel their creativity, introducing bespoke ingredients and flavour combinations to this old favourite. But just how many times can you remix the martini and still retain its essential martini-ness? Gamely, I

The best cocktails for Burns Night

Tomorrow evening, fans of whisky, poetry and sheep offal will come together to celebrate the birthday of the great Robert Burns. In the dog days of January there are few pleasures as great as demolishing a plate of haggis while trying to twist your tongue around Burns’s immortal verse. No Burns supper is complete without a few drams to raise in tribute. However, you need not feel constrained to drink your Scotch only neat or with plain water. These cocktails are intended to show the range and versatility of Scotch whisky. There’s also a gin number thrown in for good measure in case your guests prefer to raise a glass

Rum deal: the fight to save Trader Vic’s

I have just been proposed to in a somewhat slatternly tiki bar in Mayfair. Not just any tiki bar, but Trader Vic’s, the Polynesian-themed restaurant and lounge underneath the London Hilton on Park Lane. Approaching its 60th anniversary, the bar has seen better days, but for historical purposes my partner of 12 years decided that this dimly lit den would be the location for the proposal of a lifetime. Then wouldn’t you know it – just two weeks later I discover that this cavern of delight where I spent many birthdays is being evicted and will close on 31 December. Trader Vic’s began in the 1950s, when Victor Jules Bergeron

Old Fashioned values: a cocktail recipe to live by

Take your time. Measure twice. Finish what you start. How will you have time to do it again if you don’t take time to do it right the first time? Work hard at work, then come home. Loosen your tie and relax. Make a highball or mix a cocktail for your wife and yourself. Share the end of the day. We are brothers and we write here of a drink and the man who taught it to us, our father. Teaching us how to make it, he also taught us something of how to live. He was a chemical engineer, and so the formula was important. The drink was the Old

Why the dry martini is the finest cocktail of all

We were discussing bourbon and whether American whiskey could ever rival Scotch. I recalled the first time I ever tried the transatlantic spirit. It was more than 50 years ago, in an undergraduate room in Oxford. The occupant was an ingenious fellow. At the beginning of one term, he wrote to Jim Beam, the whiskey makers. He informed them that he had discovered their wonderful product in the States, but it appeared to be impossible to come by in Oxford, which was a pity, because it deserved to be better known (in truth he had never tasted it and had never been to the US). A case shortly arrived, followed

Beware the cocktail bore

The man at the posh London bar stood with our drinks but wouldn’t give them to us. He had a lecture to deliver first, for cocktail culture – or ‘mixology’ as the craft is now known – is nothing if not didactic. As I looked enviously out at the people with pints of beer across the way, I wearily reflected on how the message to the customer has hardened in the years since cocktail bars with American ambitions crossed the pond. It is: the £19 you’re paying for the drink isn’t enough. You need to be quiet and listen, for you’re not just a drinker: you’re a supplicant. Be that

London’s best martinis with a twist

The martini is experiencing something of a renaissance. This old standard is appearing front and centre on menus across London, reworked to showcase new flavours and techniques. Within the simple framework of clear spirit, vermouth, an optional dash of bitters and an olive or twist, bartenders are finding infinite room for creativity. Not only is this a refreshing antidote to the tiresome orthodoxy that has historically dogged the martini – ‘Just wave the gin in the direction of France!’ – it’s further proof that London is the global capital of the cocktail. The martini may not have been invented here, but our bartenders are certainly showing the world what this

Dazzling Valentine’s Day cocktails to make at home

As we’re all doing Valentine’s Day at home this year it’s well worth breaking out the cocktail shaker to make the occasion feel special. This selection of drinks, each more romantic than the last, should do the job nicely. Air Mail A glamorous little cocktail that harks back to the 1940s, when the fastest way to send a love note around the world was by plane. This has a lot in common with the classic French 75, but brings a sense of holidays and warm weather with it that’s quite charming. The combination of rum and sparkling wine might sound like a reach but grassy Havana Club (£21.45 – The

Bring the bar to you: the best cocktail delivery services

If, like me, you’re thinking longingly of the days spent drinking with friends in some of London’s finest establishments – then worry no longer, here are some of best ways to enjoy your afternoon tipple from the comfort of your own home. There’s never been a better time to get into whisky – and Milroy’s has you covered. This Soho gem is shipping its finely curated whisky collections to your door. A simple online order brings you the best from around the world – Scotch from the Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islay and Campbelltown; Bourbon and rye from the United States; and a host of other malts from Japan, Sweden, Australia, South Africa