The perfect Martini is a state of mind. Let me explain.
There are many guides to what constitutes a good gin Martini. Opinions vary, but most will agree on a few essentials. It must be made with the best gin you can lay your hands on. It must be very dry (only a few drops of vermouth). It must not stand on the ice for long (or it will be watery). And it must be very, very cold.
Purists may bicker over the details (the garnish, the quantity of vermouth, the glass, stirred or shaken). One barman might bully you into a twist of grapefruit peel instead of the traditional lemon. Another may insist that cucumber is the only way when using Hendricks gin. Yet another will want to shake your Martini with crushed ice and apple juice (although this will be because he has no idea what he’s doing).
Forget all of this. When it comes to a good Martini, probably more important than the ‘how’ is the ‘where’ and the ‘when’. To enjoy one properly you should have time and space. I’d rather drink a mediocre Martini comfortably seated and relaxed than an excellent one while stood crushed into a corner in an overcrowded bar. Crowded bars are fine if you’re in the mood, and there are dozens of drinks that suit them, but a Martini isn’t one of them.
All of which makes it the perfect drink for the solo traveler. After walking the streets all day it’s the perfect early evening unwinder. What’s more, there’s something about gin that encourages reverie, that loosens the imagination. With one Martini you can lose yourself in your thoughts for an hour.
It’s a worthwhile quest for your next trip to a foreign city. You may want to do some research in advance and have a shortlist of intriguing bars to work with. A good place to start might be World’s Best Bars, a website that has led me to a few memorable places, such as Cocktails at Nine in Antwerp, Bar and Books in Prague and Boutiq Bar in Budapest.
If you’ve never done this I urge you to try it on your next city trip. Here’s what you’ll do. You’ll find a good bar that knows how to mix a classic cocktail. You might see a place advertising a “Jug of Mojitos only 15 Euros” but you will shake your head and walk on.
Instead you find your place off the beaten track. It’s not too busy, nor too quiet. There’s a seat for you. You sink back as your waiter fetches your drink and as the day’s tiredness melts away, already your mind begins to wander. When the drink arrives you stare at it a moment on it’s paper napkin, you’re in no hurry. Then you begin to sip it. You may have traveled hundreds of miles to get here, but as the gin, and the bar, and the moment do their work, nowhere could be less foreign, there is nothing between you and your thoughts. You are home.
Our guest blogger Roger Christian is a London based graphic designer, blogger and fiction writer. In his bi-weekly articles for Spotted by Locals Roger explores the pleasures and occasional challenges of solo traveling in Europe.