Cocktail Experiment – Martini Madness

This Cocktail Experiment featured in a recent edition of Australian Bartender magazine

Address: 185 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, Sydney
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It would have been hard to go past Hinky Dinks for this month’s Cocktail Experiment considering that the theme was Martini Madness. After all, Hinky Dinks harks from an era where the home cocktail party raged and a Cocktail was more than a drink – it was a dependable fashion accessory and the Martini raged supreme.


Funnily enough, this is always one of the more challenging experiments we run through Bartender magazine. Twisting and ‘moderning-up’ this timeless classic can be tough and often it’s the simple touches that work best. As usual we ran through the line-up of spirits and brainstormed ideas on how best to tackle the cocktails before hitting the mixing glass.

First up was the Crystal Head vodka and straight away some of the panel noted vanilla, heat on the nose and Kass picked out peppery characteristics too. There was an oiliness to the mouthfeel and noticeable sweetness – both of which would hold the vodka in good stead as a Martini base. Dan thought that it ‘lingered in the mouth really well’ and that there was no undue burn on the palate.

The Bombay Sapphire gin sat well with the group next up, and they made good work of the bottle references which show all the ingredients. “Lemon peel….and from Spain I think,” jested Dan after taking his time to read the back label. Its subtle palate was thought to be a good match to lighter citrus additions and the Hinky Dinks crew were keen to not overpower the spirit by complicating the resulting cocktail.

The 666 Pure Tasmanian Vodka was up next and immediately the group noted a candied sweetness on the nose. The rest of the crew found banana, and banana lollies in the bouquet – with a suggestion of green apples and white chocolate too. A white chocolate rinse was a suggestion to subtly compliment the spirit’s profile and Dan noted ‘that the nose is endearing, it really draws you in’. The 666 was showing some obvious sweetness as well, sweet enough that it could hold up to the addition of something bitter – a way to contrast its natural flavours.

Ketel One followed and Kass – a big fan of this vodka – noted almonds, limes and marzipan on the nose. He thought it might compliment well with amaretto, citrus or even a rinse of Montenegro Amaro. Throwing around ideas, the group considered it strong enough to be paired up with some gin – something like 10-15mls of Tanqueray 10 – as a way to add to the vodka, without detracting from the overall style.

A new gin to the group was the Finsbury, a ‘typical London dry gin style’ they quickly agreed. Big upfront notes of citrus and coriander with a slight back palate of aniseed too. The gin’s noticeable abv was a real surprise when first tasted, however the sweetness of the spirit did balance it out. Again they saw opportunities to contrast it with some bitterness, and were interested to see how it held up after a bit of dilution.

All in all it was an excellent line-up of gins and vodkas and a great challenge for the HD crew to create a new Martini from scratch, or put a twist on a classic. The results are sensational with each finished drink complimenting its base spirit perfectly. Well done to the crew! Cheers.

Dan Knight

Tasman Split

  • 60ml 666 Pure Tasmanian Vodka
  • 10ml TMD Banana Liqueur
  • Lemon twist

* Place all ingredients into a mixing glass and fill with cubed ice. Stir for 20 seconds. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Lemon twist for garnish.

What Dan says: “666 has an obvious musk-like candied banana nose, and palate. I’ve used TMD banana liqueur to augment this and a lemon zest to balance out the sweetness – genius!”

Kass Hill

Finsbury in February

  • 50ml Finsbury London Dry Gin
  • 10ml Lillet Blanc
  • 10ml house-made pineapple syrup
  • Orange twist
  • 6 coriander seeds

*Zest a long orange twist and cut to make it rectangular. Place scrap pieces in mixing glass with coriander seeds. Lightly press and add remaining ingredients then fill with cubed ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Orange twist for garnish.

What Kass says: “I picked up big citrus and coriander notes on the Finsbury and have tried to pull these out on the palate using coriander seeds and orange zest. A dash of pineapple syrup cuts through the high abv and smooths it out a little as well.”

Christof Brandon

Canadian Crystal

  • 60ml Crystal Head Vodka
  • 10ml Tuaca
  • Absinthe rinse
  • 2 drops Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
  • Lemon twist

*Fill a cocktail glass with ice and spray with Absinthe in atomizer. Place remaining ingredients into a mixing glass and fill with cubed ice. Stir for 20 seconds. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

What Christof says: “We noticed notes of vanilla on the nose and palate, with underlying subtle notes of anise too. Adding a dash of peach bitters and a lemon twist helps to counter the natural sweetness that Crystal Head displays.”

Jeremy Shipley

Twice Twisted Hoffman

  • 100ml Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 20ml dry French vermouth
  • 2 drops orange bitters
  • 1 long lime twist
  • 1 long orange twist

Place dry vermouth into a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain out all liquid and add remaining ingredients and stir for 20 seconds. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass and use intertwined orange/ lime twist for garnish.

What Jeremy says: “I based this twist on a Martini on the Hoffman House cocktail: dry gin & vermouth (5:1) and orange bitters. I didn’t want to overcomplicate the cocktail (rather) just highlight Bombay’s wonderful freshness.”

Kass Hill

Bondi Sloan

  • 60ml Ketel One Vodka
  • 10ml Dubonnet
  • 5-6 drops peach bitters
  • Lemon twist

*Zest a long lemon twist and cut to make it rectangular. Place scrap pieces in mixing glass and add remaining ingredients then fill with cubed ice. Stir until well chilled and fine strain into a cold cocktail glass. Lemon twist garnish.

What Kass says: “What I like about Ketel One is its mouth-feel and oiliness – such a great, well rounded feel. I didn’t want to mess with it too much so used Dubonnet and peach bitters. The bitters plays with the marzipan aspect I noticed on the back palate.”

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