It’s not all about whiskey over here. Just like this weekly bottle talk isn’t just about drinking. It’s a mental check in with myself and an attempt to connect with my community as we shelter and wonder what our industry will look like once we start hosting happy hours outside of digital boxes again.
When this all started I wrote about my experience with illness that led me to the hospitality industry, how it created a new normal for me, and how this pandemic was going to create a new normal for all of us.
This became clear almost immediately as people across the country who are sheltering in place found daily rituals to help mark the daily passage of time. I for one am not at all surprised by the resurgence of the cocktail hour under quarantine. Everyone has their rituals and for us it’s Martini’s.
The 5:00 Martini became an easy metronome to mark the days. The idea of a “weekend” or even a definitive “work day” may have slipped away but the silvery liquid pouring from the mixing glass into its chilled chalice was the sign post that marked the end of another day. It immediately became a daily comfort of the quarantine.
While I am a great lover of libations this was something distinctly unusual for me. Starting at 5:00 is not recommended when you work nights but without a bar to stand behind this ritual of making a drink for myself and my partner became more than a simple drink. It became a meditative process to soothe the mind and numb the spirit.
Martinis are also incredibly personal drinks. They vary from person to person and from day to day which is another reason they resonate during quarantine: variety amongst familiarity.
I’m a fan of classics and have been accused of having an “old school” vibe so it should come as no surprise that for me a Martini is always made with gin. While the gin varies on the mood I tend to lean towards very traditional London Dry gins. The baseline for which I judge all martinis is a Beefeater Martini with a twist. But the gin that has seen us through these past few months has been Tanqueray No. Ten.
Tanqueray Ten differs from its classic sibling with the addition of what they call the “Citrus Heart.” Essentially this is an incredibly potent citrus distillate made from fresh, whole grapefruit, lime, and orange. This helps set Tanq Ten apart as traditionally it is only the dried citrus peels that lend their flavor to a gin.
This is also where the gie gets its name. While you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is called Tanqueray Ten because of the number of botanicals it is actually because the citrus heart is distilled on Tanqueray’s “Tiny Ten” still which is a small pot still that was used for experimental distillation before becoming the permanent home for Tanqueray Ten. It then receives a second distillation in the more traditional “Old Tom” No. 4 still where the traditional Tanqueray botanicals, coriander, angelica, licorice, and of course juniper, are added along with a touch of chamomile flowers. This ultimately results in a fresh, citrus forward gin that is credited as being one of the forerunners of what we now call “New Western” style gin.
It’s also billed as being the perfect gin for a martini and while every gin will make that claim I can safely say after two months that it does make a damn good martini.
If you want to follow along at home the 5:00 Martini is a 5:1 ratio Tanqueray Ten to Dolin Dry Vermouth (for those of you who struggle with math that 2.5 oz Gin to .5 oz Dry Vermouth) stirred over ice, strained into a stemmed glass, and garnished with a lemon peel. If you’re greedy like my partner you can add an olive and a caper as well. And for all of you purists out there screaming for orange bitters there’s enough citrus in Tanq Ten that you’re simply gilding the lily at that point.
Unlike a lot of the bottles I’ve been posting about Tanqueray Ten isn’t rare or irreplaceable so why am I writing about it? Because this quarantine normal, this 5:00 meditative space will eventually fade. It will be replaced as the world finds a way to move on and suddenly a 5:00 Martini won’t be acceptable or practicle again. And I’d like to remember the small ritual that brought a moment of calm to the chaos.