The Cough Syrup Effect

Last night, I bought a bottle of Maraschino liqueur, the last ingredient I needed to make a Martinez cocktail—a classic drink that probably preceded the Martini.

I decided to use Plymouth gin, rather than Ransom’s Old Tom gin, because I was beginning to worry about something I’ll call the cough syrup effect. It’s what you get when you mix too many strong and complex flavors together.

The Martinez is sort of like a Manhattan, only with gin:

2 oz. gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
quarter oz. Maraschino liqueur
2 dashes bitters
recipe from the Flip’n drink app created by cocktail expert Gary Regan.

I used Vya sweet vermouth, a nice upgrade from the typical vermouths used for cocktails. And instead of the usual Angostura bitters, I opted for Fee Brothers Old Fashion bitters. The small amount of my new Maraschino liqueur was the final touch.

I bought the Vya after reading a blog post by New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov on the importance of good vermouth in Manhattans. “I highly recommend seeking out the Carpano Antica vermouth, to see how much of a difference a really good vermouth can make,” he wrote, insisting that there was no substitute. (Fee Brothers bitters were also recommended by Asimov.) The problem is Carpano Antica only seems to come in a liter bottle for about $40. That means you’ve got at best two weeks (refrigerating and sucking the air out of the bottle) to finish it off before it becomes undrinkable.

“For my Manhattans there is only one vermouth: Carpano Antica,” wrote Jordan Mackay on a Chowhound blog. He recommended Vya’s dry vermouth for Martinis, so I figured I’d try Vya’s sweet vermouth as a substitute for Carpano. Both Vya vermouths come in half-liter bottles, and cost about $12—about double the standard Noilly Pratt or Martini & Rossi vermouths, but still cheap.

And so I installed all of my fancy ingredients in a little cocktail shaker with ice. The result was thick, not complex. Each ingredient was combining with the other to create a sweet goo that stuck to your tongue—like cough syrup.

My immediate reaction was that there were too many ingredients. Eliminate the vermouth, I thought. Or was it that the drink wasn’t cold enough? I stirred it instead of shaking it. Did I not stir long enough? Or was the Vya sweet vermouth too much for this cocktail?

This drink was the taste equivalent of painting a picture using only shades of red. Nothing stood out. I can only imagine that the problem would have worse if I’d used Old Tom gin instead of the Plymouth.

Next time, I’ll use much less vermouth and maybe only one dash of bitters. Maybe I’ll measure the quarter ounce of Maraschino more carefully.

For such bold ingredients, my instincts tell me to simplify. The bottle of Maraschino recommends mixing it with whiskey: simple.

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One Response to The Cough Syrup Effect

  1. Pingback: Drinking Out: The Cure For Pain at Death & Co. |

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