After the divine pleasure of spending my entire Friday night constructing Ikea furniture, I was due for a stiff drink to start off my Saturday evening.
Hailed as the best place in London to get a martini and known as Ian Fleming’s inspiration for the famous James Bond quip, ‘shaken, not stirred,’ the Dukes Hotel seemed like a good place to start. Ignoring the fact that it was quite a bold move at 5:30 in the afternoon, my flatmate and I managed to get a table sans reservation.
Less than one minute after ordering our dry martinis, our bartender pitched up next to us with his cocktail trolley. Although typing it now makes it sound rather like a dessert cart at a white cloth Italian restaurant, in this environment it worked well. Very well.
I kept my eye on the process, hoping to learn the secret behind the hyped-up martini hullabaloo. There wasn’t one. Unless you count the importance of good, quality, fresh ingredients as a secret. Our barman simply dropped a small splash of vermouth in the glass, swirled it around to coat the inside, poured the Potocki vodka straight from its frozen bottle and finished it off with a twist of lemon.
Neither shaken nor stirred, which in my limited knowledge of cocktails and extensive knowledge of James Bond seemed quite strange, the cocktail was a dream – so simple and so basic, allowing the real flavours of the vodka to shine.
Lessons learned and noted observations:
1. A delicious martini does not necessarily have to be shaken or stirred
2. Amalfi lemons, large and slightly gnarled in appearance, work best for the twist
3. All one needs is a slight coating of vermouth for a great dry martini
4. Italians have been running the show at Dukes for over 25 years – which explains the Amalfi lemons but not the quintessentially English nature of the venue
5. Bar snacks include Cerignola olives and mixed nuts. The nuts are less important here than the olives, because let’s be honest, the green olives are the star of this snack showdown. The big fat green ones, you know what I mean?
6. Potocki vodka. I’m not a connoisseur of the stuff, but I can tell you that this is good. Really good – so try and find it the next time you’re at a bar.