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James Bond is a `martini maverick` says cocktail expert

21-Feb-2009 • Bond Style

Surely there is no such thing as a bad martini. Isn’t it just a large amount of gin or vodka, with a bit of vermouth, in a fancy glass? Not so, says Alessandro Palazzi, bar manager at London’s Dukes Hotel. “A martini is like a steak – it’s very easy to ruin.” Dukes’ bar was one of Ian Fleming’s haunts and inspired 007’s favourite tipple – a vodka martini with an olive, “shaken not stirred” - reports the Financial Times.

I am attending one of Palazzi’s martini masterclasses. He has served 80 martinis already, and it is only 7pm on a Saturday night. I look around the small bar: the elegant international clientele look remarkably sober.

The classic martini is what the cognoscenti flock to Dukes for. Gin, vermouth and a twist of lemon – custom-made in front of you. A small trolley displays a frozen bottle of gin, an even more frozen glass, a decanter of vermouth and a lemon. There is no shaker in sight. “James Bond was a maverick,” Palazzi says. “He asked for his martini shaken just to make an entrance.”

Palazzi talks us through the importance of a frozen glass; those served at Dukes are also smaller and deeper than most. And the gin? Palazzi recommends Tanqueray No.10 – 48 per cent alcohol, with juniper from Florence. It must be frozen, too, “Otherwise it’s like a punch in the face.” The vermouth is Lillet, a vin cuit from around Bordeaux.

Palazzi swirls the glass with a splash of Lillet and fills it with gin. He then slices a swirl of lemon zest (unwaxed lemons from Amalfi only, please), spritzes it into the glass, twists the rind and elegantly plops it into the glass. Et voilà.

It is very chilled, very fragrant and very potent. What did Fleming himself drink? “Bourbon,” says Palazzi, with a smile.

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