This Soho bar is serving ‘hot martinis’ for Christmas

It’s enough to make Ian Fleming turn in his grave: one Soho bar is proudly serving hot martinis this winter. But they have a confession: “These are by no means traditional,” says Martin Dominuez, bar manager at the Ham Yard Hotel’s new Winter Martini Garden.

“We’re always looking to innovate,” says Martin, “so this year we are showing that there are more exciting warming drinks to try. Often people just think the martini is one drink but there are in fact so many variations.”

The reserve martini is one of the heated creations. It has “flipped the ratios” of a classic dry martini, with dry vermouth, Antica Formula Vermouth, botanical bitters and gin. “Being hot and with lots of vermouth, this is a really warming and aromatic drink,” says Martin. “It comes with a little blue cheese filled deep fried olive to pack an extra punch.”

The espresso martini is another hot drink on the menu. “We have taken the much loved espresso martini, which was apparently created next door at the now-closed Fred’s Club, and heated it up,” says Martin. Another, The Pharmaceutical, is made by warming the ingredients of espresso, coffee liqueur, orange goin and vanilla syrup, and served with a layer of cream. “The contrast between the warm drink and the cool layer of cream is delicious.”

There is a lot of technique to crafting the perfect martini. The width of the metal bar spoons used to stir the drink over ice affects the taste, and whereas shaking gives the drink a softer mouthfeel due to the bubbles created by the movement, a stirred version is often stronger.

And let’s be clear: a traditional martini is not this. Ordinarily, they are served at 25 Fahrenheit and contain one part dry vermouth to three parts gin. You can replace gin with vodka, but syrup, cream and coffee liqueur are typically as useful in martinis as sunscreen is to eskimos. Perhaps a martini is more about the glassware than an arbitrary set of ingredients? But then again, perhaps that’s a stretch.

As Martin says, this Soho bar is really playing with the formula. “The colder the better,” advises the seminal Difford’s Guide to cocktails. “Hence it is advisable to store your gin or vodka in the freezer along with your serving glasses.” The Winter Martini Garden is open now and there are 12 types of hot martini to try, including one with beef dripping. But remember hot cocktails aren’t a new thing. In the first ever cocktail book, published in 1862, there was a recipe for mulled wine.

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