For my second installment of three-ingredient Thursdays, I bring you: The Cilantro Martini! Stirred, not shaken. I know what you are thinking: “Cilantro? In a martini? Why???” But bear with me; it will all make sense in a minute.
The idea for this drink arose from a recent trip to the farmers market. I went to pay for my bunch of cilantro, when the person in charge of the booth casually asked, “Have you ever used the roots for cooking? This bunch was picked with the roots on.” I was immediately intrigued, especially after he mentioned that the roots have a wonderful aroma. Why not use them to make a cocktail?
After that fateful moment, it all came down to finding the best way to communicate a hint of cilantro without letting it completely overpower the rest of the ingredients in the drink. The answer? Infused spirits. I must admit that before making this cocktail, I thought that infusing your own spirits was a lengthy and complicated process. Now I know better. It takes mere days if you are working with herbs, and very little effort.
I chose gin rather than vodka because . . . well, I don’t actually like vodka. GASP. I also feel that gin is already wonderfully vegetal, so it goes better with cilantro. But if you can’t stand gin, go for it and infuse some vodka instead. I’m sure you could make a wonderful vodka martini.
The Botanist is my gin of choice, especially when making cocktails where the gin is supposed to be the star. But it’s expensive, so let me give you some pointers when it comes to infusing it so that you don’t end up wasting a ton of it. I ended up infusing only 6 ounces of gin because I didn’t how if I was going to end up hating the end result. The pros: It took exactly 24 hours for my gin to taste just cilantro-y enough. The cons: I love the end result and wish that I had made more. The good news is that I have more cilantro roots at hand (I have my own plant growing in the garden), so I can always make more. My advice would be to start small like I did and, when you feel more confident, to go all-in and infuse a whole bottle.
Martinis are a classic cocktail for a good reason. They are simple to make, crisp, and refreshing. Most people prefer theirs with very little vermouth, but I personally think that there should be a balance between the vermouth and the gin. I used Dolin’s Dry Vermouth in this particular martini. It’s important to use a dry rather than a sweet vermouth because the sweet one will give you a completely different flavor profile and mouth feel.
I’ve also added some Dandelion & Burdock bitters to the mix, which do make a difference, so I wouldn’t recommend skipping them. They punch up the vegetable tones present in both the gin and the cilantro, helping to balance the whole drink. The final touch (and this might turn it into a four-ingredient drink) was to express some lemon peel over the cocktail. This is totally optional though: my husband said that he liked it better with the lemon, but I personally like it without.
One more thing about martinis: they need to be served cold. Like really cold. I strongly recommend that you chill your glasses beforehand and that you give the drink a good stir before straining and pouring it.
If you absolutely hate cilantro because you are one of those poor souls for whom it tastes soapy, then feel free to infuse your gin or vodka with a different herb. Rosemary might make a interesting martini, but I would taste it every few hours to make sure it doesn’t get too stringent. Also, if you can’t find cilantro with the roots on, I’m sure that you could get the same result by using the stems and leaves. You might just need to use more of it.
One last thing: You need make sure that your herbs or roots are squeaky clean before you put them in with the booze. Any dirt might considerably alter the flavor of the spirit and/or make it go “bad” too soon (they don’t really go bad, but it might give it a funky flavor and make it undrinkable). I also recommend removing the herbs/roots once you’ve reached your desired flavor profile, and straining the infused spirit into a clean container just to be sure.
What variations on this martini would you make? I would love to get some ideas!
Three-Ingredient Thursdays: The Cilantro Martini
This clever variation on a classic martini requires only three ingredients: cilantro-infused gin, dry vermouth, and a dash of bitters.
- For the cilantro-infused gin:
- 6 oz good-quality gin (I used The Botanist)
- 4-5 cilantro roots (or some sprigs with leaves attached), thoroughly cleaned
- For the martini:
- 2 oz cilantro-infused gin (recipe follows)
- ¾ oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin's)
- A big dash of Dandelion & Burdock bitters
- A slice of lemon peel (optional)
- Step 1 To make the cilantro-infused gin: place all of the ingredients in a small canning jar or bottle and let them sit for 1-3 days. Taste the mixture often until it has infused to your liking. Strain the mixture into a squeaky clean jar (you could even put the jar in boiling water for 10 minutes to sterilize it and fill it with the gin after it cools) and store it in a cool dark place. It should last for months, but avoid using it if you notice little specs of anything floating around.
- Step 2 To make the martini: Chill your cocktail glass by placing it in the freezer for at least 10 mins before making the cocktail. Put all the ingredients in a mixing glass and top with plenty of ice.
- Step 3 Stir it it for 1-2 mins to chill and develop the flavors, and then strain into your chilled cocktail glass.
- Step 4 Optional: express a slice of lemon over the cocktail by twisting it.
- Step 5 Garnish with some cilantro leaves and the cilantro roots and serve immediately.
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.