This story was originally featured on Saveur.
In the midst of the rampant, countrywide shuttering of bars and restaurants due to COVID-19, there are few ties left to the proverbial night out. Some places are permitting the sale of to-go cocktails, but most of us are stuck playing bartender at home. Herein lies the inception of the “quarantini”: an inevitable portmanteau celebrating the timeless and elegant classic in an era of the unknown.
New York City bartender and beverage consultant Pamela Wiznitzer (formerly of The Dead Rabbit, the Seamstress, and Henry at the Life Hotel), believes martini enthusiasts shouldn’t feel limited by the limitations of social distancing. “When it comes to a quarantini,” she says “it’s up to you and your imagination.” As contemporary cocktail culture has led to increasingly complicated drink menus, it is helpful to remember that you can make a great cocktail with just a few basic ingredients. “[This is] a drink that reflects what you like to imbibe and it’s something that you feel comfortable making,” Wiznitzer adds.
Use what you have on hand
While some home bartenders might be intimidated by all the fancy tools and equipment, Luis Hernandez—the former head bartender at New York City’s Seamstress who now owns a beverage menu consulting company—encourages a more casual approach. “You can make great drinks without any equipment whatsoever, especially stirred drinks,” he says. Using basic household supplies like a Mason jar for assembling the drink, a shot glass for measuring, and a butter knife for stirring, you have everything you need to build a delicious martini.
Riff on the classic martini formula
When crafting your own quarantini, the classic combination of spirit—vodka or gin, traditionally—vermouth, and bitters is a fantastic place to start. To this point, bartender Mary Palac of Paper Plane in San Jose, California, has some words of wisdom: “I’ll usually lean on gin for a bolder martini, where I really want the botanicals to shine. If I’m doing a 50/50 martini I like gin because it stands up to the vermouth.” She adds, “Vodka I love for a more refreshing, summer-y martini. Extra-cold, shaken with a splash of sherry, and garnished with fresh herbs or pickled vegetables or fruit.”
For a dry martini, try stirring up a 2-to-1 ratio of gin or vodka to dry vermouth (a few dashes of orange bitters will go a long way). Don’t have vermouth? Palac suggests putting to use that bottle of Chardonnay you’ve had lying around. “Throw some chamomile tea [along with coriander or fresh sage] in there for an hour or so and then add a bit of sugar to taste.”
If you’re feeling thirsty and inspired in isolation, try some of these adaptations of the classic martini with these tips and recipes from the experts.
The 50/50 martini
The classic 50/50 martini recipe is made with equal parts spirit and fortified wine. This version, from San José’s Paper Plane, swaps half of the traditional vermouth with fragrant and dry and nutty Amontillado sherry. Get the recipe for a 50/50 Martini. »
The perfect martini
Cocktail snobs often turn their noses up at the old-school “perfect” martini, but a thoughtful selection of both sweet and dry vermouths takes the recipe from dull to delightful. Get the recipe for a perfect martini. »
The Martinez cocktail
In the 1880s, Old Tom gin, a style with quite a bit more sweetness than London dry, was just beginning to gain popularity in America. This is the drink that put it over the top. Get the recipe for the Martinez cocktail. »
The olive oil martini
An easy, pro bartenders’ infusion technique is the key to flavoring gin with rich and peppery green olive notes for an updated take on the classic dirty martini. Get the recipe for the olive oil martini. »
The Vesper martini
Bitter orange-scented Lillet blanc perfumes this James Bond-approved variation on the classic martini cocktail. Get the recipe for the Vesper martini. »