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Cocktails

An Endless Quest for the Coldest Martini

September 17, 2021

Story: Aaron Goldfarb

photo: Lizzie Munro

Cocktails

An Endless Quest for the Coldest Martini

September 17, 2021

Story: Aaron Goldfarb

photo: Lizzie Munro

At the newly opened Hawksmoor in New York, an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner and an insulated thermos produce an “aged” Martini that can be served in 30 seconds, at minus-12 degrees Celsius.

“The World’s Coldest Martini” is to the bar world what “The World’s Best Cup of Coffee” is to corner delis everywhere—a ubiquitous claim that’s rarely substantiated. Yet, ever since the accepted specs of the dry Martini began to crystallize in the early 20th century, the quest to serve it as cold as possible has persisted.

For the last 35 years, the Dukes’ Martini, served at London’s hotel of the same name, has consisted of ice-cold gin poured directly from a frozen bottle of London dry into a V-shaped glass rinsed with just a thin layer of vermouth. Borrowing the same principle, the Sauvage Martini (from the now-closed Brooklyn bar of the same name) combined five and a half parts Mahón Xoriguer gin with one part Luli Moscato Chinato, orange bitters and two parts water, left to marry in the freezer overnight before service. Similarly, The House Martini at The Bar in Manhattan pre-batches Plymouth and Tanqueray gin with two types of vermouth and spring water before freezing for a full 24 hours. Selby’s, in California’s Bay Area, meanwhile, bills their tableside cocktail as “The Coldest Martini on the West Coast.”

Of course, when dealing with liquids, “coldest” necessarily has a limit. Theoretically, that limit is absolute zero, about ‑273 degrees Celsius (or ‑460 degrees Fahrenheit). Unsurprisingly, numerous bars around the world have listed an Absolute Zero Martini on their menu, but most attempt to be closer to 0 degrees Celsius, the freezing point of water. Others, however, strive for even colder.

“I have the coldest Martini you can legally have in the U.S.,” noted Jeremy Andre, restaurateur and partner at Barely Disfigured in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill neighborhood last year. His take on a 50/50 Martini uses an obscure and expensive Japanese technology known as Supercooling Magic to ephemerally transcend the freezing point of liquid without it becoming a solid. (It works best with distilled water at exactly ‑5 degrees Celsius, five degrees below the typical freezing point.)

The latest option in this endless search for the coldest Martini comes courtesy of the newly opened Hawksmoor, an elevated steak house in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan and the first stateside spinoff of the London original, founded in 2006.

“We wanted to do something new and exciting,” says beverage director, Adam Montgomerie. “Something that hadn’t been done in the city before.” But it would also need to be simple, accessible and, crucially, quick, since Hawksmoor serves a high volume of guests on a nightly basis.

The Martini at Hawksmoor New York

Back in 2019 when Montgomerie was in London visiting the drinks lab Crucible, he encountered the idea of using a jewelry cleaner to rapidly age cocktails. “It basically bombards the cocktail with ultrasonic waves at a high frequency, and kind of homogenizes the drinks,” he explains. “The way I try to explain it, it’s like when you’ve made a lasagna—the next day the leftovers just taste better. This just speeds up that process.”

Using countertop appliances or kitchen gadgets for unintended purposes is nothing new in mixology (see: the microwaved Manhattan, iSi-batched cocktail or the blender infusion technique), but it’s unlikely the ultrasonic jewelry cleaner will land a spot at home bars anytime soon—currently, few are available for less than $500. Even professionally, Montgomerie isn’t aware of any other bars using the technology, though Nick Strangeway—the original beverage director at Hawksmoor London—has adopted the technique for his line of bottled cocktails.

At Hawksmoor New York, every few days, a member of the bar team batches around five liters of Hepple Gin, Little City Vermouth and water, then puts the mixture in a compartment of the jewelry cleaner for 45 minutes—the length of time deemed ideal, after much testing, for full flavor integration. From there, the batch is moved into a freezer set to chill it down to precisely ‑12 degrees Celsius, Montgomerie’s preferred temperature after many trials. “Just before it starts to form ice crystals,” he says.

During service, all three of Hawksmoor’s so-called “ultimate cocktails,” a classification which also includes the Gibson and Manhattan, prepared in a similar manner, are stored in insulated silver vessels, with a temperature probe frequently used to assure that the desired coldness is maintained. Once ordered by a customer, it takes less than 30 seconds for the drink to be poured into a frozen coupe and then garnished with Filicudi lemon oil.

“That first sip is really incredible, bracingly cold, just a wonderful temperature,” says Montgomerie, who can’t help but add that ubiquitous boast. “It’s the coldest Martini in New York.”

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Tagged: Martini