Interview of Ally Martin, global BA of Hendrick's by shane eaton

I met Ally Martin, Global Brand Ambassador of Hendrick’s gin at the event Chambers Of The Curious in Circolo Filologico Milanese. The highlight of the event was the series of “Chambers”, where partygoers were guided by a professor and his assistants, though experiences designed stimulate all the senses.

Professor vs Professor at Chambers of the Curious

Professor vs Professor at Chambers of the Curious

The Chamber situations were unique, sometimes a bit awkward, but always fun. In one case, I was blindfolded and guided through an odd series of encounters, and in another, a friendly but insane professor was showed me how mind waves can be used to harness incredible energy in our surroundings. Most importantly for me, the experiences were paired with refreshing Hendrick’s cocktails prepared by the early 1900s style Apothecary Bar in the main lobby.  My favorite drink was the iconic Hendrick’s and tonic with Hendrick’s gin, Fever tree Indian tonic water, and of course, a slice of cucumber! More on the cucumber later.

Hendrick’s and Tonic

Hendrick’s and Tonic

After the event, we took a taxi over to 1930, the milanese speakeasy bar where you need a membership card to enter. I sat down with Ally to ask him a few questions about Hendrick’s, the industry, and life as a BA.

Like many bartenders, Ally started his career in bartending while at the University of Edinburgh. In the beginning, it was simply a way to earn a bit of extra beer money as a poor student. His first job as a glass washer was far from glamorous. He then transitioned to a job at the well-respected Tigerlily. Ally spent a few years there, falling in love with the hospitality aspect and drink making in general.  He had caught the bartending bug! And that’s how a job meant to support his studies turned into a career. Ally eventually ended up at the iconic Bramble bar, a stalwart on the prestigious World’s 50 Best Bars list. After a stint at Bramble’s sister bar The Last Word, he opened the Talented Mr. Fox pop up with Matt Whiley. They ran the pop up bar for 9 months before opening the award-winning restaurant-bar Peg and Patriot. Matt Whiley was an important mentor to Ally, helping him gain a creative perspective in his drink making while learning the most beneficial high tech methods for cocktail preparation. 

Ally’s big career break was winning the UK edition of Bacardi Legacy, which was a springboard for his career as a brand ambassador for Hendrick’s. Starting as the UK BA, Ally is now global brand ambassador of the important gin company. I was curious what life’s really like as a BA. I have many friends who are ambassadors for spirits companies and often complain about stress and strenuous travel schedules.

I was surprised to hear that Ally truly loved his job. His favorite part is mingling with people in different cultures and really immersing himself in the societies of the diverse countries he visits. He doesn’t want the typical cookie-cutter tourist experience when visiting a new country. He always asks to be put in touch with a local, so that he can experience the city’s vibe just as someone living in the city would – just like what was happening with me, sitting in my favorite Milanese speakeasy.

Gin is now a huge category in the spirits world – just look at ATLAS bar in Singapore which has a dramatic gin tower holding a staggering 1300 bottles of gin, the largest collection of its kind. How does Hendrick’s gin stand out from the pack?

First a back story on Hendrick’s, which is part of family owned company William Grant & Sons, founded in 1886. Hendrick’s gin however is a relatively new product for William Grant. Although the company is historically known for its whiskies, about 50 years ago it acquired two rare stills with the hope of producing a gin. One is a Bennett still, while the other is an ultra-rare Carter-head still. However, nobody was quite sure what to do with these precious stills. They sat in the warehouse for over 20 years, until Lesley Gracey arrived 1989. Lesley, Hendrick’s master distiller, spent ten years perfecting the gin recipe, exploiting both of the stills to create her gin. Hendrick’s gin finally launched in 1999 and is now one of the top selling brands in the world.

Ally explained that Hendrick’s unique flavor profile and bouquet is thanks to its unusual yet wonderful infusions of rose and cucumber, combined with the harmony of 11 distilled botanicals which are sourced from all over the globe. Leslie Gracey’s idea of the rose and cucumber came about because she wanted to make Hendrick’s uniquely British. The first things to come to her mind when thinking about Britain were rose gardens and cucumber sandwiches! The roses add a stunning floral note while the cucumbers add a pleasant freshness to Hendrick’s gin.

Marco Russo of 1930 Milano

Marco Russo of 1930 Milano

Hendrick’s has become a bartender’s favorite in recent. 1930’s owner Marco Russo prepared some fantastic twists on classic gin cocktails to enjoy during our couple hour encounter in the intimate speakeasy. I was happy to see that Ally and I have similar tastes when it comes to gin cocktails, with the hangover cure the Corpse Reviver no. 2 and the dry Martini being among our favorites.

Ally loves the Martini because of its simplicity. Yet at the same time, he argues it’s one of the hardest cocktails to execute because everyone likes theirs in a specific way.

So the obvious question, how does Ally like his Martini cocktail? For him it must be 60 ml of Hendrick’s Gin with 5 ml of Dolin Dry Vermouth, stirred down over ice and garnished with a pickled onion.

Ally with Hendrick’s master distiller Lesley. Source  Ally Martin Instagram .

Ally with Hendrick’s master distiller Lesley. Source Ally Martin Instagram.

Link to Italian version of interview on

This is My Martini by shane eaton

The martini. Elegant, clean, seductive but most of all, mystical. Today, there are thousands of variations of this cocktail and the origin of this classic is shrouded in mystery.

Some claim Professor Jerry Thomas invented the Martini. The 1887 edition of his Bartender’s Guide included the Martinez, the classic cocktail with gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, Angostura bitters and lemon twist garnish. Thomas claimed to have made the drink for the first time at San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel. One problem: that edition of the Bartenders Guide was published two years after Thomas died.

Others believe the cocktail was born from branding. Some believe the drink derived from the famous “Martini & Rossi” vermouth, first created in the mid-1800s. Apparently in the interest of brevity, the “gin and Martini” drink of the time eventually became known as the “martini.” 

The last popular theory is that the modern martini has its roots at New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel where in the early 1900s, Martini di Arma di Taggia was behind the stick. He served a concoction to regular John D. Rockefeller with London dry gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth, and orange bitters. It’s possible the martini as we know it today was named after this bartending legend.

Whatever the real origin of the martini, today this classic is a favorite of many bartenders, and increasingly so of everyday customers. The popularity of the drink is following a similar boom as the Old Fashioned trend from a few years back.

In 1922 the martini was most commonly made with London dry gin and dry vermouth are combined at a ratio of 2:1, stirred in a mixing glass with ice cubes, with optional bitters, then strained into a chilled cocktail glass. The garnish has always been the drinker's choice of a green olive or a twist of lemon peel.

Over the course of the 20th century, the martini became progressively became drier, in part due to the availability of higher quality gin in the US after the end of prohibition. During the 1930s the ratio was 3:1 (gin to vermouth), and during the 1940s the ratio was 4:1. During the latter part of the 20th century, 6:1, 8:1, 12:1, 15:1 or even 50:1 Martinis became commonplace.

The traditional martini comes in an infinite number of variations. James Bond usually asked for his vodka martinis to be "shaken, not stirred", following the advice from Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). Some even argue that the martini should be made by throwing, which tends to put more accent on the vermouth in the martini. A martini can even be served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass although I consider it personally to be sacrilege.

Antonio Rosato, Mandarin Oriental, Milano

We start our exploration of the Martini at Mandarin Oriental in Milano, a leading hotel bar in the city.

Senior bartender Antonio Rosato prefers Tanqueray 10, a small batch citrus-forward gin. Antonio likes his Martini bone dry and opts for the In and Out method to have the premium Tanqueray 10 gin be the protagonist.

“I start by filling the mixing glass 3/4 full with Hoshizaki ice and then add two sprays of Noilly Prat dry vermouth. I stir the small amount of vermouth on the ice for 10 seconds before discarding it with a strainer.

Then I add 100 mL of Tanqueray 10 to the vermouth-coated ice, stirring for 15 seconds. To finish off the martini, I cut a strip of lemon peel which I then twist over top of the glass to spray the aromatics into the drink. This adds even aroma more to my citrussy and dry Martini.”


Domenico Carella, Officine Riunite, Milano

There is a time and of course a way to link what is a perfect aperitif
and meditation drink

So here we are: this is my martini

The 10's

If you know me you will know that I'm fond of a few things, two of
which are the Martini cocktail and Scotch whisky...

So take a nice Martini glass, chill it with the technique that you prefer.

Now take the mixing glass

Pour a generous amount of Mancino secco (30ml)

What ever you do, don't lose a drop of the vermouth! We need all of it
to give us a fully rounded martini.

Now 60 ml of Tanqueray ten

And for a exceptional hint of peat add a few spoons of Ardbeg 10

Stir it.

For my martini, the most important thing after the ingredients is the dilution,

I love to have it wet.

When you have the right temperature and the right dilution pour it
into your glass finishing with a nice and organic lemon peel that will
not go into the glass in the end.

Sip it.

Respect it.

Love it.



Jared Brown, Mixellany

My martini? There is no short answer. Such simplicity requires many words. 

Selecting a particular balance of ingredients is highly subjective, shaped by both internal and external forces. Not only has my preference changed over time, it changes with each hour of the day. A lunch martini differs greatly from a cocktail hour martini. An evening martini is yet again unique. 

That said, the framework for my ultimate martini—evolved over the decades since Anistatia and I wrote Shaken Not Stirred©: A Celebration of the Martini—is simple. Simple because I truly believe the words of Antoine de St. Exupery: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Gone are the orange bitters and drop of absinthe and olive and twist submerged in the liquid. I prefer a clean style that rose in popularity in the 1950s.

For the ingredients, I worked very hard as part of a great team to produce the finest possible London Dry Gin, made in London without compromise on a copper pot still and balanced to my palate. But a classic dry martini is not straight gin. It also requires vermouth. There are many wonderful choices these days, but I am at heart a traditionalist and, like the legendary Sasha Petraske of Milk and Honey speakeasy fame, I prefer classic Italian dry vermouth. I prefer it to be as fresh as possible, so at home I keep dozens of mini bottles and open a fresh one for every round. 

I combine these two ingredients, the gin and dry vermouth in an ice-filled tin. I would rather throw than shake or stir as throwing imparts fine aeration that remains in suspension much longer than the large bubbles in a shaken drink. These bubbles brighten the flavour and round out the mouthfeel without clouding the drink. 

How many times you throw is dictated by the quality of the ice. Good ice takes longer, while bad ice will be very quick to chill and dilute the drink. There is no need to count throws. Watch the strainer handle shift as the ice melts. I find when it has moved about 45°, the drink has taken on the approximately 25% dilution I consider optimal for softening it and opening up the flavours. 

The twist is the moment where I find some of the greatest bartenders trip up. Running the twist around the rim and down the stem before dropping it into the drink is riveting theatre, but it detracts from the flavour of the drink. Why do bartenders continue to do this? It is because their predecessors did, and theirs before them, much like we as a species ate raw meat before we discovered fire (and later discovered restaurants and good chefs). 

The twist should be large and fresh and squeezed over the drink, to impart sweet citrus and floral aromas. It should never come in contact with the glass or the liquid. If it does, it makes the drink bitter and sharp and less pleasant. After it has been squeezed, the twist should be discarded. 

I also prefer my martinis small in a very, very cold glass. If the glasses are kept in the freezer, it should not be put on the bar until the drink has been mixed. If the glasses are on the shelf it should be filled with ice and water before the gin and vermouth bottles are opened. 

This, then is my martini: fiery frost in a velvet cloak, part gin and part vermouth, part insight and part reminiscence, part serenity and part festivity. 

Dry Martini 
50 ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
15 ml dry vermouth
Combine ingredients in an ice-filled Boston tin. Cover with a julep strainer. Throw as necessary. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze a lemon twist over the drink and discard it. Serve immediately to be consumed, in the words of Harry Craddock, “while it is still laughing at you."


Simone Mina, Checchino dal 1887, Roma


5cl Botran Reserva blanca

2cl HSE cuvée de l'an 2010

1,5cl Tio Pepe Sherry Fino

4 lacrime di sirena (saline solution)

Garnish with three olives not washed in brine placed in the glass before pouring the drink

Colored coupe glass

The idea for the drink was born from my love for rum in general and for white spirits. The pirate in me wanted to make a Martini with reminds you of sea and adventure, dirty but without relying on olive brine.

Thus, taking advantage of those natural olive scents of white rums from Martinique, in this case to my dear Botran Reserva Blanca, I have paired a HSE cuvée de l'an 2010 that compliments the savory and olive profile of the drink with a pleasant note of tropical fruit and with its 50% ABV might, helps the martini to stay pleasantly dry.

This is my way of understanding the poetry of Dry Martini, which me is the most anarchic cocktail that exists. It is in this perspective that my martini was crafted and has motivated my other martini experiments at Checchino dal 1887 which I love to call my "Martini Olé"


Dario Comini, Nottingham Forest, Milano

Il mondrian nasce nel maggio del 2002 a seguito di una intuizione importante con cui ho variato la sferificazione alcolica, questa tecnica resa famosa da Ferran Adrià nasce per racchiudere in una pelle di alginato piccole quantità di succhi di frutta o verdura da utilizzare in preparazioni di cucina, l’applicazione di questa tecnica al mondo degli alcolici ha creato non pochi problemi, l alcol essendo un solvente non si comportava in maniera inerte come le puree, ma andava a “bucare” dopo pochi secondi la “pallina” ottenuta attraverso il bagno calcico, il mio obbiettivo era creare sferificazioni stabili che si comportassero al pari di quelle utilizzate in cucina, cominciai così diverse sperimentazioni, la prima intuizione è stata quella di creare uno sciroppo di base composto da alginato ed acqua che avesse già riposato ( nella preparazione di Adrià l alginato viene immesso meccanicamente con un blender, questa preparazione aggiunge molta aria al preparato, aria che deve disperdersi per poter passare alla fase formazione della pelle, in quanto  gonfia la miscela e non permette alle palline di formarsi nel bagno calcico, perché le fà galleggiare, l’aria viene dispersa attraverso 2 metodi, il riposo della miscela per 24 ore, oppure il passaggio attraverso una macchina sottovuoto a campana) questa praparazione premix permetteva non solo di velocizzare le sferificazioni, ma dava l opportunità ai nostri clienti di scegliere al momento cosa volevano sferificato nel loro drink , restava il problema del solvente, più la miscela era alcolica, meno tempo durava la solidità della sfera, ho risolto il problema aggiungendo una percentuale precisa di glucosio allo sciroppo di base, che ho chiamato “sciroppo madre” lo zucchero durante la formazione della sfera si frappone tra il liquore e l alginato, creando un “airbag” che non permette al alcol di bucare la pallina, questo know how l ho ceduto in seguito alla Fabbri che produce e commercializza in larga scala il premix.

Risolto il problema legato alla preparazione ora potevo creare cocktail che contenevano al loro interno diverse preparazioni con più liquori, il mondrian è l omaggio al re dei cocktail il martini, infatti contiene quattro diverse sfere, il bitter, l assenzio,il Pimm’s ed infine vodka infusa allo zafferano, i loro colori ricordano quelli utilizzati dal pittore olandese Pier Mondrian fondatore del neoplasticismo da cui il nome.

Questo drink non interferisce nel gusto finale del martini, in quanto le sfere restano integre al suo interno, un cucchiaino a corredo permette di degustarle  a piacere durante la bevuta lasciandole esplodere contro il palato. Un quadro in un bicchiere.