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No.3 London Dry Gin
Photograph: Courtesy No.3 London Dry Gin

In pursuit of perfection: Hong Kong's top mixologists unravel the perfect Martini

Acclaimed mixologists Lorenzo Antinori, Antonio Lai, and Beckaly Franks share the secrets to crafting the perfect Martini cocktail

Time Out Hong Kong in partnership with No.3 London Dry Gin

The Martini cocktail has a long history, dating back to the 19th century. It is associated with sophistication and elegance, and its enduring appeal has made it a symbol of classic cocktail culture. Dedicated to the tireless pursuit of perfection, iconic brands No.3 London Dry Gin, makers of ultra-premium gins and luxury travel lifestyle brand Globe-Trotter have joined forces to present an unrivalled travelling Martini experience with the launch of The Martini Case. 

Showcasing mastery of craftsmanship and timeless elegance, the teal and tan handcrafted leather case is the perfect companion for cocktail connoisseurs. It contains all the tools needed to craft the finest Martini: No.3 London Dry Gin, bespoke No.3 x Nude martini glasses, a mini vermouth bottle, a jigger, leather embossed coasters, and Martini picks. Only 100 of these ultra-limited edition cases are available worldwide.

The iconic collaboration has united three masters of mixology: Lorenzo Antinori, Antonio Lai, and Beckaly Franks. Together, they have joined forces to share their insights on crafting the perfect Martini, finding inspiration, and their unwavering pursuit of excellence.

Balanced perfection
Martini Italico; Lorenzo Antinori Photograph: Courtesy No.3 London Dry Gin

Balanced perfection

Lorenzo Antinori, formerly the beverage manager at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, recently opened his own venture, Bar Leone. The bar is a trendy drinking spot known for its modern classic cocktails with an Italian influence. Guests can enjoy expertly crafted and well-balanced cocktails that always leave them wanting more.

"A perfectly balanced cocktail, especially the Martini, typically involves a harmonious combination of flavours. They work together to create a complex and enjoyable drinking experience," shares Antinori. The Martini is not only one of the easiest recipes to make in a bar, but it is also one of the most sophisticated. "Ingredients, technique, and temperature are key to achieving balance and creating a complex and layered cocktail," he adds.

He crafted his signature Martini Italico, which takes you on a journey from north to south of Italy, combining the flavours of No.3 Gin made with juniper, citrus, and spice, with nutty and sweet Marsala Secco, along with the perfect amount of bitterness from Fernet Branca and orange bitters. Personal preferences play a significant role in achieving cocktail balance. Some prefer sweeter or stronger drinks, while others enjoy more complex and nuanced flavours. Antinori suggests that experimentation and adjusting ingredient ratios are key to finding the perfect balance that suits anyone's taste.

Less is more 
Antonio Lai; Martini My Way I Photograph: Courtesy No.3 London Dry Gin

Less is more 

Antonio Lai is one of Hong Kong's mixology pioneers. Since the launch of his contemporary bar, Quinary, in 2012, it has consistently earned a spot on the list of Asia's best bars. Not only that, but Lai has also successfully introduced three more bars to his portfolio. Lai is well known for using molecular mixology, but his bars make some of the best classic cocktails in Hong Kong, including Martinis. 

Martini is a versatile cocktail known for its simplicity," shares Lai. It is typically made with only a few key ingredients: gin, dry vermouth, and garnished with an olive or lemon twist. Lau says its straightforward recipe allows the quality of the ingredients to shine and emphasises the importance of achieving a balance between them. "By keeping the ingredients to a minimum, the spirit's flavours can integrate perfectly, creating a well-balanced and refreshing drink," he explains.

His signature Martini My Way uses three dry essences and finished with a simple lemon peel. It complements No.3 Gin, which offers a perfect balance of juniper, citrus, and spice. This  dry martini reinterprets a classic style with a modern twist, embodying the adventurous spirit of a cosmopolitan traveller.

Perfect temperature 
Artifact Gibson; Beckaly Franks I Photograph: Courtesy No.3 London Dry Gin

Perfect temperature 

Recently named Best Bartender in Asia's 50 Best Bars 2023, Beckaly Franks is the proprietor of New York-style dive bar The Pontiac, as well as numerous drinking joints, including Artifact Bar, a speakeasy-style bar in Basehall 2. 

Just like a well-made cocktail crafted at the optimal temperature, she strikes while the iron is hot and has opened a series of bars in the city, one after the other, in the last two years. Her bar concepts are fun and unique and offer some of the most delicious libations in the city, including creative riffs on the Martini.

"Like old Hollywood, the Martini embodies classic elegance, glamour, and a sense of excitement," shares Franks. "Martinis are at their best when they're mixed to a cool and crisp perfection, using elegant glassware, gin, and other delicious ingredients stirred down to a silky smooth cocktail," she says.  

Franks created a savoury Martini called the Artifact Gibson, which has a vibrant pink hue from the mixture of pink shallot brine, dry vermouth, saline solution, and No.3 Gin. “It is actually pretty easy to make, you just add the gin and all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir until well chilled,” she enthuses. Frank says that Martinis are traditionally served chilled and the right temperature enhances the flavours and ensures a refreshing drinking experience. 

Taste their perfectly crafted Martinis this season. Lorenzo Antinori's Martini Italico is available at Bar Leone until October 6, Antonio Lai's Martini My Way will be available at Quinary from September 14 to October 13, and Beckaly Franks' Artifact Gibson will be available at Artifact from September 21 to October 20.  

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