By playing tennis with someone who is better than you, there is a strong chance your ground strokes will improve. By chatting to a vivacious Italian, your fluency is bound to increase. And so, applying this logic, I invited the man who knows most about martinis and the way they should be drunk along to Dirty Martini on Hanover Square last night. He’s a good friend’s dad and he’s only in a town for a few days – I had no time to waste.
But I should just add that a dirty martini is, without doubt, my cocktail of choice. (A fact you might have picked this up if you’re a regular reader of this blog.) And – instead of practicing my serve or swallowing a foreign phrase book – I did read up a little on my chosen subject so as not to appear ignorant of the American cocktail.
It turns out that no one seems to know exactly when the martini was first created. I’d stab a guess at late 1860s or early 1870s…. And then the exact ingredients are hazy too. The olive was once a cherry and the hand holding it has been Hitchcock, Churchill, Hemingway and – of course – Bond, James Bond.
Dirty Martini is as lively as Hanover Square gets. The atmosphere is, in fact, quite brilliant down in the basement of No. 10c. I was worried that my martini connoisseur would have issues with the noise levels (bearing in mind he has been drinking the cocktail for more than 50 years), but instead he lapped it up. Specifying to our waitress that his tipple should be dry, straight up and with a twist, the novice in me simply requested a dirty vodka (£8.50).
A Mediterranean platter (£15.95) arrived with the drinks and some extra olives.
The expert nodded; they were good. Mission accomplished.
Dirty Martini: 10c Hanover Square London W1 0844 371 2550