Burnt is usually used in reference to a martini order, a customer ordering a burnt martini is a rarity, but the explanation gets interesting as a burnt martini is in fact, not a martini at all because it does not contain vermouth in most presentations. For the purists, we recognize this, but for simplicity’s sake and the fact that this is how most people order this drink, we will refer to this as a burnt martini nonetheless.
A burnt martini contains an amount of single malt scotch in the drink; generally, this refers to a smoky single malt, but a significant minority of people prefer a peaty single malt. While a drink mixing gin and whisky (the Scots spell it whisky) seems highly odd, keep in mind that both genever, the predecessor to today’s London Dry Gins was traditionally made from a malt wine base, and whisky are both malt-based spirits. With that in mind, we now have some sort of logical and historical basis for this drink. In other words, we know the rules and know when to break them.
Additionally, recipes call for varying ratios of scotch and gin, others just swirl the scotch around the glass and dump it out, and another means they just want a small dash of scotch added. Further, someone may mean a standard martini garnished with a flamed citrus peel, generally a lemon in this case. Flaming a citrus peel is an impressive trick, but it does also express oils from the skin of the citrus, thus singing the natural oils and adding a hint of smoky complexity. Finally, with the craft cocktail movement, some bartenders may even smoke the glass. So like all things bar related, it comes down to an individual’s preference and a guest in your home or establishment ordering a burnt martini likely has something specific in mind, thus a quick conversation to determine what they mean is worth a small investment of your time to ensure satisfaction.
So to delight your guest, determine the following:
- what gin to use,
- what scotch to use,
- in what proportions to make the drink,
- which technique best crafts the drink,
- how to serve the drink,
- and finally, how to garnish the drink.
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