London is home to more of the world's leading bartenders and mixologists than any other city. Erik Lorincz who lives in Camden and works at the Connaught Bar has recently been crowned champion at Diagio Bartender of the Year 2010. As the competition hots up and 'friendly' rivalry develops, the city's streets have become the scene of cocktail wars and Martini Envy.
A superlative of this classic cocktail seems to be the trick of the moment. Bars are loud in proclaiming they have the driest, coldest, wackiest or widest range in London.
Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke Row may have started it all when he emerged from his laboratory in the loft with the world's driest Martini, made extra cheek-puckeringly astringent thanks to a few drops of extract of grape seed from his trusty pipette.
Being dry is so last month, though - as the weather would seem to agree, incidentally - and cold Martinis are what's hot right now. The Langham's Artesian Bar were first on the scene, purchasing an antigriddle which is a kind of hot-plate in reverse that reaches temperatures of -30 degrees. Bartender Alex Kratena has devised special metal Martini glasses which conduct the coldness and is currently putting the finishing touches to the drink, made with Tanqueray 10 gin, which is still in the prototype stage. We had a sneak taste and can confirm that it's pretty chilly, though the current ten minute cooling time would be a bit of a bugger if you're waiting at the bar.
Competing with The Langham's 150 years of bar work is new kid on the block Purl, super-cool '20's themed speakeasy in the heart of Marylebone Village. On quizzing, they openly admitted that it was hearing about The Langham's efforts that inspired them to create an even colder Martini. Theirs reaches -40 degrees, is made with liquid nitrogen which means it's chilled instantly with no hanging around, and is already being served at the bar. They use Ketel One vodka, but will adapt to suit, and with the added theatre of smoking nitrogen and iced glass, there's really no comparison with The Langham's more staid approach. Our sources tell us that the hotel and its insurers weren't keen on the idea of storing potentially volatile liquid nitrogen in its Grade II listed building, hence the need to find an alternative method, but we think they might have been overtaken along the way. Let's hope they've got something else up their sleeve...
Any more extra cold cocktails or strange Martinis that you've spotted around London? What about the most expensive or the bar where it takes longest to get served? Let us know in the comments below...
Antigriddle as used at The Langham
Liquid Nitrogen as used at Purl