Olive Varieties

A Perfect Olive Oil Martini

A summer cocktail for an olive oil purist.
Jul. 21, 2017
Curtis Cord

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Olive oil cock­tails are a thing now — have you noticed the trend? It makes a lot of sense to add fruity, aro­matic extra vir­gin olive oil to ele­vate drinks to new heights, just as EVOO adds magic to our favorite foods.

But I’ve never been a big fan of com­pli­cated cock­tails that mask the taste of the liquor. I haven’t ordered a Tequila Sunrise since the 80s. I order top-shelf liquor and keep my drinks sim­ple so I can enjoy the taste of a fine whiskey, gin, tequila or vodka.

To me, the best way to kill a mar­tini is to add ver­mouth. For years, my go-to mar­tini has been this: really cold vodka. Olives on the side.

Then, peo­ple started talk­ing about an olive oil mar­tini and the sky opened. I know how mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oils can bring out fla­vors in foods — not mask them — and cer­tain cul­ti­vars, among the thou­sands nature has bestowed us, offer lim­it­less pair­ing possibilities.

This isn’t jelly-coat­ing vodka with the sug­ary nec­tar of this or that. This isn’t the dreaded dirty mar­tini — the utterly sense­less act, in my opin­ion, of pour­ing the mys­tery brine from the olive jar to muddy the drink, lit­er­ally. Pairing a really good EVOO with a really good vodka was dif­fer­ent, and wor­thy of my investigation.

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I over­see a cli­mate-con­trolled vault con­tain­ing the largest col­lec­tion of olive oils in the world — 900 brands from 27 coun­tries — one of the perks of orga­niz­ing the New York International Olive Oil Competition. The col­lec­tion also serves as a sam­ple library for the olive oil som­me­lier pro­gram that I run at the International Culinary Center. So I have the olive oil part of the drink covered.

For years, the mark of a good vodka was smooth­ness” or the lack of fla­vor. So when I was perus­ing the top shelf of the vodka sec­tion of my local liquor store, find­ing a vodka to stand up to such a selec­tion of olive oils felt a lit­tle hope­less, until I saw three bot­tles from Poland.

Potato, wheat, rye.

It turns out there’s a fam­ily in Krzesk who thinks about the ingre­di­ents in vodka the same way olive oil pro­duc­ers con­sider the cul­ti­vars for their EVOOs. The Dorda fam­ily, mak­ers of Chopin, use fresh, local ingre­di­ents, cop­per stills and tra­di­tional tech­niques to reveal the unique fla­vors in each of its three prod­ucts — not con­ceal them.

I tasted each of the three Chopin vod­kas at room tem­per­a­ture and noticed their dis­tinct fla­vors that were unlike any vod­kas I’d tasted before. These had more char­ac­ter and com­plex­ity. I repeated the tastings.

Chopin Potato: earthy and creamy taste with a vis­cous tex­ture and heavy mouthfeel.

Chopin Rye: lighter than potato, with a spicy bite and a pep­pery flavor.

Chopin Wheat: the light­est and the sweet­est of the three. A good sum­mer vodka” with a very pleas­ant flo­ral aroma.

Potatoes for Chopin Potato Vodka

In the­ory, I might pair a pep­pery Spanish Picual EVOO with the potato for a fruity, spicy con­trast. I’d go with a del­i­cate Arbequina to bring an unex­pected body to the light­ness of the rye. And I’d try a medium Arbosana to add a slightly nutty fruiti­ness to the wheat’s flo­ral tones.

Shaking the vodka and EVOO together seemed like sac­ri­lege to me — like putting a good steak and horse­rad­ish in a blender and eat­ing it with a spoon.

The right way to make an olive oil mar­tini would mean respect­ing the ingre­di­ents and the hard work of the pro­duc­ers behind them.

I, there­fore, offer my idea of the per­fect olive oil mar­tini, three ways. I tried them, and they worked. The oils I chose were among the 463 award win­ners at this year’s NYIOOC, many of which you can find in the Best Olive Oils Marketplace.

  • Swirl 4 oz. Chopin Potato Vodka with ice, pour in mar­tini or cosmo glass. Drizzle in 1/2 oz. Picual extra vir­gin olive oil to form a small pool on top.
  • Swirl 4 oz. Chopin Rye Vodka with ice, pour in mar­tini or cosmo glass. Drizzle in 1/2 oz. Arbequina extra vir­gin olive oil to form a small pool on top.
  • Swirl 4 oz. Chopin Wheat Vodka with ice, pour in mar­tini or cosmo glass. Drizzle in 1/2 oz. Arbosana extra vir­gin olive oil to form a small pool on top.

Olive Oil Martini (Curtis Cord)

With the first sips, you will taste the vodka ingre­di­ent as the aro­mas of the EVOO are revealed from its unbro­ken reser­voir at the top. As you work your way through the drink, the EVOO will find its way to your mouth for an unex­pected, delight­ful result. The last sip may well be EVOO only — a dessert of pure fruit juice to punc­tu­ate the whole experience.

Olives on the side.


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