There are a few core skills that every man should have in his drinks armory, and mixing a decent martini tops the list. (Being able to do this without referencing 007 scores even more points.) Fearing that our expertise lay in drinking rather than creating this king of cocktails, we checked into bar manager Alessandro Palazzi's masterclass at Dukes Hotel, home of the most legendary martinis in London. Signor Palazzi claims that this is "the simplest cocktail in the world" - just follow his expert advice:
Gin ("I'm using Beefeater; it's very dry with a good range of botanicals - keep it in the freezer")
Vermouth (such as Martini Extra Dry, Noilly Prat or Lillet Blanc)
Fresh lemons ("We use lemons from the Amalfi coast. They are the best; if you can't get Italian, then at least make sure they are unwaxed")
Ice ("this must be fresh and of the very best quality").
Small chilled martini glasses straight from the freezer (or cooled with ice and soda), lemon zest peeler.
"Correct preparation of a Dukes martini is about speed and style," says Palazzi. "Take your chilled glasses and add a few drops of vermouth to coat each one. Using your gin directly from the freezer - which avoids over-dilution, and is quicker and purer than shaking it - pour in the measure [Palazzi free-pours, but we guesstimate this is around 80ml]. Then take your lemon and pare a long slice of zest, avoiding the pith. Hold the zest over the glass, pith side upwards, and bend it widthways so the surface of the drink is coated in oil. Rub the rim of the glass with the zest and then drop it into the martini. Simple."
Serve immediately. Twenties bar supremo Harry Craddock advocated a swift five-sip approach to a martini, however, Palazzi says the frozen version is cold enough to linger over.
For a dirty martini, select a plump olive ("The green variety from Puglia are the best," says Palazzi), pour the vermouth over it, then finish the martini as above. For a Gibson, if you must, replace the olive with a cocktail onion. For a vodka martini or Vesper, see our selection of vodkas, left/right.
Martini Masterclass, including drinks and canapés, £75 per person at Dukes Hotel (www.dukeshotel.com)