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The Thunderbolt

The Thunderbolt

The Thunderbolt

The Thunderbolt

3 oz Dry Gin
Dry Vermouth
Splash Orange Liqueur (Cointreau recommended)
2-3 drops of Lime Juice
Lemon Twist

Place gin and vermouth in mixing glass and place along with shaker in freezer for 10+ minutes.
Fill a coupe glass with crushed ice and set aside.
Remove mixing glass and shaker from freezer and gently shake drink.
When martini is ready, dump the ice from the coupe and shake out all excess water.
Place a splash of orange liqueur in coupe and swirl to coat the inside of the glass. Shake out orange liqueur.
Strain martini into coupe.
Twist lemon peel over glass to release oils. Rub peel over rim of glass, then toss into glass.
Add 2-3 drops of lime juice.

* * *

I have to confess a secret crush. Actually, it’s a multi-layered crush. First, if I could be adopted by any family, it would be by my friend Brian’s clan. They’re Irish and there’s ten brothers and sisters and I truly like each one that I’ve met (which I’m pretty sure is all of them). My mother comes from a Polish-Irish family of ten, so this part of the crush, I feel, has some foundation. Second, Brian’s family all seem to be unfairly talented. Brian writes, as do some of his brothers; others are successful artists. Third, big brother Mike has a bar and a Martini recipe that I’d die for. Fortunately, I don’t have to die. As accommodating as he is talented, Mike was more than willing to share his secrets.

I’ve known Brian since college; he’s one of two UCLA brethren with whom I’ve kept in contact over the years. I think we’ve remained close because our lives have paralleled in so many ways. We’re both Air Force brats. Brian was born at Beale AFB, and I grew up just south of there in northern Sacramento. We’re both writers; and often times, writing partners. We’ve worked at the same companies. We live only a few miles away from each other. Our wives are really good friends. And, we have boys about the same age. Where we differ is the Martini.

For Brian’s family, it’s all about the Martini. For me, the drink was an acquired taste. Maybe it was just that my past experiences continued to hang over me like a dark cloud, but for me, the Martini left a lot to be desired. In the hands of most, it is little more than a double shot of gin. My father-in-law was a Martini man (actually, a Gibson man), and for him, the less vermouth, the better. When I first talked drinks with Brian’s family, the story was pretty much the same. Vermouth was the necessary evil. At the time, I was all about big, complicated drinks, so this wasn’t a theory to which I readily subscribed. That would change when I had the occasion to sidle up to Mike’s bar and slip into one of his house libations (or rather, have it slip into me).

Before I get into the drink itself, I should take a moment to set the scene. Mike’s home bar makes me jealous on a Biblical level. It is a place where I could happily while away too many hours. It’s not the grandeur or the stock of the bar; it’s the personality. The bar is Mike and his family and, most importantly, his father. Brian and Mike’s father was an Air Force pilot, and the bar is something of a shrine to his exploits and memory. I’ve drunk Guinness at Cashel Palace Hotel bar, where the contract for Guinness was signed, but Mike’s place easily has more character and soul. You get excited just taking a seat.

The real thrill comes when Mike pours you a drink. As mentioned, the entire family is comprised of Martini aficionados, and Mike’s been pursuing the perfect drink over the years. I think he’s found it. Not only is his Martini one of the best (if not the best) I’ve ever tasted, the history behind the ingredients make it all the more tasty. First, Mike uses Tanqueray, because that’s what his dad preferred (we’re using Leopold’s here, because it’s what we’ve got. If you have Tanqueray, please make that drink as well). The rest of the ingredients come from techniques Mike has picked up over the years. He employs only the best tricks, and it shows. As for the Vermouth — he’s uses just enough to give the drink integrity — like a French beauty applying only enough makeup to accent her natural splendor. The pièce de résistance, however, comes when Mike shakes the drinks in a WWII shell casing. How cool is that?

Mike makes his Martinis by the pitcher, which is a fine idea, and his command of technique — one bottle of freezer gin to one bottle of room temperature — is a testament to his artistic expertise. Due to the lack of bitters and the final assembly in the glass, this recipe scales nicely, so try a pitcher yourself. As for the glass, Mike’s dad didn’t care for the freezer treatment, instead opting for a traditional frappe (chilled with crushed ice), so we’ll do that here as well.

After trading emails back and forth, I asked Mike if he had given the drink a name. For him, it was simply “Martini”. I suggested the “P-47”, after the name of both his bar and the plane his father flew. He seemed to like the moniker, but it didn’t sit right with me. I’m presenting the drink with Leopold’s, not Tanqueray, and the difference is marked enough to require a different name. Mike, I leave the P-47 to your Tanqueray, and I present the Leopold’s-based Thunderbolt as the 12 Bottle Bar version.

A Toast: To our gone-but-not-forgotten Air Force fathers as well as the fathers of those who drink beside us:

We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the skies, and were gently caught by God’s own hands to be with him on high.

To dwell among the soaring clouds they’ve known so well before, from victory roll to tail chase at heavens very door.

And as we fly among them there we’re sure to hear their plea, “Take care my friend, watch your six, and do one more roll for me.”

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