Saturday, September 20, 2008

China Martini

I guess a traditional thing to do on liquor blogs is to take an odd-ball from the shelf (or a new one) and give it a spin, with some tasting notes. A the moment, i don't really have much in the way of tastebuds (i have a bit of a cold), but i wanted to write something about this one liquor that i haven't seen on anyone's liquor shelf (or discussed on any blogs) - at least in the united states.



The liquor is called China Martini - and it came in a metal box that had an actual working analog clock on it! China Martini is made from cinchona bark and apparently rice alcohol (though i have no way of confirming that), and its a kind of bitters (i guess) which tastes and feels a bit like Jagermeister - very sweet dark and rich. Cinchona bark it turns out is loaded with quinine - and the bark was used in many cases to help cure malaria (or its symptoms?). (An interesting aside - see wikipedia's notes on cinchona bark's role in the birth of homeopathic medicine). Hard to know exactly how to mix it in with anything, so i'll try and do that at some time. The reason it's a relatively rare find in the U.S. is because it's not sold in the U.S. at all - i only got it from a friend who went to Italy for the summer. Even there, i doubt it's hugely popular.

I did find a few funny youtube videos advertising it from a long time ago, which you might enjoy:





Isn't it a really catchy song? If only i knew what they were saying. The first one is particularly funny because China Martini is rumored to be an elixir prescribed in China - and the italian woman on the left is obviously supposed to look chinese (her dress, hair and eyebrows are supposed to be the clue i guess). Incidentally, China Martini is made by Martini & Rossi. Also, if someone happens to have a european cocktail book that has a recipe for China Martini, that would be really cool.

Some random guy from england, commenting on an online italian food store, suggests that this tastes great when mixed with a little italian brandy - or in espresso. who knew?

Update:
After a bit of my own research, it turns out that China Martini has a cousin. Cinchona bark is essentially the same thing as Calisaya bark - and there is (was?) a liqueur called Calisaya. (In fact, calisaya is a variety of cinchona that has the highest amount of quinine). www.cocktaildb.com has a list of 6 drinks that call for Calisaya/China Martini. They are as follows:

Brut
Dronda Cocktail
Montauk Riding Club Cocktail
Glamis Cocktail
Good Fellow
Calisaya

Now, upon looking closer at the cocktails, it appears that either Calisaya isn't so similar to China Martini, OR these are some of the worst thought-out drinks i've ever read. The drink "Calisaya" for instance calls for adding 1 dash of Angostura to a "glass" (it says 1/2 oz??) of Calisaya. But of course, if Calisaya is anywhere near as pungent as China Martini, you would never really taste the Angostura. "Good Fellow" is basically a 1/2 and 1/2 manhattan made with bourbon - and it calls for a dash each of Angostura and Calisaya. Which really doesn't make a lick of sense. We'll see if some online experts can make heads or tails of this. Perhaps an update!

49 comments:

Dominik MJ said...

Well if I am not mistaken, China Martini was Martinis take on Campari! I read about it several years ago and also saw once a bottle in Germany! It appeared under several names [and I assume with several recipe variants]- I think the last one was Martini Bitter.

Anyway - it seemed not to be accepted in the market and I assume, that it is now only sold in Martinis motherland Italy...

Sorry - I can't really give some verified information -though this is only what I remember from long time ago...

Eric said...

I'm looking at a my unopened bottle of China Martini now. A neighbor in Italy gave it to me as a going away gift. I expect it to be a sweet bitter: the first ingredient is sugar. No description about the kind of alcohol (31%). Suggested to be served straight as a digestivo. Also hot (2:1 China Martini with hot water), also over ice. The label has no other recipes.

I'll check in again if I get up the courage to open it. Else I'll save it in case of Malaria!

Prumpkah said...

I was introduced to China Martini by a girlfriend who knew her way around Italy. We typically had a "China Martini caldo" in a bar/cafe in the winter, when it is served in a tall thin glass (a kind of stemless flute) with a hottle of hot water and a packet of sugar (!). The customer mixes the three ingredients to her/his own personal taste and compression ratio. Va bene.

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Sildenafil said...

What an interesting drink, I haven't heard about this kind of Martini but their ingredients sounds fabulous. I really don't like to drink alcohol but Martini's are just delicious.
Where can I get this???

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Anonymous said...

China Martini is sold in Italy mainly during the winter months in a glass ~ slightly larger than a liquer glass.
Quantity as follows:- one liquer glass full poured into a slightly larger glass and add one teaspoonful of sugar and fill with hot water.
Most workmen with outside jobs call for a glass at the local bar before starting the days work.
I tried it and have one every morning during the winter - its warming and feels great.
Regards.

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Fire Detection said...

Im going to Italy for the summer vacations, Im going to buy a couple of bottles, and prepare those awesome cocktails. thanks for let me know that in Italy I can found the China Martini drink.

buy viagra said...

This liquor is so delicious. It's a real shame that every bottled is so expensive. anyway thank you

Liquor said...

I expect it to be a sweet bitter. However, I have tasted. I really don't like to drink alcohol but Martini's are just delicious.

............
Narasimha

Deborah said...

Nothing to do with China, the country, or the drink called a Martini. The name comes from the Italian for quinine (chinina). Martini is the name of the company that makes it. Their brand of vermouth is where the name for the Martini drink comes from.

For all I know, it's older than Campari, and it is usually drunk after dinner, as are other amari, as a digestivo. Campari is an aperitivo, to be drunk before dinner to stimulate the appetite.

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Similar to the Scandinavian Glögg or German Gluehwein.