Dirty Martini & Black Ginger


Martini People
Shaken and Stirred

An old friend and a new friend came by on a wonderful sunny day. It is always fun to show people around and letting them explore the foods at the shop. Susie was super kind in sending this letter to us and we wanted to share…

Stanley and I were nearly out the door of ChefShop, loaded down with a mouth-watering selection of their choice and rare foods, when I was pulled aside.

“Are you martini people?” it was whispered.

“Why yes we are,” I replied, wondering if it showed. “How did you know?”

He didn’t answer, but pressed a small bottle filled with thick, darkly golden liquid into my hand. The label, mostly covered in Japanese characters, bore a single line of English: Hebesu Black Ginger Syrup.

“Do me a favor,” - “try this in a martini, Vodka or Gin, and let me know what you think.”

He went on to explain that a splash of the alchemical elixir was rumored to transmute any base liquor into a libation of pure gold. I told him we would be happy to oblige.

Back home, noon seemed close enough to the cocktail hour to begin our experiment. While we are both normally Gin martini purists, this time, in the interest of a thorough report, Stanley concocted both Vodka and Gin varieties, with his usual exacting skill and graceful aplomb.

We were assured that Hebesu would metamorphose any less than perfect cocktail into ambrosia, I went out on a limb and agreed to be the Vodka guinea pig. One sip convinced me that, once again, he had steered us straight.

A recipe of one part Kettle One vodka and a scant capful of Hebesu Syrup, shaken over ice and served with a garlic stuffed olive, yielded the smoothest martini that has ever crossed my lips. Not a trace of the oily aftertaste I usually find in a Vodka martini could be detected. Hebesu blended a cocktail the way Jackie Kennedy hosted a White House gala, everyone mixing seamlessly, getting along and happy to be there.

Hebesu, the citrus fruit the syrup is named for, grows only in a small area of Japan and is therefore so rare that few outside of that country are familiar with the taste.

I thought I detected a hint of pear. Bosc maybe? Or the delicious, honey like Williams' Bon Chrétien? But pear isn’t listed as part of the recipe, perhaps the flavor was coming from but the elusive Hebesu itself? Black Ginger, which one would expect to speak a bit louder than other ingredients, knew its place, adding a welcome degree of warmth but staying in the background, barely discernible.

Stanley made his drink with Bombay Sapphire Gin. Comparing the two martinis side by side we concluded that, while the powerful herbal nature of Bombay muted the effect of the Hebesu more than in the vodka version, it added a delightful twist here as well. The softly sweet notes of the syrup, amalgamated with naturally astringent gin, created a well conducted flavor symphony.

Give it a try, you won’t be sorry.