Anyone who enjoys an ice-cold vodka martini has a long list of recipes to draw from. A quality vodka is undoubtedly the key ingredient but from there the variations are endless. I have some friends that stock bottles of Grey Goose in their freezer to achieve just the right pouring temp. I’ve even experimented with stuffing olives in the bottle before freezing for just the right “dirty” balance of flavors. But, it wasn’t until a recent discovery of a pineapple martini that I began to see the potential of what could be the tastiest, and easiest, cocktail ever.
On a road trip through the Southeast US, I was amazed at the creativity that is being put into the renaissance of cocktail culture. Passionate bartenders are now approaching their craft with the same elevated skills as chefs. With a mixologist’s bag of tricks that include scratch syrups, farm-to-table infusions and an array of bitters and unusual ingredients, restaurant menus are as focused on cocktails as they are on center-of-the-plate entrees.
Stopping overnight in Jackson, Mississippi, we had dinner with my niece Lori Starks and her family at Table 100–one of the most popular farm-to-table Southern eateries in the Mississippi capitol. They have an excellent menu, extensive wine list and a casually elegant atmosphere that made for a spectacular evening. But, it was the cocktail that started off the evening that I was most excited about–a fresh pineapple martini.
When we entered the restaurant and were ushered into the bar to wait briefly for our table, I couldn’t help but notice a very large vase positioned on the bar top. This centerpiece was filled with fresh-cut pineapple covered in what must have been 4 or 5 bottles of vodka. As I questioned the bartender, he told me that the fruit had been marinating for a week and was one of the best-selling house specialties of the restaurant. What an easy and dramatically visual idea–premixing a quantity of cocktails and creating a conversation piece at the very same time. This recipe is perfect for parties and one that will elevate your bartending status to mixologist level. And it is about as simple and foolproof as it gets. I had to try it.
My investigation led to the discovery that with marination, the liquor mellows out with the added flavor of the fruit. So, you don’t have to buy the good stuff. Instead of a $40 bottle of top shelf vodka, I was able to achieve spectacular results for less than 20 bucks. I use Cathead vodka from Mississippi. Their honeysuckle-flavored vodka has just a touch of Louisiana sugarcane and as the distiller Phillip Ladner explains it, this blend has the “soft floral & herbaceous aromas of honeysuckle–a sweet and delicate flavor with a well-rounded fresh finish.” For my Pineapple Martini, this is the perfect choice in combination with my fruit infusion.
First, you need to find a good pineapple–a ripe (not overripe), sweet and juicy pineapple. The thing about pineapples (unlike many other fruits) is that the instant it is picked, it will not ripen any further. Being a bit green is okay, but the bottom of the fruit should be more golden brown. Feel it and press on it. It should give a little, but not a lot. Keep looking if it seems mushy. Smell it for freshness and sweetness and pass on it if it smells a bit fermented.
Next, you must choose the right container. The ideal vessel for marinating should be a round, squatty glass jar-type container with a wide mouth, and here’s why. You want it to be short so that the liquor will cover all of the pineapple. The wide mouth will enable you to reach in and place the fruit. You want glass, because the presentation on your bar or counter is very cool and will provoke lots of comments. My container was a five dollar flea market find, so just look around and get creative.
And just as important, the size of the container will dictate how much pineapple will cover the inside and the amount of liquor to cover it. My container happened to be an odd size–104 ounces (13 cups), which just happened to take 1 1/2 pineapple and 1 1/2 bottles of vodka. For my recipe directions, I am scaling this down to accommodate 1 pineapple and 1 bottle of vodka. I urge you to be flexible on precise measurements since in the end: pineapple + vodka = incredible martini.
- 1 large ripe pineapple
- 1 bottle (750 ML) Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka
- Pineapple chunks (for garnish)
- Pineapple leaves (for garnish)
- In a container with a tight-fitting lid, wash thoroughly and dry the inside and outside.
- With a large knife, slice the top off the pineapple and the rest of it into ¾-inch rounds. With a smaller paring knife, take off the outer skin. Don't worry about removing any of the remaining eyes since you will be straining the pulp away.
- Place one whole round pineapple slice in the bottom of your container. Slice the rest of the rounds in half to make half-moon shaped pieces. Layer the pieces around the edges of the container overlapping them as you work your way up the side of the jar.
- Pour the vodka over the pineapple pieces and seal the top. Place on your counter at room temperature and marinate for 7 to 10 days.
- After the marination is complete, move the container to the sink. Pour the vodka and pineapple juice through a fine strainer into a pourable container. Wearing a pair of plastic gloves, reach into the container and remove each slice of pineapple to the strainer. Using a heavy spoon, press any remaining juices out of the pineapple pieces.. Discard the squeezed pineapple. Repeat until all the slices are rendered of their juice.
- Using a funnel over a clean sealable bottle or jar with a screw top, pour the strained liquid. Seal the bottle and refrigerate overnight. Leave the bottle in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Prior to serving, place your martini glasses in the freezer to chill. For serving, fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add enough of the Pineapple Honeysuckle Vodka to fill your martini glass. Close the shaker and shake vigorously until ice cold. Strain the cocktail into a martini glass and garnish with a skewer containing a pineapple leaf and pineapple chunk.
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