SITTING in a Canberra bar, sipping on a martini made with premium English gin, Phillip Jones had an epiphany.
He wasn’t drunk. He had just realised how great martinis are. Hooked, he earned himself the name “The Martini Whisperer” and now runs a blog for lovers of martinis, craft spirits and cocktails.
Because of this passion he’s created a career (outside of his consulting business Two Degrees Group), running martini masterclasses, reviewing craft spirits and has even been asked to create drinks.
The idea for the blog blossomed in 2013 when Phillip was asked to concoct the Centenary Martini for Canberra’s 100th birthday, which he called the “Centini”.
“I wanted to use all Australian ingredients but I found, at that time, there was only a handful of them around,” he says.
“That led to me discovering a new wave of Australian spirits and the next thing I know, I had started a website, (martiniwhisperer.com), and was being sent samples from makers to review their vodka and gin.
“In the past I ran restaurants and later an events company in Canberra, Sydney, Port Douglas, Ottawa, London, Scotland and elsewhere.
“So I’ve a love and understanding of the industry, and if I’m critical, its coming from a ‘tough love’ point of view.”
With more than 12 years’ experience working as a fine-dining manager around the world, Phillip found that craft spirits weren’t as well-known and appreciated in Australia.
“Right now we’re blessed with some great Canberra bars, but on the website there’s also over 100 reviews of spirits around the world and a directory of Australian spirits,” he says.
Phillip wants to introduce small makers to the public, especially Australian makers who, he says, are often passionate small-business owners with great stories.
He’s currently been in the process of pre-production with a view to shoot a television series next year, which will be about craft distilling and cocktail culture in Australia.
“I want to introduce people to a range of craft spirits they can’t find in the shop,” he says.
“I want to show people how they’re made, how to drink them at home and how to appreciate them.
“When we talk about craft spirits in Australia, most of them are brand new, small businesses, which are off the market.”
Until Phillip uncovers some hidden gems around Australia, he says Canberra is lucky to have some great bars of its own.
But before people suit up to try a martini James Bond style, like Phillip did when he was 20, they should be warned that martinis aren’t always an instant love.
Admittedly, like most things with an acquired taste, Phillip didn’t love his first martini, but grew a strong passion for them over time.
“Martinis are like Russian roulette, you just don’t know what you’re going to get,” he says.
If a martini’s not an option, Phillip suggests his two favourite cocktails, which are ideal in the summer.
The first, a Negroni, which is an Italian cocktail with gin and sweet vermouth on ice, topped with a bit of orange (it’s really refreshing), and, the second a Gin Rickey, which is a simple drink, with fresh lime juice, gin, soda water and a wedge of lime. Phillip suggests choosing a gin with a lot of flavour for that one.
Phillip’s tips for the best martini
- Get everything as cold as possible. A martini is only good for about 15 to 20 minutes, so Phillip says put the glasses in the fridge and the gin in the freezer before hand.
- Choose the best quality of gin to suit the martini maker’s budget. Phillip recommends a good-quality vermouth.
- ALWAYS stir. Don’t shake, otherwise flakes of ice will get into the cocktail