Martini Gadgets #6 – Mr. Woodpecker Martini Measure

After a little break from Martini Gadgets, we’re back with another obscure item: The Mr. Woodpecker Martini Measurer. The box notes that this is No: 515 of their “Barkeep Line”, although I’ve not been able to find any record of their other products. So whether there were 514 products before this remains a mystery…

A Martini made with Heather Gin and Dolin Dry Vermouth according to proportion prescribed by the Martini Measure.

The item itself consists of two china cones attached together by a piece of wood that is painted black. The large china cone is labelled “Gin” and the smaller, “Vermouth”; they hold 90ml and 30ml respectively. Thus, filling each to the brim would make a relatively wet 3:1 Martini.

Each of the cones, or measures, are decorated with various little pictures. The gin measure has a picture of a bottle with a cocktail glass on it (I’m guessing that this is gin), in addition to a goblet and some juniper berries. The vermouth measure displays a fish on a plate and another goblet. Both measures also seem to be decorated with pictures of cheese. The drawings have an almost child-like quality, which makes me think that they were hand-painted.

The box comes with no instructions, but I assume you simply use each of the cones to measure out the gin and vermouth and then add them to your mixing glass.

For my trial of this gadget, I used Knockeen Hills Heather Gin; at 47.3%, it makes a Martini with a lot of character. I accompanied this with Dolin Dry Vermouth.

The 3:1 gin:vermouth ratio determined by the size of the cones produced a Martini that was a bit too wet by my standards, but the drink worked quite well; however, I think that if you used a vermouth that is less subtle than Dolin, it might not work so well. I found that this was the main problem: the fixed ratio; there are no graduations in the cones, so there is no way for you to adjust it to your own tastes. This leaves you with 120ml of Martini at 39.85%, or the equivalent of two double whiskies. The drink is smooth and pleasant enough to finish, but with such a large drink I’m not sure what else you could do afterwards…


Martini Gadget #5 – Martini Oil Can

After the balancing act of the Martini Scales, this article will go back to a gadget that is designed to dispense minimal amounts of vermouth.

The Martini Oil Can, a kind of dropper or dribbler. This was created by Tiffany & Co, the American Jeweller founded in 1837 and famously associated with the first meal of the day. The oil can is about 1 1/2 inches diameter at the base, it is about 3 inches high and made of solid sterling silver.

The spout of the dropper detaches and the base of the can is filled with Vermouth and there is a cork seal between the base and the spout. At the tip of the spout itself is a tiny pin-prick of a hole that allows the vermouth to dribble out of.

Does it work?

I filled the Martini Oil Can with Dolin Vermouth and prepared my mixing glass and ice. I decided to use Leopold’s Gin and about 5 seconds worth of dribbling for 30ml of Gin.

A crisp Martini that is also quite flavourful. The dribble does allow you to minutely control the amount of vermouth you add to the mix. The downside is that if you fill the oil can too much, no Vermouth will come out, so a bit of playing around is needed to find a workable level. The capacity is quite small (around 30ml/1oz) so if you were making a lot of drinks you’d have to fill it up quite often.

Martini Gadget #4 Martini Scales

So far, we have looked at three methods for adding a minute amount of vermouth to your drinks, but what about having just the “right” amount of vermouth in your drink and ensuring that it is “balanced”? What better way to ensure this than to use the Martini Scales?

The Martini Scales were made by Loyal Gift Products Inc. of New York, N.Y. consist of two metal cups, one for gin and a smaller one for vermouth, that sit on each end of a see-saw arm, the pivot of which can then be moved up and down. The theory is that you pour vermouth into the small cup and then pour gin into the other until the scales balance. Moving the pivot adjusts the ratio at which the cups will balance; it’s all moments and turning points, but I’ll resist the urge to bore you with Physics.

The scales come with three ratios marked out on the arm: 5:1, 10:1 and 25:1 (Gin:Vermouth); here are the tasting notes for each of these. For my test, I used Sipsmith Gin & Noilly Prat Vermouth.

#1) 5:1
This was my personal favourite (I usually go for a 6:1 ratio, anyway): I found it to be smooth and rather well-balanced.

#2) 10:1
This still seems quite wet (with a strong taste of vermouth); I thought that this would differ more to #1, but it surprisingly similar and still quite good.

#3) 25:1
Very dry indeed; but then, at 25:1, that is what you would expect. Kudos to Nolly Prat, as the vermouth still comes through, but Sipsmith Gin can hold its own even if there was no vermouth. If you like your martinis dry, this is for you.


The Instructions for the Martini Scales

Martini Gadget #3 Martini Atomizer


Tanqueray Export, No:Ten from Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire branded atomizers.

For this article on Martini Gadgets, I’ll be looking at a less obscure, but ultimately more useful, device. An atomizer is a small vessel or canister that you fill with vermouth and when you press the cap, a fine mist of vermouth sprays out. Essentially, it’s a perfume atomizer/bottle.

There are a variety of these still available “today” and they often come in Martini Gift Packs; I think I got the one below in a John Lewis sale.

Does it work?

There are two main ways to use the vermouth atomizer:

#1 Once your gin is chilled and has been poured into a glass, spray a little vermouth over the glass so that the mist settles on the top of the drink. This uses vermouth as more of a garnish and doesn’t really “mix” the drink.

A "naked" Martini using method #2 (below) a Tanqueray Atomizer, Noilly Prat Vermouth and TAURUS Gin.

#2 The second method is a twist on a glass rinse. Take an empty, chilled Martini glass and spritz the inside with the martini atomizer, before adding the chilled gin. If you like a little dilution in your Martini, you can stir (or shake) the gin with ice before straining and pouring it in. Otherwise, you could keep the gin in the freezer and just add it to the glass. This is the “Naked” method of Martini mixing.

Martini Gadgets #2 – Martini Droppers

In the second part of my writings on Martini Gadgets, I shall be looking at Martini Droppers: they are not as unusual as the stones and hopefully a little easier to get hold of for those of you who may be inclined to try one yourselves.

Many readers will, no doubt, remember chemistry lab sessions from their school days spent using pipettes to carefully measure out quantities of Hydrochloric Acid and other nasties; so why not use one for your vermouth? In its most basic form, this is what a Martini Dropper is.

RX Martini Dropper in Vermouth Bottle

RX Martini went one step further by creating an extra long version (32cm, in fact) that would fit into a full-size bottle of vermouth. It came attached to a cork; the idea being that this would replace the cap and the dropper would constantly sit in the bottle, ready to dispense vermouth at a mere moment’s notice. The bulb on the end looks rather like an olive and the glass pipe is graduated with assorted measurements.

Another variety is the eye-dropper style vermouth bottle. In this case, you fill this small bottle (around 20ml in size) with vermouth and use the built-in dropper to add droplets to your mixing glass. Most famously made by Gorham, they were often ornately decorated and plated in silver the one below was made by Fisher.

Silver Plated Vermouth Dropper Bottle

But do Martini Droppers work?

For my test, I used Miller’s Wesbourne Strength Gin. I opened a fresh bottle of Noilly Prat Vermouth and inserted the dropper. It is worth noting here that, when adding a dropper to a fresh bottle, you should be careful that it doesn’t cause your vermouth to overflow!

Mrs. B demonstrating the Vermouth Dropper with Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin

For my test, I made a Martini using about 15 drops (50 drops = ⅓ Ounce) of vermouth.
I had forgotten how great Westbourne Strength was in a Martini, and the dropper allows you to measure how much vermouth you want to add to your drink very precisely (unlike the Martini Stones). I think they would be useful for any drink with a ratio of less than 5:1 (gin to vermouth). For a wetter Martini, you would be better off using a simple measure.

Martini Dropper Results

Once again you may be thinking: this is all well and good, but where can I get a Vermouth/Martini Dropper today? The simplest and cheapest option would be to buy yourself a small plastic pipette, which can be purchased for less than couple of pounds/bucks/euros.

UPDATE: Refitting your Martini Dropper

The problem with vintage rubber bulb is that if they haven’t been kept supple from extended periods of inaction they tend to perish which is a very difficult process to reverse. However it is possible to replace the bulb. First you need to find a dropper bottle with a similar sized bulb, I got mine on eBay for £1.50. You remove the bulb from the new bottle by carefully pulling out the glass dropper tube (they tend to just be fitted tightly as opposed to being glue) with a little wiggle you’ll have it free, then you push the bulb out of the cap ring and it’s free. Perform similar process with the old dropper bottle to replace the bulb.  This is surprisingly easy to do as most dropper bottles are designed to come apart for easy cleaning. see below for a before/after:

Martini Gadgets #1 – The Martini Stones

The jar full of Martini Stones, just add vermouth.

This is the first in a seven part series on Martini Gadgets. Most of these stem from the 1950/early 1960s Atomic Age era; with the rise of the American middle-class, technology was put to use in a number of labour-saving devices, and, naturally, this extended to the Martini culture of the time. Various (arguably) superfluous gadgets came on the market (we still have these today: an electronic gravy boat being such an example) and this coincided with the desire for dryer and dryer Martinis, so some enterprising soul(s) created all sorts of instruments to solve the problem of keeping excessive amounts of vermouth from your drink. As a note of interest, here is some research that looks at how dry people from different professions like their Martinis.

A list of the finding of research to find how various professions liked to drink their Martinis.

In this first article, I will look at Martini Stones. These were made by Podan Co. in 1963 and distributed by Baekgaard & Butler of Glenview, Illinois. Martini Stones consist of limestone chippings in a pot; you fill this with vermouth and the theory is that the stone absorbs the delicate aroma of the wine, which you then add to a poured glass of chilled gin or vodka.

The Test

I filled the jar with vermouth and left it in the fridge for 24 hours (I used a fresh bottle of Martini Dry). The next day, I “iced” my gin (Hayman’s London Dry) by stirring it with ice and straining; I could have kept it in the freezer, but I like a little dilution in my Martini.
After pouring my iced gin into a Martini glass, I added one large stone to the mix.

Icing the Gin ready for the Martini stone.

The Taste

This created a very dry Martini, as you may well expect. Actually, I can hardly taste the vermouth at all: it was practically just a glass of chilled gin. I think you would get more vermouth in your drink from a simple rinse of the glass to start with. Personally, I’d rather have a vermouth-soaked olive than this.
I used one large stone, as I thought there was a genuine risk of swallowing one of the smaller ones (Podan do ask you to tell your friends not to put the stones in their mouths). The stones look pretty in the glass, but are not very effective for making a Martini; maybe this is why they’re not made anymore…?

A Martini complete with Martini Stone.

So although Martini Stones are not very practical and don’t offer the opportunity for much showmanship few people will be able to guess what they are and so they are rather curious.

A modern alternative?

You may be thinking, this is ll well and good but where can I get them from today? Although Martini Stones  are no longer produced, I think that Whisky Stones provide a similar function, leaving them to soak in vermouth before adding to the glass.

Barroom Bookshelf #2 – Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes

Barroom Bookshelf #2:
Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes

The front cover of Burke's Complete Cocktail & Tastybite Recipes

I do not recall exactly when or where I got my copy of Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Tastybite Recipes, but I am sure that the term “tastybite” was a major factor in acquiring it.

Written in 1936 by Herman “Barney” Burke, this 8” book endeavours to detail the etiquette of mixing, serving and drinking beverages, with a  selection of cocktail foodbits recipes thrown in.

The author believes food and drink to be brothers and proclaims that, in consideration of their health, the wise drinker (and I’m not sure how many of those I have met) will accompany their cocktails with tastybites before, during & after the drink.

So it is clear that Mr. Burke certainly has his opinions and these are not restricted to the present; he has his views of the future too. Here are two of his predictions:

1) (The) cocktail period will probably pass to make way for (people) learning and enjoying drinks as connoisseurs.

2) US wine will (one day) be the best in the world.

Interestingly, you could definitely argue that the first one has come to pass; as for the second, well, I’ve had some nice Californian wines, but I’m far off making a definitive decision.

Burke’s is famous for containing one of the first written recipe of the Brandy Alexander but in addition to this the book contains recipes that I have not been able to find elsewhere (at least not without reference to this volume) so, in the name of experimentation, I tried a couple out:

Thunderbolt & Harvard Brandy Cocktail recipes – CLICK TO ENLARGE

1) Thunderbolt
Boom! This is a Thunderbolt. This golden, aptly named drink packs a punch, but its shaking means it’s got a little less edge than you might expect. I mixed this with Seagram’s Gin, Seagram’s Whisky and Brandy. It has a strong flavour but, like The Vesper, you’d only need one before dinner.

The Thunderbolt Cocktail

2) Harvard Brandy Cocktail
This has a sophisticated feel with a full flavour: a balance of herbs and spices. As this is stirred, it makes the drink that bit smoother and I think it makes a charming alternative to a Manhattan. The brandy and vermouth mix well, with the sugar syrup off-setting any bitterness, and the Angostura Bitters binds the drink together in its usual fashion.

The Harvard Brandy Cocktail

In Conclusion
Burke’s provides an extensive selection of cocktails and, more unusually, tastybite recipes. I haven’t focused on the latter so much, but the five types of caviar canapes are not to be missed. I also enjoyed Barney Burke’s insights and soothsaying of the bar world past, present and future, and the pages at the end for “Your own recipes” is a really nice touch.
Is the book essential for a fledgling vintage barroom bookshelf? No, but I am very glad it’s on mine.

A reprint of Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Tastybite Recipes is available from Createspace and Amazon and is currently priced, rather reasonably, under £10.

OR here:

Score: 3 stars

Barroom Bookshelf#1: Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts

Barroom Bookshelf #1:
Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts

Esquire's Handbook for Hosts

The very first “vintage” cocktail book, and the volume responsible for sparking my interest in old cocktails, bar book and barware, was a 1954 edition of Esquire’s “Handbook for Hosts”. Costing less than £3, this is a book that I have returned to again and again; it has even done a bit of travel with me.

The book covers all manner of subjects that were viewed as essential knowledge for the sophisticated man of the 1950’s: there are a few pages on a host’s dress and behaviour, a very comprehensive section on culinary delights, a lovely section on drinks and a selection of little tidbits at the end.

"What the well-dressed bar will wear"

The fascinating drinks chapter begins with essential bar equipment and then moves on to building up your cocktail “cellar”. This means that you don’t have to splash out on a myriad of bottles when you start and so hopefully won’t be left with a bottle of Parfait Amour that has been hardly touched. It was a sign of the times that Cellar #1 consists solely of dry gin and French (dry) vermouth.

The selection of cocktails is wide, but shies away from being excessive. What is particularly neat is that the more popular cocktails – Martini, Manhattan, Daquiri and Julep – are each given extra attention with an overview of their origins and variations.

The tips on how to be an excellent host are so numerous and amusing, as well as being sound advice, that it is hard to do them justice in this simple review, but some of my favourites are the – rather tongue-in-cheek – ways of getting rid of guests who have outstayed their welcome. For example:

Husband: “Let’s be getting on home so these people can get some sleep.”
Wife: “Don’t be silly darling, we are at home.”

The last quarter of the book covers conversation, suitable games and after-dinner entertainments, and 365 excuses for a party. Also included is a quiz on “How attractive are you to women?” and, oddly, “How attractive are you to men?”, the latter of which seems to be the only two pages in the whole book aimed at women. It still leaves me perplexed, but is, nonetheless, included in both the vintage and contemporary editions.


The book is available as a contemporary reprint, but these versions, whilst good, have had some of the charm and character of the earlier edition edited out. Many also lack an index, which is a notable omission. As earlier versions of this work are available on places such as Amazon Marketplace for a reasonable price, I suggest plucking for one of those.

All in all, I have really enjoyed revisiting the book to write this review and I had truly forgotten how good it was.

"How to use this book"

Esquire’s Handbook For Hosts (1954)
Frederick Muller Ltd.
288 pages.

Score: 4 Stars – Highly Recommended