To hell with dry January: Dukes martini masterclasses

The martini king shares his mixology secrets

Dukes’ Oddjob Martini
Dukes’ Oddjob Martini | Image: Andy Barnham

What better way to toast the New Year than with a martini: shaken, not stirred, and sipped at the stroke of midnight? But there is an art to mixing the perfect martini that can only be learnt from a master. Enter Dukes hotel’s legendary bartender Alessandro Palazzi. The reputed “maestro of the martini” has been creating cocktails at Dukes Bar for a decade, and is now sharing his signature technique in a series of Martini Masterclasses commencing Tuesday January 2.

Dukes’ barman Alessandro Palazzi, aka the “maestro of the martini”
Dukes’ barman Alessandro Palazzi, aka the “maestro of the martini” | Image: Andy Barnham
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The intimate Mayfair bar is a fitting setting for a cocktail classroom: it was a favoured haunt of author Ian Fleming and said to be central to James Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” apperitivo of choice. Palazzi will host just four to eight guests per session (on request, £125 per person) and guide them through the art of martini making: from the selection of the best gins and vodkas, to the preparation of cold martini glasses, and the finishing touches such as organic orange rinds. “By adding orange peel to the frozen alcohol, some of the oil rises to the top and gives it a different essence. As you drink, the smell of orange comes through, rather than the smell of alcohol. That is how you can distinguish a good martini from a bad one,” Palazzi says.

Dukes hotel in St James’s, where martinis are served from a trolley
Dukes hotel in St James’s, where martinis are served from a trolley | Image: Andy Barnham
Grandstand view of the mixologists’ “work station” at Dukes hotel
Grandstand view of the mixologists’ “work station” at Dukes hotel | Image: Andy Barnham

Each animated, two-hour tutorial will focus on various martini recipes, such as the famed Vesper martini. “It incorporates Polish vodka because the spy who inspired Fleming to write his fictional character came from Poland,” Palazzi says. He will also reveal classic gin and vodka recipes, as well the Martinez: a smooth combination of Colombian gin, Martini Rosso, Marachino liquor, orange bitters, Griottine cherry and lemon zest. There will also be homework for willing apprentices, as Palazzi will happily send his guests off with exact measurements for each ingredient so they can conjure the magic at home.

Relaxed seating in the bar at Dukes hotel
Relaxed seating in the bar at Dukes hotel | Image: Andy Barnham
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Canapés are included with the interactive tastings, and will be passed around as guests are regaled with amusing tales of the history of each drink. Palazzi’s only stipulation: a two-martini maximum rule. “I don’t tell my guests how or when to drink a martini,” he says. “But a Dukes martini is likely to be too strong.”

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