Dinner & A Book - Culinary Travels - The Gatekeeper
Marshall V. King stops by The Brass Eye in Niles for a talk with Bryan Williams about the difference in making a classic martini and a dirty martini.
Marshall V. King
Bryan Williams isn’t sure how the classic martini came to be.
He’s not sure how the dirty martini first happened.
He is sure that anything that uses chocolate syrup or pomegranate products shouldn’t be called a martini.
The Brass Eye is Williams’ bar in downtown Niles at 205 N. Second St. Ramen and bao (Chinese buns) are available daily and that means seven nights a week.
He can tell you that the name of the bar was one of the couple hundred terms Ben Franklin listed for being drunk. He can tell you about the comings and goings of restaurants and bars in downtown Niles, where he’s been in the mix for years.
The Brass Eye serves the classics, but also invents. A cocktail made with ramen broth, Johnny Walker Black scotch, basil, Thai peppercorn simple syrup and some other unnamed ingredients sounds odd, but everyone who’s had it has liked it, said Williams. “It’s a delicious drink,” he said.
That $12 cocktail isn’t conventional like the martini. A martini is best cast with gin and vermouth. Which gin and how much vermouth are often discussed in the cocktail world, but Williams prefers Bombay Sapphire gin and Carpano Antica vermouth. The result is a slightly sweeter martini. If you want it dirty, that means you’re asking for olives and olive juice. So he’ll stir together (not shake) two ounces of gin, half an ounce of dry vermouth and half an ounce of olive juice (which he has behind the bar in a small glass vial with a stopper in the top).
You can ask for it extra dirty. Just don’t ask Williams or Brass Eye bartenders for a choc-a-tini or a pom-a-tini.
They’re glad to experiment with cocktails and set a creation on the bar. Just not something that’s misnamed or comes in a giant martini glass with syrup. Williams is a great mixologist, adept at his craft. In his small bar, he can combine big flavors.
And it’s fine if he doesn’t pick one story of how the martini came to be. That’s less important than how he makes it.