We tried: a martini masterclass with the Martini Whisperer
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We tried: a martini masterclass with the Martini Whisperer

I often tell people I always wanted to be a journalist but that omits a brief, and somewhat embarrassing, period where my 10-year-old heart was set on becoming a spy.

I studied secret codes with my cousin and used my little brother for target practice, but there was one skill I never got around to mastering - the making of a good martini (some say James Bond would never make his own drink but I doubt they've paid for a cocktail in Canberra recently).

Canberra Times reporter Katie Burgess with 'martini whisperer' Phillip Jones at Pialligo Estate.

Canberra Times reporter Katie Burgess with 'martini whisperer' Phillip Jones at Pialligo Estate.Credit:Rohan Thomson

With that in mind I shed my spectacles, slipped into something sophisticated and headed out to Pialligo Estate to learn from the man they call the Martini Whisperer.

The atmosphere is a little heady in the garden pavilion where a handful of us are assembled to learn the art of the martini.

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Katie Burgess during the martini masterclass with Phillip Jones at Pialligo Estate

Katie Burgess during the martini masterclass with Phillip Jones at Pialligo EstateCredit:Rohan Thomson

To his credit, the Martini Whisperer - known by day as Phillip A. Jones - doesn't laugh when I tell him about my secret agent ambitions.

"Everyone loves the mystique of the martini," Phillip says knowingly, as he fixes me a G&T to sip while he works his wizardry.

"The martini is the perfect drink for Bond. It's got a punch, it's potent so clearly when you're drinking something as dangerous as that you're going to make a statement."

We start with martini glasses fresh out of the fridge. You want all the elements of your cocktail nice and chilled because a warm martini is an undrinkable mess and one way to wreck your drink is to dump it into a warm glass.

To that end, Phillip scoops some extra ice into the glass while we stick our noses in bottles of vermouth going around the table.

Fun fact - if you've got a bottle of vermouth that's been sitting at home on the shelf for six months, chuck it out. Once open, vermouth will go off in about a month, even if it's in the fridge (so drink up).

Next to do the rounds are all the gins I've never heard of. They're delicate and floral and I instantly regret not giving more thought to the gin I picked for my G&T (although it was delicious).

I grab a limited edition Australian gin and sweet vermouth, pour a little too generously and start muddling what becomes a very wet martini. I finish it with a quick spritz of orange bitters from one of those incredible vintage perfume bottles (Phillip's secret ingredient) and dunk in a fancy toothpick with a single olive. Voila.

The Verdict: James Bond was wrong - you should definitely not shake your martini (it flakes your ice). Also, I regret not sticking around to have dinner at the Farmhouse Restaurant afterwards. It was a departure from my usual Friday night routine though and I absolutely loved it. 10/10 exploding pens.

Details: Tickets to the martini masterclass at the Pialligo Estate Academy are $79 pp. This reporter was a guest of the organisers. Explore academy.pialligo.com for this and other classes.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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