• Slide 2
  • Slide 4


Martin Miller of Martin Miller’s Gin Passes Away on Christmas Eve

Spirits

01.03.2014

Martin Miller

It has been announced that Martin Miller, founder of Martin Miller’s Gin, has recently passed away on Christmas Eve after fighting a battle with cancer. We’ve chosen to reflect on this entrepreneur, artist, and award winning gin producer by sharing our interview with Mr. Miller from March 2011.

Rest in Peace Martin.

Gin is not just vodka that tastes like pine trees. Feeling that way led Martin Miller, a successful English businessman and hotelier to start his nth new venture, Martin Miller’s Gin, over a decade ago when vodka had pushed the genteel clear spirit to the brink of extinction. Mutineer caught up with the serial entrepreneur turned distiller in between jet-setting trips across the Atlantic to chat about all things British.

What is the last thing you drank?
That’s a strange question with spooky overtones to it! Well, I nearly gave up drinking for good back in 1998. That was the year I first distilled Martin Miller’s. I was with some friends and had just been served three of the most atrocious gin and tonics imaginable. As a lifelong gin drinker, the choice was stark. Either to continue drinking the rubbish that was, in those days, masquerading as gin or give up drinking altogether. That was unthinkable, so it was then that I set out to create a gin to my own recipe. It’s hard to remember in these days of what I call the ‘Gin Renaissance’ just how bad things had gotten for gin in those dark days of vodka madness!

Where did your interest in gin come from?
When I was a small child my parents used to mutter that ‘I was conceived on gin.’ Of course, back then I hadn’t a clue what they meant, but it made gin sound like some mysterious elixir with magic properties. After all it had somehow conjured me up! From then on, I was hooked by gin. By conception too, I guess. I have five daughters…

How do you take your gin?
It depends. At heart I’m a gin and tonic man. Whenever I drink a G&T, I tend to make it with the 80-proof version of my gin and a good-sized wedge of lime, topped up with our good friends at Fever Tree’s fabulous tonic water. When I can’t get the perfect G&T, I love a dry martini. In that case, I prefer to use my Westbourne Strength gin. I have always liked my dry martinis slightly ‘wetter,’ and the peppery, dry and spicy finish of Westbourne is a perfect foil for the sweetness of the vermouth. It’s interesting to me to see how the so called ‘authentic’ dry martini has emerged from the shadow of that awful concoction of vodka and vermouth that was called a martini through the ‘80s and ‘90s. I assume just because it was served in a martini glass.

What do you drink with breakfast?
Is this a trick question? Okay, I’ll tell the truth. It depends where I am. As my wife tells me, I spend most of my time in the air somewhere between the UK and the U.S., so it’s easy to confuse breakfast time and the cocktail hour! perfectly. I can particularly recommend the restrooms in the Chelsea Physic Garden. I often got changed there into my tux before attending some event or other. Must have looked very strange!

What non-alcoholic beverages do you enjoy?
I guess I’m typically English. I drink a lot of tea. None of that posh Earl Grey stuff, understand. I prefer what we Brits call ‘builder’s tea.’ Dark, strong and never, never made with a tea bag. I can’t abide the principle of the tea bag. Now that I come to think of it in tea or in gin making.

Like tea bags, I see the principle of the Carterhead still as a backward step. I ask you, do you really believe someone said, ‘Look what I’ve invented. It’s a sack of botanicals that you steam in a modified still. It will make a better gin.’ Or was it more likely, ‘Look what I’ve invented. It’s a sack of botanicals that you steam in a still. You won’t have to macerate the botanicals anymore, and you won’t have all that faff of cleaning out the still each time. It’ll save you tons of money.’ You decide. I have heard somewhere that ‘tea bagging’ has taken on an entirely new meaning. How appropriate! Anyway, back to non-alcoholic beverages. Have you tried Fever Tree Ginger Ale? Fantastic!

What are some of your favorite simple cocktails?
I love some of what I call ‘stolen’ cocktails. What are these? Well, they are cocktails that I suspect were originally made with gin in its heyday but have been slowly subverted. Two that come to mind are the red snapper and the Southside. The red snapper is really a serious bloody Mary, using gin instead of vodka; ditto the Southside. Just make a mojito and substitute rum for gin. All are so much more delicious than the ‘originals’ that I can’t believe they are not the more authentic.

What’s your bar setup at home like?
Strictly speaking, I’m a homeless person! I live between my own hotels. Mind you, there was a time when I was genuinely homeless. I tried it as an experiment. I lived in my car in London for 18 months. It worked quite well actually, a happy and most carefree period I have to say.

I developed a network of restrooms in swanky hotels where I could persuade the concierge to let me shower and shave. It worked perfectly. I can particularly recommend the restrooms in the Chelsea Physic Garden. I often got changed there into my tux before attending some event or other. Must have looked very strange!

Any cocktail ingredients you’re into right now?
You have probably guessed by now that I have simple tastes but am fanatical about quality. What has intrigued me most has been the development of bitters. They seem to have paralleled the ‘Gin Renaissance,’ coming out from hidden recesses under the bar in a dazzling array of variants and flavours. I particularly like Gaz Regan’s variant on the theme.

What do you drink at a bar when you’re not drinking gin?
You have to remember that I am no mixologist or expert on cocktails or the bar scene. I have opinions, but that’s about it. My thing is gin and making gin. As a result, I’m a pretty boring drinking companion. I rarely drink non-gin cocktails, unless coerced to do so! I do have a taste for single malt whiskies. Two favourites are Caol Ila and Mortlach. Both very different, but both excellent.

Are there any city-specific cocktail scenes you’re particularly into right now?
Yes, funnily enough there are. But not where you might think. I am really fascinated by what’s going on in Los Angeles. While on the one hand I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to cocktails, I am intrigued by what I see happening there. It seems obvious, but in LA they seem to have a refreshing, almost naïve, approach where anything goes. Back that up with Southern California’s abundance of fresh fruits and ingredients, and you have a recipe for something really exciting and new. On my last visit, I ate in a superb restaurant called Providence. The food was fabulous, but what really appealed was the way that the ingredients in the fresh dishes of the day cropped up in the cocktails. It was as if the chef and the barkeep had marketed together with the single aim of creating a marriage between bar and kitchen. I also love what

What do you drink at a bar when you’re not drinking gin?
You have to remember that I am no mixologist or expert on cocktails or the bar scene. I have opinions, but that’s about it. My thing is gin and making gin. As a result, I’m a pretty boring drinking companion. I rarely drink non-gin cocktails, unless coerced to do so! I do have a taste for single malt whiskies. Two favourites are Caol Ila and Mortlach. Both very different, but both excellent.

Are there any city-specific cocktail scenes you’re particularly into right now?
Yes, funnily enough there are. But not where you might think. I am really fascinated by what’s going on in Los Angeles. While on the one hand I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to cocktails, I am intrigued by what I see happening there. It seems obvious, but in LA they seem to have a refreshing, almost naïve, approach where anything goes. Back that up with Southern California’s abundance of fresh fruits and ingredients, and you have a recipe for something really exciting and new.

On my last visit, I ate in a superb restaurant called Providence. The food was fabulous, but what really appealed was the way that the ingredients in the fresh dishes of the day cropped up in the cocktails. It was as if the chef and the barkeep had marketed together with the single aim of creating a marriage between bar and kitchen. I also love what Joe [Brooke] is doing at The Edison, and Tyler Dow at Hilton Checkers, not to forget Vincenzo [Marianella] at Copa d’Oro and of course, the ever-present Aidan Demarest. All are toiling away in a city that a lot of the snootier cocktail crowd have largely ignored. Watch out!

What’s the last great bar you drank at?
I know there are bars like it in New York— the fabulous PDT for one— but I loved La Descarga. The whole sense of theatre somehow works really well in that Hollywood location. They really know how to build a set. Great drinks too.

What’s your favorite two ingredient cocktail?
Gin and tonic. Lime’s a garnish, I guess. But it’s a toss-up, I guess; the martini is up there. Like anything, depends on the mood and the company.

What are some differences you see between the British and American cocktail scenes?
In a word – vibrancy. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I guess the country that invented the cocktail has also the right to re-invent it. I feel that with the ‘Gin Renaissance’ has also come a real and authentic interest in genuine cocktails as opposed to ‘alcoholised’ fruit drinks. After all, the cocktail is the national drink of the USA. Although you can get a really great cocktail in the UK and there are some truly great barmen there, I sometimes feel that they are too interested in re-creating a golden era of cocktails. This can lead to a way-too purist attitude that can be a little off-putting to drinkers experiencing cocktails for the first time. Although, our guys always win on the banter front! I remember we ran a couple of Master’s Competitions a couple of years back, pitting a team of U.S. barmen against a team of UK barmen. The U.S. guys won on the drinks front, but the UK guys had the better jokes!



Comments

  1. Ld Shannon Torrence | Sunday, February 23, 2014

    Great Artical fascinating man, artist, hotelier, & gin maker! Posting this for Deana Jo Booker!


Leave a Comment

Connect with Facebook





Copyright Wine Mutineer, LLC © 2015
Home | Blog | Privacy Policy | Contact