I do love a cocktail that involves showmanship. And few cocktails have quite the flair of this week's Last Call, the Flame of Love martini. With a name like that, how could I resist making one for Valentine's Day?
The Flame of Love was created in 1970 for none other than the legendary Dean Martin. Good ol' Dino was quite the fan of martinis. However, one day he was feeling tired of the usual one, so he asked the bartender at one of his favorite Hollywood haunts, Chasen's, to make something different.
The bartender, Pepe Ruiz, took the classic martini recipe of spirit with fortified wine and a dash of bitters and gave it a couple of subtle but telling twists. For starters, instead of the traditional vermouth, Ruiz gave the glass a rinse of fino sherry. Then, instead of orange bitters, Ruiz used plenty of flamed orange zest for citrus flavor.
Dean Martin loved the end result. He loved it so much that he told his pal Frank Sinatra about it. Frank enjoyed it so much that he bought a round for the entire bar one time. Considering that flaming orange zest is a pretty labor-intensive task when making drinks, I can't help feeling a little bad for Ruiz having to peel and flame all that zest. At least the bar smelled amazing when he was done.
Still, the Flame of Love is a pretty tasty drink, even if it does stop a bartender's productivity in its tracks.
Flaming orange zest takes practice, but it's easy to get the hang of it. First, you need to cut strips of orange zest, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide, and 2 inches long. I use a sharp paring knife, but a decent vegetable peeler gets the job done with aplomb.
Then, gently hold the zest on the long sides with your thumb and first two fingers. Light a match or lighter, and hold it a few inches over the cocktail glass. Hold the zest a couple of inches above the flame, with the outer side of the zest pointing toward the flame and glass. Squeeze the zest. The orange's oils should come out of the zest, igniting as they touch the flame.
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In case you're wondering if the drink is also good with gin . . . Yes, it's lovely. Then, it's known as a Valencia cocktail, or a Spanish martini.
Flame of Love martini 1/4 ounce fino sherry Several wide strips orange zest (I'd say at least four) 2 ounces vodka
Pour sherry into a chilled cocktail glass. Swirl to coat interior of glass, discarding excess. Flame all but one strip of zest into glass. Pour vodka into a mixing glass, and fill with ice. Shake or stir until very cold, and strain into cocktail glass. Flame the last strip of orange zest over the drink, rubbing zest on the rim before dropping it into the drink.