Martin Miller’s Gin co-founder David Bromige was in town to explore L.A.’s cocktail scene, and L.A. Marketing Manager Silamith Weir invited a few fortunate bartenders and writers to join them for a Westside cocktail “safari.” We started at Copa d’oro, owned by Jonathan Chu and overseen by local cocktail legend Vincenzo Marianella.
While Marianella began crafting our first round of Martin Miller’s Gin cocktails, Bromige shared the story of his company’s genesis. Ten years ago, Bromige and a friend were working to make Icelandic vodka when friend Martin Miller suggested they try gin instead. According to “Born of Love, Obsession and Some Degree of Madness,” The Story of Martin Miller’s Gin, Miller asked, “Where’s the romance in vodka? Vodka’s a medicine not a drink; a triumph of science over the heart.” Bromige and his friend scrapped their vodka plan and partnered with Miller on gin. They started by asking one question: “How do we make the nicest gin to drink?” Miller quickly scribbled an ingredient list on a napkin, including Tuscan and Indian juniper, Chinese cassia bark, French angelica and Florentine iris.
Bromige recounted that initial decision, saying, “What’s the worst that happens? We have a container of gin that we drink the rest of our lives. It was sort of like a vanity project for us.” At that point, they didn’t anticipate Martin Miller’s Gin becoming a commercial venture.
“The main thing we owe to Martin: he’s a classic eccentric Englishman, but he’s also a real traditionalist,” says Bromige. “We tried to put in some exotic botanicals, daffodils or tulips. He’d say it’s very nice, but it’s not gin. It’s a proper gin. That will give us longevity. We stuck to very traditional recipes in terms of botanicals. We looked to the distilling process. We talked about the water.”
Martin Miller’s distills their gin in England, near Birmingham, using a three-story pot-bellied still named Angela, then ships the distillate to Borganes, an Icelandic village of 300, where they draw soft aquifer water from inside a mountain. The water originated 800 years ago, when the planet was still pure.
“We wanted a clean citrus without it being a citrus flavored gin,” he says. “Most gins gather botanicals and put them into a bag. That goes into a still. It’s boiled, like tea. At Martin Miller’s Gin, loose botanicals steep for 24 hours. You get more taste of the botanicals. We separate the earthy hard botanicals like juniper and distill them on their own. In a separate distillation, we distill orange, lemon and lime rind. Then we put them together. This creates the clarity.”
Martin Miller’s produces two varieties of gin. Their signature Reformed London Dry Gin is known as “the 80.” They also produce a more potent variety called Westbourne, which registers at 90.4 proof. To establish a baseline, I sampled a pour of each gin. The Westbourne was more aggressive, with more punch and spice.
My first well-balanced cocktail was garnished with a skewer of grape and sage. When Marianella delivered the drink, I was more focused on conversation, so I couldn’t recount the ingredients.
For round two, Marianella promised an “aromatic” cocktail.” He returned with a glass of Westbourne with Bianco – a white sweet vermouth from Italy – Pimm’s and orange bitters.
To conclude my first (but certainly not last) Copa d’Oro experience, Marianella produced a refreshing cocktail that combined Westbourne, Pimm’s and ginger beer. He took care to garnish the drink with thin-shaved cucumber, fresh blackberry and mint.
Copa d’Oro sells a small menu of panini sandwiches, including ham and cheese and turkey with bacon. Both varieties were simple and satisfying, crisp crusted and soft inside
We arrived at Westside Tavern at 10:45 and sidled up to the 52-foot walnut bar for last call. Mixologist Ryan Magarian divides the cocktail list by ORIGINALS and CLASSICS. He was nowhere in sight, and Kylee Van Dillen just finished for the night, but we still scored some solid cocktails.
I opted for an original – Blood Orange & Sage Gimlet ($9) – combining Pressed Sage & Blood Oranges, Martin Miller’s Gin (of course), lime juice and pasteurized egg white, which created a frothy cap.
Of course, it’s hard to compete with Vincenzo Marianella in the cocktail department, but Westside Tavern has a totally different vibe and there’s clearly enough room for both concepts on the Westside. Overall, the night was a massive success. I learned a lot about gin, met some interesting, passionate people, enjoyed some new bars and drank some excellent cocktails.