At the intimate bar tucked inside the Dukes hotel in London, the bartender Alessandro Palazzi skillfully transforms three simple ingredients into a sublime cocktail, perhaps the best martini in the world. Order the drink—the Dukes Signature Martini—and Palazzi will soon wheel a trolley to your table. The Italian expat, who has helmed the bar here for seven years, begins with a frozen martini glass. He pours in a few drops of his own, London-made craft vermouth and theatrically swirls it to coat the inside. Next, he picks up a frozen bottle of gin—selecting among brands including Sacred, Plymouth, and No. 3—and fills the glass to the rim. He displays a lemon the size of a softball and explains that it was plucked on the Amalfi Coast, where they grow particularly large and fragrant. After deftly shaving a thin slice of the skin, he twists it to mist the drink with lemon oil, rims the glass with the rind, and drops it into the glass. With a magician’s wave of the hand, Palazzi presents the finished drink.
All that is left is to lift it to the mouth and inhale the heady bouquet of Mediterranean lemon as the icy liquid slides down the throat and a warm sensation of well-being floods the senses. Perfection, yes, and beyond the glass, too. “We take our time preparing a cocktail,” Palazzi says. “There is no music here, and nobody is in a rush, and there is nothing but the pleasure of a good drink.”