Cocktail of the Week: Da Mhile Distillery's Dirty Martini and its Wilde imagination

Below is an excerpt from the July 2015 edition of GINNED! Magazine about the Dà Mhìle Distillery. Every month, Craft Gin Club Members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of information about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.

Wilde: sometimes tight with Whistler on Tite Street

Wilde: sometimes tight with Whistler on Tite Street

When speaking of his distillery’s first product, Orange 33 liqueur, John Savage-Onstwedder of the Dà Mhìle Distillery likes to quote the author Oscar Wilde who once wrote, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” In this case, John is referring to the five different batches of his digestif, each made with a different species of orange and thusly, each expressing different notes and flavours, certainly an imaginative method of making a new product at a new distillery.

Wilde penned his words of asylum for the uninspired in an essay entitled “The Relation of Dress to Art. A Note in Black and White on Mr. Whistler’s Lecture,” published in the Pall Mall Gazette on February 28, 1885. The Whistler in question is, of course, James McNeill Whistler, the American-born painter who lived primarily in London, even abiding on the same street - Tite Street in Chelsea - as Mr. Wilde. Two men of narcissistic, stubborn character, no matter how brilliant, Wilde and Whistler influenced each other as friends in the early years of their acquaintance but were destined to be enemies, each motivated by his rival’s derisive allusions to the other.

Take Wilde’s “Note”. Its lines praise the paintings of the “lord of form and colour” whilst simultaneously taking the piss out of the immigrant artist’s speech, specifically his dismissal of those that perceive couture as a form of art, a practice Whistler belies as a “disastrous effect of Art upon the Middle Classes.” Wilde, who felt that poetry was the highest form of art and oft debated Whistler on his opinion, decried the ever-present use of professional models as “ruining painting and reducing it to a condition of mere pose and pastiche.” 

The flamboyant Irish playwright felt art’s “real schools should be the streets,” essentially calling into question many of Whistler’s most known works composed in the studio with visions of contemporarily-dressed models. Even the essay’s title mocks the names of Whistler’s paintings especially his most famous work, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, more commonly known as Whistler’s Mother. 

Arrangement in seaweed and vermouth No. 3

Arrangement in seaweed and vermouth No. 3

But the reverence for Wilde we have today, our respect for his wit and tortured personal situation with which our more enlightened times empathise, should likely be attributed to his sparring partner, Whistler. The American, twenty years his senior, publicly accused Wilde of plagiarising his ideas, a record he meant to set straight with the speech that is the subject of the “Dress to Art” essay. Upon closer inspection, several scholars have given the upper hand to Whistler, finding that many of Wilde’s quips are directly linked to the wisdom of Whistler. If this were true, perhaps it is Oscar himself who is the unimaginative

Da Mhile Dirty Martini

  • 1 part Seaweed Gin
  • 2 parts Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 part olive juice
  • Olives

Method: Combine gin, vermouth and olive juice in mixer glass on ice. Stir mildly. Strain into Martini glass. Garnish with olive to taste.

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