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Fermented watermelon radish martini: Umami pickle cocktail

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fermented watermelon radish martini on vintage silver tray with light purple background

Fermented watermelon radish martini is a pickle twist on a vintage Dry Martini using fermented in season watermelon radishes brined with lemon myrtle, star anise and fennel seeds paired with Manly Spirits Dry Gin, a splash of dry Australian Maidenii Vermouth and a dash of grapefruit bitters. The fermented radishes add a salty and umami flavour that complements the delicate and complex sea gin without overpowering it. Dialling down the vermouth in this recipe allows the sea botanicals of the gin including local sea lettuce and the salty spiciness of the pickled radishes to take centre stage with a delicate note of grapefruit from the bitters. Fermented watermelon radish martini is a celebration of in season watermelon radishes using the pink-purple brine in the cocktail as a flavouring and a whole watermelon radish pickle sliced thinly in profile with gorgeous pink colour as a garnish.

What is a Dry Martini?

The Dry Martini, according to cocktail historian David Wondrich (2015: 265-266) in Imbibe, dates in popularity from the 1890’s and is a cocktail using dry unsweetened gin such as London Dry or Plymouth gin, dry French vermouth, and orange bitters, garnished with a citrus twist. For more on the history and variations of the Dry Martini recipe see my post on rose lavender dry martini. David Wondrich (2015: 265-266) refers to Charles Mahoney’s recipe for a ‘Mahoney Cocktail’ appearing in The Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide (Mahoney 1905: 137) from 1905 as an example of a vintage Dry Martini recipe. Mahoney’s (Mahoney 1905: 137) recipe interestingly uses a 1:1 ratio of gin to vermouth and includes orange bitters and an orange twist and the method used to make the Mahoney Cocktail is to ‘shake well’ with ice and strain. Mahoney (1905: 137) writes of his ‘Mahoney Cocktail’:

“Use mixing glass full of shaved ice.

Use one-half jigger of Nicholson gin, one-half jigger French Vermouth and dash orange bitters; shake well. Pour into cocktail glass and squeeze orange peel on top.”

Charles Mahoney (1905: 137). The Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide. Richard K. Fox: New York.

How to make a Dry Martini: Stir & Strain

David Wondrich (2015: 265-266) in Imbibe and Day, Fauchauld and Kaplan in Cocktail Codex (Day, Fauchauld & Kaplan 2018: 61-62) advise that a Dry Martini is best stirred with ice in a mixing glass and then strained into a chilled glass, an orange or lemon twist is bent, and the oils expressed over the surface of the drink, the twist is then twisted up and added to the edge of the glass as a garnish. Despite the popularity of the Stir & Strain method there is ongoing debate over the effect of shaking a Martini as recommended by Mahoney in his recipe cited above for the Mahoney Cocktail – for more on shaking Martinis see my post on rose lavender dry martini.

begin pouring fermented watermelon radish martini

Ratio of gin to vermouth in a Dry Martini

The measure of French vermouth used in a Dry Martini varied over time and according to taste, with equal parts gin to vermouth in the 1890’s and becoming dryer or using less vermouth over time. The 2:1 gin to vermouth ratio which Gary Regan (2018: 803, 820) in his Joy of Mixology indicates was popular in the 1930’s endures today as in Day, Fauchauld and Kaplan’s ‘Ideal Gin Martini’ which they write of in Cocktail Codex (Day, Fauchauld & Kaplan 2018: 61-62) but there are many variations on this ratio based on taste and experimentation.

fermented watermelon radish martini with drip

Experimentation & variations on the Martini recipe

Day, Fauchauld and Kaplan (2018: 64) write that the Martini is a fertile ground for experimentation but that in their view this is best approached on a micro level or what they refer to as ‘finding beauty in the smallest and most delicate of details’, they elaborate:

“Whereas many cocktails are defined by the strong personalities of their ingredients, the Martini is defined by minutiae – the small changes that push the drink in many directions.”

Alex Day, Nick Fauchauld & David Kaplan (2018: 64). Cocktail Codex. Ten Speed Press: New York.

more pouring fermented watermelon radish martini with bubbles

How is the fermented watermelon radish martini different?

The fermented watermelon radish martini is a pickle cocktail that offers a seasonal watermelon radish twist on vintage Dry Martini recipes pairing the salty savoury radish pickle and brine with a Manly Spirits Dry Gin featuring umami flavours of sea lettuce, a splash of dry Australian Maidenii Vermouth and delicate grapefruit bitters. The Dry Gin has a delicate and complex savoury flavour that can be overwhelmed in cocktails – so I have added less vermouth than is usually called for in a Dry Martini. I have also swapped out the orange bitters and orange twist for a lighter grapefruit bitters and used a thinly sliced fermented watermelon radish pickle as a garnish. The delicate purple colour of this cocktail is created using only the fermented watermelon radish brine.

fermented watermelon radish martini on silver tray with blurred background

Umami, salty Manly Spirits Dry Gin: Sea Gin

Dry Gin by Manly Spirits includes salty and savoury flavours from botanicals including juniper, local foraged sea lettuce, finger lime, anise myrtle, mountain pepper leaf, and orange peel. The Manly Spirits Dry Gin has a surprisingly delicate although complex umami flavour that can be lost when mixed with other ingredients.

A splash of dry white Australian Maidenii Vermouth

I have decreased the measure of dry vermouth used in this cocktail to ½ a shot to allow the sea gin with savoury botanicals to shine rather than the more usual 2:1 ratio of 1 shot of vermouth to 2 shots of gin. I have used a local Australian dry white Maidenii Vermouth.

Grapefruit bitters

I swapped out the usual orange bitters and orange twist for delicate grapefruit bitters that does not overpower the subtleties of the sea gin and the umami of the watermelon radish pickles.

Fermenting watermelon radishes: using salt brine and spices

Fermented watermelon radishes are made using a salt brine in a fermenting jar with a water lock to allow CO2 to easily escape during the fermentation process. Although you can easily use an ordinary jar with a screw top lid as long as you remember to release the gases each day by removing the lid and then replacing it. I used star anise, Australian indigenous lemon myrtle and fennel seeds to spice the watermelon radishes which I cut in profile in order to retain the root so as to allow the whole radish to be used as a garnish in profile by using a thin slice of the pickle. Once the radishes have fermented for one week they can then be stored in the refrigerator. The method used here is informed by that of Sandor Katz (2020) – I refer to my notes from attending his Ferment yourself wild tour in Sydney presented by The Fermentary earlier this year. For more practical recipes on how to ferment all manner of vegetables and fruits see Sandor Katz (2012) The Art of Fermentation.

Fermented watermelon radish flavour: Spicy, fresh, crunchy, umami, salty

The amazing pink-purple brine from the watermelon radish pickle is used to flavour this fermented watermelon radish martini with a delicious salty umami and spicy radish flavour while the drink is garnished with a section of thinly sliced crunchy watermelon radish pickle including the root. Only a small amount of brine is needed – the brine is salty and intensely flavoured. Watermelon radish fermented pickles have a refreshing and crunchy spicy umami and salty flavour that I have enhanced by adding freshness of herbal lemon notes from lemon myrtle, star anise for sweet spiciness and fennel seeds for a hit of fresh anise. The spicy, fresh savoury notes of the watermelon radish pickles pair wonderfully with the delicate sea lettuce and salt umami of the sea gin.

fermented watermelon radish martini with pickles far in background

Fermentation is a process which creates it’s own distinctive flavours. Daniel Paterson and Mandy Aftel (Paterson & Aftel 2018: 1379) in The Art of Flavour describe how:

“…flavours produced by fermentation can add incredible depth and complexity to simple preparations…”

Daniel Paterson and Mandy Aftel. (2018: 1379). The Art of Flavour. Robinson: London.

For other fermented products with their own distinctive flavours created through the fermentation process see my posts on fermented grapefruit soda in a pickle la paloma or kaffir lime infused ginger beer in a lime lightening dark ‘n stormy.

Daniel Patterson and Mandy Aftel in their amazing book The Art of Flavour (Patterson & Aftel2018: 1817) write that umami ‘intensifies’ and enhances other flavours – in this instance the savouriness of fermented radishes offers a counterpoint to the salty and marine flavours of the gin. Interestingly, Patterson and Aftel (2018: 1819) point out that salt ‘amplifies’ umami, so there is a synergy between these savoury and salty ingredients that is connected and balanced by the freshness of juniper and citrus and the crunchy spiciness of the radishes.

fermented watermelon radish martini with drip and pickles in background

How to make a fermented watermelon radish martini: Stir & Strain

The fermented watermelon radish martini is made by chilling a glass in the freezer and then stirring all the ingredients – fermented watermelon radish brine, Manly Spirits Dry Gin, Australian dry Maidenii Vermouth, grapefruit bitters – in a mixing glass with ice until very cold and diluted. The drink is then strained into the chilled glass and garnished with a thinly sliced profile of watermelon radish pickle, including the beautiful root. Slice into the base of the radish next to the root to create a cut to balance on the edge of the glass.

how to make a fermented watermelon radish martini

Styling and photographing the fermented watermelon radish martini

In styling the fermented watermelon radish martini I was led by the form of the radish which features a prominent curved root and amazing pink colour – I have used a section of thinly sliced pickle as the garnish for this cocktail to show off the colour and form of the radish. The colour of the cocktail is due to the brine from the pickling process which turns an amazing pink-purple. I chose a light purple background and a silver tray. The glassware is a vintage crystal sherry glass with smooth details around the stem. The vintage sherry glass has a taller and more elongated profile that mimics the hourglass form of the radish – the height and tapering side of this glass also allowed me to position the radish garnish so as to show off the whole form including the root of the vegetable. The glassware and the radish each echo the hourglass form of the other. It is this hourglass form of the radish with emphasis on it’s amazing pink purple colour and delicate trailing root that forms the focal point of the photographs of this cocktail – a celebration of in season watermelon radishes and the art of fermentation as a means of preserving the best of the season and creating new flavours.

fermented watermelon radish martini with drip and pickles in far background

Fermented watermelon radish martini: Umami pickle cocktail

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 small batch fermented watermelon radishes; 1 fermented watermelon radish martini Cooking Time: Fermented watermelon radishes: 10 minutes preparation, 5 days fermentation; Fermented watermelon radish martini: 5 minutes


  • Fermented watermelon radishes: 1 ½ bunches watermelon radishes, stalks removed and washed and sliced (slice in profile, so as, to retain root structure) – enough to fill a 1 litre fermenting jar
  • 35 grams salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 lemon myrtle leaves
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Fermented watermelon radish martini: 2 shots Manly Sprits Dry Gin
  • ½ shot dry vermouth, Maidenii Vermouth used here
  • 2 teaspoons fermented watermelon radish pickle brine
  • Dash grapefruit bitters
  • Glassware: Vintage sherry glass
  • Garnish: sliced fermented watermelon radish pickle



Fermented watermelon radishes: Wash and remove stalks and leaves from radishes (reserve these for another use)


Slice watermelon radishes thinly in profile to retain the root


Add spices and sliced radishes to a clean fermenting jar


Prepare brine by whisking together salt into water


Pour brine over radishes and spices


Add lid to jar and fermenting pipe, carefully filling with a little water to create a seal, if using (if not using a water valve to release CO2 remember to burp your jar daily to release this), add metal clasp to the jar to hold lid in place


Allow radishes to ferment at room temperature for 5 days and then refrigerate


Fermented watermelon radish martini: Place vintage sherry glass in freezer to chill


Add all ingredients, except the garnish to a mixing glass with ice


Stir with a long handled bar spoon until well chilled and desired dilution is reached


Test dilution by dropping a small amount of the cocktail onto the back of your hand with a long handled bar spoon and tasting, adjust as needed, if not diluted enough stir for a little longer


Strain into chilled glass


Garnish with a slice of fermented watermelon radish pickle in profile, make a small cut next to the root of the radish to allow the radish slice to rest on the rim of the glass



Sandor Katz (2012). The Art of Fermentation. Chelsea Green Publishing: Vermont.

Sandor Katz (2020). Ferment yourself wild: 2020 Tour. Presented by the Fermentary: Carriageworks Farmers Markets, Sydney.


Daniel Patterson & Mandy Aftel (2018). The art of flavour. Robinson: London.

Cocktail manuals

Alex Day, Nick Fauchauld & David Kaplan (2018). Cocktail Codex. Ten Speed Press: New York.

Charles Mahoney (1905). Hoffmn House Bartenders’ Guide. Richard K. Fox: New York.

Gary Regan (2018). Joy of Mixology: The consummate guide to the bartender’s craft. Revised Edition. Clarkson Potter: New York.

David Wondrich (2015). Imbibe. Perigree: New York.

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