All Stirred Up!

I grew up in a time when it was business as usual for men like my Father to indulge in what's known as the "three Martini lunch" 5 days a week. In theory, this practice was invented by old white men who took clients out to lunch, and three Martinis would loosen things up enough to close a business deal. Oh, if life were only that simple, or at least as simple as the drink itself, consisting of vodka, vermouth and an olive, right?, but it's not so simple after all.

It is said that the Martini, introduced around 1860 in San Francisco was named after the nearby town of Martinez. Served at the Occidental Hotel, the drink originally consisted of 2oz "Martini & Rosso" vermouth, 1oz Old Tom gin, 2 dashes maraschino cherry juice, 1 dash bitters, shaken, and served with a twist of lemon. It makes more sense to me that the name came from the Martini & Rosso connection, but what do I know?

Of course the drink has since morphed into something completely different, and it has been my personal experience that today if you order a Martini, most bartenders will give you chilled vodka, vermouth, and an olive, and hopefully, it looks exactly like the one in the above photograph.

Making a r e a l l y g o o d Martini is something of an art. You wouldn't think so with so few ingredients, but if the vodka sits too long in the ice, or the ratio of vodka to vermouth is off, or if it's served in the wrong type of glass, or a million other little things, fo'get about it.....

For me, the Martini has a romantic stigma. I grew up on films like The Thin Man with Myrna Loy, Dick Powell, and Asta, the dog. They always had a full shaker of Martinis and clever lines. With every lift of the glass, they were cool elegance. Or how about the great quote, "Let's get you out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini" (Mae West in Every Day's a Holiday 1937), what a great line.

I love all the apparatuses necessary to make a Martini. The shaker, the stirrer, the jigger, the glass, and that strainer gadget that goes over the top when you pour. I remember seeing a kit similar to the one pictured here amongst our things growing up.

How much would I love to visit Dukes Hotel in London where the Martini is served in a most elegant manner, tableside. A hyper-elegant mobile operation rolls up to your table, just a touch of vermouth is dropped into a 12oz Riedel Martini glass by way of a sterling silver Tiffany dispenser. The glass is then filled with ice-cold Potocki vodka, or gin if you prefer.

If olives are the preferred garnish, a small dishful are left at the table with a silver toothpick. Lemon twists are cut by the captain and it is said that at night, when lemon twisting by candlelight, you can actually see the oils coming off the lemon. Poetry!

If one is fabulous, I'd want a second, and before the cart rolled away, I'd warn the waiter not to come back around to tempt me for a third.

The Martini is surrounded by history and lore, and reading about how it has evolved can be fun. A cocktail with a life and a characther of its own, I could write another post focused only on the use of vermouth in a Martini.

  • Winston Churchill's recipe called for pouring gin into a glass and then simply bowing in the direction of France.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's recipe called for five parts gin and a quick glance at a bottle of vermouth
  • Ernest Hemingway liked to order a "Montgomery", which was a martini mixed at a gin-vermouth ratio of 15-1

  • In the 1958 movie Teacher's Pet, Clark Gable mixes a martini by turning the bottle of vermouth upside-down and then running the moistened cork around the rim of the glass before filling it with gin.

LOL, great stuff! What other drink can you name with as rich a history?


  1. I love it, and must be a weakling, because all it would take me to loosen up is three extra olives in one martini!

    Like the crown background, we should treat ourselves like queens right! I do, ha ha!

  2. You can sell it like no one else I know!


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