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 lunched with important clients. Most times, three Martinis would loosen things up enough to close a red hot business deal. If life were only that simple, or at least as simple as the drink itself, consisting of vodka or gin, vermouth and an olive, right?, but it's not so simple after all.

It is said that the Martini was introduced around 1860 in San Francisco and 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
Served with a twist of lemon.

It makes more sense that the name came from the Martini & Rosso connection, but what do I know? Never the less, this sounds nothing like the Martini I know and love.
That's because through the years, the drink has 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 gin or vodka, vermouth, and an olive, and hopefully, it will look exactly like the one in the above photograph.

Even with so few ingredients, making a r e a l l y g o o d Martini remains something of an art. If the vodka sits too long in the ice, or the ratio of vodka to vermouth is off, if it's served in the wrong type of glass, or a million other idiosyncratic 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 to go with clever oneliners. 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.
The Dukes Hotel in London has further elevated the Martini where it is served table side. 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 dish full is 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!

Surrounded by history and lore, the Martini is a cocktail with a life and a character of its own, I could easily devote another post solely to the use of vermouth. We're talking philosophy here.
  • 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 comment:

  1. I have never had a martini, so all of this is new to me. They say that you learn something new every day, and I just did.


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