Better And Better

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Martini

No, I'm not talking about the 19th century British service rifle. Maybe later, though.

Really, this is a poll. Scroll down to the last paragraph if you just want to answer that question.

I speak of that quintessential cocktail, which we the occasional drinkers generally have tried, but only some have liked.

The first martini that I ever thought to try was after my best friend Scott's wedding. Some of us who were in the wedding party went to a bar afterwards. As I was still in a tuxedo, I decided to try one. The bartender, a douchey frat boy, eagerly suggested that I try it "dirty." I was familiar with the concept, though not the results. After an exchange of too many dollars, I was handed a glass with so much olive brine poured into it that one of Scott's bartender friends thought that I had a margarita. It was undrinkable.

Over the years, friends [well, mostly Marko but others, too. (My liver needs new friends, maybe.)] had suggested that I give the drink a try again, and in its original format. I've never been a fan of gin, really. I've seen it as a case of vodka ruined with juniper berries. But then, the concept of vodka has always seemed silly to me, too: it's highest quality if you can't taste it?!? What the heck?  If you're going to claim to enjoy a drink, rather than the buzz, then you need to taste the dang thing. Also, my memory told me that gin was the original.  That the concept was for the vermouth (a sweet fortified wine) to have something bitter to work against. Kind of like how the best sugar cookies have some salt in them. If it's just vodka and vermouth and an olive, you're going to get a sweet drink with an olive in it.

So it was that I tried them again. I went out to have a drink with Scott, about 4 years ago. I ordered a standard  martini from the bar. NO, I didn't want some special flavored liqueur in it. No, I most assuredly didn't want it "dirty." No, I wasn't asking for a "top shelf" martini. Just serve it as it comes, sir. I got two sips into it before realizing that it had no gin in it. I asked the bartender, who looked at me like I was a fool. "Yeah, it's a vodka martini. That's how we make 'em. You have to ask for gin," he told me.

I was astounded, but my best friend, who had worked his way through college as a head bartender at Bennigan's  in College Station (and due to that being the location of Texas A&M University, that particular bar turned in the highest sales receipts of any Bennigan's bar in the country), assured me that this bartender was exactly right. "A martini comes with vodka. Not gin. That's how we made them, always," he said. Scott was pretty adamant about this. Maybe I was wrong? (I mean, it could happen, right?) Others pointed out that James Bond ordered a vodka martini, with the usual admonition about the method of concoction. I personally believe that it was Ian Fleming's character's love of the drink that caused the popularity of the vodka martini (a.k.a. "Kangaroo.") in the '60s and '70s..

I have sampled some martinis at some nice hotel bars and better lounges, and have found that the nicer the joint is, the more likely it will be presumed that you mean gin when you order one. Most bartenders take care of the issue by inquiring which liquor the patron desires in the cocktail. I have learned something: the fourth ingredient to a martini is cold. It should not be permitted to get above about 38 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have to put it into a freezer between sips, so be it. But the drink loses a lot of its charm at 45 degrees and higher. The place to play with the drink seems to be in the garnish. Spear once showed me how he made one once garnished with a pickled okra. Stingray reportedly makes a dynamite one with pickled hot pepper as garnish.

So on this last Friday night, after having seen a movie with Scott, we had a beer or two at a bar, and the old topic came up. He insisted that he's shown me in a bartender's guide that the martini should be prepared with vodka. I insisted that the correct classic fashion of preparation was with gin. We both agreed that the man-child behind the bar that we were at would be an inadequate reference source.

So I put it to you, dear readers: How should a classic martini be prepared?  I'm not asking you how YOU like it. I'm just inquiring what ingredients should be presumed to be found in a martini glass when it is served you at a classic establishment.

Please respond in comments here.

29 Comments:

At Monday, June 11, 2012 1:20:00 PM, Blogger Sherm said...

Gin, vermouth.
I don't even drink so that's about the only drink ingredients I know.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 1:20:00 PM, Blogger ZerCool said...

Gin and vermouth, garnished with an olive, a pearl onion, or a citrus twist.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 1:30:00 PM, Anonymous bluntobject said...

I've been labouring under the belief that the standard martini is made with gin and dry vermouth, and garnished with an olive. If you believe Wikipedia, though -- and while I'm not convinced that Wikipedia is authoritative on this point, I'm not convinced that anyone else is either -- Martinis became popular during Prohibition, so pretty much any bathtub gin-like clear liquor is probably "authentic" (and the worse the liquor, the more drink-hipster cred your Martini has).

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 1:39:00 PM, Anonymous Old Windways said...

You can drink a vodka martini, just like you can shoot a 1911 in a caliber other than .45 ACP. Its a legitimate endeavor, but it is a departure from the original and should be recognized as such.

Don't get me started on the modern trend of "misting" vermouth, or foregoing it altogether. A cold glass of gin or vodka with a garnish is not a cocktail, it is a travesty.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 1:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A short Google seems to say that the original martinis were Gin and Vermouth.

I prefer Vodka with 3 olives (for my dinner)

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 1:54:00 PM, Blogger Suz said...

When I was a young child (60's & 70's) my parents had martinis every evening when my dad came home from work. (If Bennigan's even existed at that time, it did NOT set national standards for cocktail recipes.

Gin, vermouth, olive or pickled onion.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 2:12:00 PM, Blogger tweell said...

Wikipedia is amazingly accurate when it comes to trivia, and it says gin.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martini_(cocktail)

Also http://www.martinirecipe.net/classic-martini.html, the notation is: 'If you are looking for a vodka martini, we have that too, but shhhh, don't tell the old school martini drinkers. They refuse to call a drink made with anything but gin a martini!'

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 2:18:00 PM, Blogger Dirk said...

Gin, unless otherwise specified.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 2:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gin, not vodka.

Also, gimlets: GIN, NOT VODKA. FFS...

The right way to drink vodka is ice cold, neat, in small glasses, accompanied by pickled vegetables and a deep loathing of Germans. Putting it in gin drinks is insane.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 2:41:00 PM, Blogger Boyd said...

Gin. The vodka martini is a modification of the original, just like the other abominations that have resulted, such as the "appletini" and other...umm...versions.

IMHO, of course.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 2:49:00 PM, Blogger BCFD36 said...

A true Martini is made with Mr. and Mrs. Martini and a bottle of Chianti or two.

If you ordered a martini in a bar in the '30s, 40's, 50's, etc. you got one made with gin.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 2:59:00 PM, Anonymous aczarnowski said...

A Classic Martini is made with gin. Full. Stop. Olive on a skewer. Stirred, not shaken. Don't fear the vermouth; a bowl of gin is not a Martini. A dash of orange bitters is worth trying.

Finding the right gin and vermouth for you? 1911 or Glock? ;)

As we get older and grumpier we've found that specificity in beverages is never a bad idea so I will state gin or vodka up front. Our current theory is a linear relationship to the number of beers on tap modified by the caliber of the wine list. 25 Beers on Tap! and a wine list that includes Red and White means don't order a cocktail...

When going clear I have long preferred dirty vodka concoctions, shaken because a clear final product isn't required when brine is in there anyway. But nobody told me what else I should call them so I kept using "martini." Now I know I can use Kangaroo. Thanks!

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 4:53:00 PM, Blogger Priest said...

All of my research has said that Gin and Vermouth are the original ingredients for Martini's, you're right in believing that James Bond played a huge role in getting it switched over to Vodka.

My favorite way to make a Martini is in a Pitcher. I Ice down the bottom of the pitcher, Pour enough Gin in there to cover the Ice (usually about a bottle's worth) add 2-3 Capfulls of Extra Dry Vermouth (according to Taste) and between .5-1 Shot of Olive Brine.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 4:58:00 PM, Blogger jon spencer said...

Gin from a bottle that is kept in a freezer.
A little vermouth, this is poured in the glass then dumped out before the gin is added.
A large olive or two on a stick.
A better quality gin is recommended.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 4:58:00 PM, Blogger ZerCool said...

I'm going to counter Old Windways on the vermouth. I know what the *original* recipe called for, and I believer it was necessary to cover the soap taste from the bathtub gin.

Good modern-production gin has all the subtleties and nuances of good scotch, and should be enjoyed as such. Individual distilleries use their own blends of herbs and berries, and each is distinctive.

I happen to not care for vermouth that much, so I make mine with the "swirl-and-pour" method. I'll just remember to make one separate for OW if we're drinking together.

To each his own!

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 6:23:00 PM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Gin/splash of Vermouth/Olive... That's IT! Vodka is a late comer...

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 6:50:00 PM, Blogger Harriet said...

GIN. Good history here: http://christophreilly.hubpages.com/hub/How-To-Make-the-Classic-Martini-Garnished-with-History--Legends--and-Famous-Quotes

"Hearts full of youth, hearts full of truth, Six parts Gin to one part vermouth." -Tom Lehrer 'Bright College Days' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl3mRjydcPw

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 6:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fill shaker with ice, shot of vermouth in shaker. Swirl and dump out any vermouth that doesn't stick to the ice. Add gin (I prefer plymouth gin), stir. Don't ever shake a clear drink, just don't. Place olive (or better yet, onion) into glass. Strain into glass and drink. Done.

 
At Monday, June 11, 2012 9:30:00 PM, Blogger Marko Kloos said...

"Gin martini" is a tautology.

A proper martini is four parts gin, one part vermouth, garnished with an olive. A "vodka martini" is a beverage that comes in a martini glass, but isn't a proper martini. Neither is a martini without vermouth--that's just a glass of cold gin.

 
At Tuesday, June 12, 2012 1:10:00 AM, Anonymous Greg Tag said...

I will drink it any way it comes at The Chicken, and that's likely the best arbitration of " What's the classic martini ?"

 
At Tuesday, June 12, 2012 1:52:00 AM, Blogger JPG said...

I read something of the controversy about proper formulation of a Martini, and asked my Dad. He said it was properly made with four or five parts cold gin to one part Vermouth. This was pretty academic, as he died shortly before I turned 18. It was several years before I had my first Martini. I found I liked a Manhattan far better. (Two parts Bourbon/one art varmouth/dash of Angostura bitters.)

Wikipedia says: Although there are many variations, in modern practice the standard martini is a mix of gin coupled with dry vermouth usually in a five-to-one ratio . . . originally made with sweet vermouth. A person who wanted a "dry martini" asked for one made with white vermouth. Until World War II the standard proportion was 1 part vermouth to 3 to 3 ½ parts gin.
JPG

 
At Tuesday, June 12, 2012 7:39:00 AM, Anonymous Evyl Robot Michael said...

Classic Icelandic martini - Ice cold akvavit and a whisper of vermouth garnished with a chunk of hákarl. :P

But seriously, I like my martinis very dry with little or no vermouth at all. Shake gin with ice, open bottle of vermouth on other side of room and wave in direction of glass, garnish with a bacon-stuffed or sardine-stuffed olive. Yes, I like my martinis garnished with meat. Although I haven't actually tried spoiled shark.

 
At Tuesday, June 12, 2012 7:46:00 AM, Anonymous Dwight Brown said...

I believe that a martini is made with gin and vermouth. I grudgingly accept the existence of vodka martinis. Those other things that people make, serve in cocktail glasses, and call "(blank) martinis"? They may very well be good drinks, but they are not martinis.

I prefer a ratio of between 4 to 6 parts gin to one part vermouth, though I have been known to make the occasional Montgomery (10:1, called that because General Montgomery supposedly would not attack German troops unless the good guys:bad guys ratio was at least that high).

And I agree with the folks who add a dash of bitters. (I've heard a dash of Scotch is also good.)

I'm pretty much fine with any garnish, or no garnish at all. I prefer good olives, stuffed or not, but cocktail onions and/or a twist are fine, too.

 
At Tuesday, June 12, 2012 12:44:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

@Evyl Robot Michael: Ew. I don't know that there's much difference between a martini garnished with hákarl, or its near homophone American kink act. :\

 
At Tuesday, June 12, 2012 8:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gin to the chin.
vermouth to the tooth.

-- ARRognlie

 
At Wednesday, June 13, 2012 8:56:00 AM, Anonymous skidmark said...

My mother, at whose knee I learned to drink Scotch and that beer in England was served warm only because they lacked refrigeration, told me that a Martini was made by pouring gin into a glass and showing said glass that there was a bottle of vermouth in the vicinity. Nothing about ice, or citrus waste, or produce. Gin - in a glass that did not make you look like a 19th-century peasant alcoholic.

Thank $diety I hate the taste of gin.

Now, a Scotch martini made by that recipie? Heaven!

stay safe.

 
At Monday, June 18, 2012 3:16:00 PM, Blogger Ted said...

Speaking as dyed-in-the-wool vodka martini drinker; I am always very careful to specify my spirit of choice, as a classic martini is made with gin.

 
At Thursday, June 28, 2012 5:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.martiniguide.net/classic-martini-recipe.html

Classic recipe uses gin.

 
At Tuesday, July 03, 2012 7:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the Esquire Handbook for Hosts, copyright 1949. Martini recipes:
Very dry (the Gibson) 1 part French vermouth 5 parts gin.
Medium: 1 part French vermouth 1 part Italian Vermouth and 2 parts gin.
Dry martini I: 1 part French vermouth, 3 parts gin, dash of orange bitters.
Dry martini II: 1 part French vermouth, 2 parts gin

 

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