Please note that the following was written by a dipsomaniac and as such may exhibit poor spelling, grammar and, most likely, logic.
Of all the mixed drink most the poor martini is the most likely to be misunderstood or be wrongly avoided. It is the ginger child sitting in the corner of the alcoholic world- everyone knows it’s there and that they’re supposed to like it but nevertheless it still doesn’t quite get its due. This poor reputation mostly arises from its portrayal in television and film but when one experiments a little a wonderful beverage reveals itself that sends the drinker on a remarkably pleasant bus ride to the wonderful world of incoherence.
First a word about definitions: technically a martini is a concoction of gin and vermouth with an olive added as a garnish. Now we in the drinking community realise that prescriptions get in the way and, as anyone who has consumed a cocktail with drain cleaner in will tell you, it’s amazing what you can find is palatable. For the purposes of this article I’ve considered the two main variations the classic gin based and the more modern vodka effort as these are the easiest to mix and enjoy but once you get the basic hang of the method you can experiment with the perfect extra or alternative ingredients.
It’s often better, if one is a martini innocent, to start off by making your own (or by asking a friend to do it for you) as until you know your taste in the drink it can be rather difficult to explain to a barman precisely what you’re hankering for. In any event the following ingredients are, broadly speaking, required:
Base booze (typically gin or vodka)
Happy mixing booze (by definition this is vermouth)
Lots of ice
Cocktails shaker (can be jury rigged from a tuppawear tub)
Cleanish glass or cup
A clear diary for the rest of the day
The method of making the drink is simplicity itself and can be executed by an idiot (as could be expected from something invented by our American cousins) but it is the experimentation within the technique that means that you will be capable of producing a drink which will make you the envy of your friends and reduce strong members of your desired sex to tears (as could be expected from something invented by our American cousins).
The choice of base booze is an important one because, put simply, a martini is a big old cup of alcohol. There aren’t any other strong flavours for the base to hide behind so only use bath-tub gin if that’s your favourite. Gin or vodka can be used to taste but depending how dry you like your tipple (see below) the enlightened drinker may want to opt for something of a slightly higher quality with a bit of natural flavour to liven up the drink. An aromatic gin like Bombay Sapphire or Hendrick’s or a less filtered quality vodka like Finlandia will allow you to pretend that you haven’t just poured yourself a bucket of mother’s ruin.
The “dryness” of the drink obviously refers to the amount of vermouth within in the mixture and at this stage, if I may, I’ll go onto a little rant about Ian Bloody Flemming. The reason that many people don’t enjoy their first martinis is that they march up to the barman and demand “a dry martini, shaken not stirred”. Now there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such a drop but it is, in effect, a glass of likely to be quite cheap alcohol with almost nothing else in it and whilst many people like a slug of neat Smirnoff (typically those living under fly-overs and alternating between shouting at traffic and arguing with their invisible evil twin Bernard) it can be a smidge off-putting. The vermouth is what makes the martini a cocktail and not a sign of simmering alcoholism and is quite, quite lovely. Dry vermouth, as I’m sure you’re aware, is a lovely fortified wine that Johnny Frenchman has cleverly flavoured with spices and herbs to make into a little bottle of niceness. Added to vodka or gin it gives a bitter depth of flavour stopping the enthusiastic drinker from gulping and smoothes out the rough edges in the martini. It is because of Bloody Flemming and the resultant popularity of bone-dry varieties that I encourage you to try mixing your drinks at home as you can play about with ratios to suit your taste but generally a four or five to one ration of base to vermouth is often a winner. Personally I prefer Noilly Prat as it sounds like an insult to an irritating person but then I’m juvenile.
Simply put your sauce in a shaker with plenty of ice and give it some welly with your shaking arm. Popular culture has it that a shaken martini is a snooty way of ordering a weak drink (yes, thank you President Bartlett from The West Wing) but popular culture is popular with idiots. In reality the shaking motion will chip teeny tiny pieces of ice into your drink leaving it entirely clear but ice cold and lovely. A metal shaker will work best as it allows the heat out and leaves the cold in (don’t bandy science with me, I’m a drunkard!) but any closed container will do. Shaking also removes the need to chill the base booze first and as we all know forward planning is for sober people. Strain the alcohol from the ice and your drink is made.
The garnish is quite important and not just to make things pretty. Even with a fair amount of vermouth in the mix it is still, basically, just raw alcohol. A nice fat olive, for example, will leave a pleasant salty olivey taste for a little extra touch of goodness. Not only does it let taste out but obviously sucks alcohol in for that you may tuck upon it when your glass is empty for all important vitamins, nutrients and a bit more vodka. The choice of garnish is entirely a matter for you, some like pickled onions (known as a “Gibson”) some a strip of lemon or lime peel ( a “Bradford”) but, as always, it’s a question of taste and what’s in the cupboard. One thing you must not do, ever, under any circumstances, no matter how large the bribe or tempting the dare, is to try a “Dirty Martini”. This foul modern concoction involves smushing an olive in a mortar until it is well and truly crushed and then adding the pulped pieces and oil into the drink. If you want an olive oil based cocktail you have already drunk too much and should go to bed at once, you are a bad person and should be ashamed! There, I’ve said it and now let us never speak of it again.
Finally, the most important requirement, a clear diary. Martinis are lovely. Martini’s are one hundred percent alcohol. You will want another one. And another. Perhaps a third. Well if you’ve started drinking you may as well carry on. You will, as a result get nothing done for the rest of the day but you will have a splendid time achieving bugger all and after all isn’t that why we drink?
Lord Florizel of Tweed
|This is he. Ordering another drink no doubt.|