Dry Martini

“A martini should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously on top of one another.” These words, attributed to Somerset Maugham, encapsulate the timeless allure of the martini, also described as “the elixir of quietude” by E. B. White and “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet” by H. L. Mencken.

Across time and nationalities, this cocktail has captured the hearts and imaginations of many, from acclaimed writers to accomplished businesspeople. In the 1960s and 1970s, the term “three-martini lunch” gained notoriety in the United States. It symbolized the luxury of successful professionals and lawyers who could indulge in a leisurely lunch accompanied by three consecutive martinis. This practice was believed to enhance cognitive prowess (or so it was thought) and held the additional allure of being tax-deductible. However, as the 1980s brought forth tax battles and a decrease in on-the-job alcohol consumption, the “three-martini lunch” fell out of favor. Yet, the allure of the martini remained steadfast.

The martini is a classic of timeless elegance, tried and tested over the decades. More than just a drink, it’s a cocktail-aperitif that gracefully marries gin and vermouth.

Gin, a distilled alcoholic beverage, is crafted by redistilling grain ethanol with a dominant infusion of juniper berries and an array of other botanicals. Gin is a topic worthy of its own in-depth discussion due to its rich history and diverse flavors, and you can find more about gin here.

Vermouth, on the other hand, is an aromatized fortified wine, kissed with the essence of various botanicals. It, too, is a subject ripe for an in-depth exploration.

As you take a sip of a martini, you are greeted by a symphony of herbal aromas harmoniously crafted by these two vital components.

The true origins of the martini, as with many classics, are shrouded in the mists of time. One widely accepted theory suggests that the martini evolved from the “Martinez” cocktail, which the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco offered in the 1860s to patrons who waited the ferry to the Martinez city. The town of Martinez, California, claimed the cocktail was introduced by their local bartenders and proudly named after their city. Regardless of its origin, the recipe for the Martinez cocktail is documented and was initially recorded in Jerry Thomas’s 1887 book, “Bartender’s Guide, How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks.”

Martinez Cocktail (original variant):

•Take 1 dash of Boker’s bitters
•2 dashes of Maraschino
•1 pony [1 fl oz] of Old Tom gin
•1 wine-glass [2 fl oz] of [sweet/Italian] vermouth
•2 small lumps of ice

Shake up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail glass. Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve. If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes of gum syrup.

The martini, in its illustrious history, embarked on a remarkable journey towards greater dryness and decreased sweetness. It was a gradual progression, marked by the removal of additional sweeteners and the replacement of sweet Italian vermouth with its drier French counterpart.

“…She turned to me. “French or Italian vermouth? With or without an olive?”
“French vermouth, I think. And yes please, an olive…..”

Erich Maria Remarque’s characters in “Shadows In Paradise” continue to ponder the choice between French and Italian vermouth when crafting their martinis, echoing the martini culture’s evolution. Today, if you order a martini, you’ll find dry vermouth in your glass by default, and requesting a sweet version requires a specific mention.

The dryness of a martini hinges on the gin-to-vermouth ratio. If the cocktail has more gin than vermouth, martini is dry. As the proportion of gin increases in comparison to vermouth, the martini becomes drier.

The first dry martini most likely graced the bar of New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel around 1911 or 1912.

By 1922, the modern style of the dry martini had taken shape. It featured London dry gin, a decidedly non-sweet gin variety, and dry vermouth in a 2:1 proportion. The gin and vermouth, occasionally accompanied by a few drops of bitters, were expertly stirred with cubed ice and gracefully transferred into a chilled cocktail glass, garnished with either an olive or a twist of lemon peel, according to the patron’s preference.

Over the years, the martini evolved to become progressively drier. In the 1930s, the typical gin-to-vermouth ratio was 3:1, increasing to 4:1 in the 1940s. During World War II, the proportion skewed dramatically to 16:1 and sometimes even 50:1 or 100:1. In some extreme cases, еру bartender just rinsed the glass with vermouth before filling the gin or rubbed a finger of vermouth along the glass rim. It was a joke that simply gazing at the vermouth bottle while pouring gin was sufficient.

Yet, the allure of balance and the essence of vermouth ultimately prevailed, bringing it back to the martini. Today, as per the International Bartender Association protocol, the gin-to-vermouth proportion stands at 6:1.

However, the choice of proportion remains a matter of personal taste, with the sole constraint being that gin must assert its dominance if you seek the classic dry martini.

Martini aficionados are well-versed in the art of balance, exploring various proportions to craft a martini that suits their palate. Here are some popular variations:

The 50-50 martini: Achieved with an equal amount of gin and vermouth, this variant provides a harmonious blend of flavors.
The reverse martini : Sometimes called the upside-down, this version leans towards more vermouth than gin, adding an intriguing twist to the classic.
The dirty martini: A splash of olive brine transforms the martini into a “dirty” delight, intensifying the savory essence.
The perfect martini: By replacing half of the dry vermouth with sweet vermouth, a perfect martini strikes a balance between sweet and dry notes.

In the world of martinis, one can’t help but recall the passage from “Shadows In Paradise,” where the characters debate the virtues of vodka in a martini :

“…..”Is that a vodka Martini?” I asked.
“Vodka Martini? What on earth is that? This one is gin with a dash of vermouth.”
Displaying my newly acquired knowledge, I told her that vodka could be used instead of gin….
….”Good!” she said. “We’ll have to include that in our repertory, John. It’s excellent”
“Certainly, madam.”
“Who gave you the recipe?” she asked me.
“A man who claims that vodka can’t be smelled on the breath.”…..”

While vodka may mask the breath, it alters the martini’s essence fundamentally. If you’re not a fan of gin’s distinctive taste, you can opt for a vodka martini , also known as a vodkatini or kangaroo cocktail. Despite its origin under the name “kangaroo cocktail,” this title never gained popularity, possibly due to the unappetizing connotations of “dirty kangaroo” (with olive brine) or perhaps American snobbery against an Aussie-inspired name. Nonetheless, it’s essential to note that vodka fundamentally changes the martini’s composition by removing gin’s aromatic complexity. Therefore, labeling it a kangaroo cocktail would be more fitting.

However, the Gibson (now additionally popularized by “Queen’s Gambit”), a variant garnished with cocktail onions instead of olives, is undoubtedly a martini offshoot.

The age-old debate of shaking or stirring continues. James Bond, particularly in the movies, insists on shaking, but he also demands vodka in place of gin. Interestingly, in the books, Bond takes a more traditional approach, opting for stirring over shaking. The stirring method prevails, as recommended by Somerset Maugham and IBA, as it retains the martini’s integrity and depth of flavor. Shaking, on the other hand, chills the drink more swiftly, resulting in a colder cocktail with milder flavor, as cold tends to mask taste.

Shaking martini has its own name – Bradford.

The IBA recipe of Dry Martini:

-60 ml (6 parts) dry Gin
-10 ml (1 part) dry Vermouth

Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain into chilled glass. Squeeze oil from lemon peel onto the drink, or garnish with olive.

Cocktail glass

Remember, the key to the perfect martini lies not only in the proportions but also in your choice of gin and vermouth, making your experimental field boundless. So, continue your martini odyssey to discover the ultimate concoction tailored to your unique palate. The possibilities are endless.

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