By Chris Poh
In Praise of the Perfect Pairing
"You can no more keep a Martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss there.
The proper union of gin and vermouth is ... one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived."
- Bernard DeVoto
"The Martini is the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet"
- H. L. Mencken
"The elixir of quietude"
E. B. White
any self-respecting barkeep were to fill an old fashioned glass with a
mixture of milk and chocolate syrup, would they have the audaciousness
to refer to the concoction as a “Bosco Old fashioned?’ I would hope for
the sake and honor of the profession they would not! And so should be
the case for the martini glass. Anything other than gin, dry vermouth,
and, if one is so inclined, vodka were to be poured into this sacred
cup, it should not be referred to as anything other than being a
cocktail whose volume is defined by that particular glass. Liqueurs from
foreign lands, pureed fruits, flavored schnapps, the ink of a squid, or
anything other than the aforesaid ingredients should ever be designated
as some kind of martini.
Now having taken care of some of my personal grumblings about the
current state of mixology, let us begin to build that majestic tribute
to the juniper berry.
The first step is to pack your shaker glass with as much ice as humanly
possible. To that add a generous measure of gin. Then there is the issue
as to how much dry vermouth should be used. Older recipes called for a
2-to-1 ratio of gin to vermouth. Although the origins of the cocktail
certainly predate Prohibition, this practice may have stemmed from that
period when the cheaply produced, and often suspect, gin needed a fair
amount of masking. But with the availability of today’s highly refined
and complex tasting gins, most recipes recommend no more than a half
ounce of dry vermouth. I myself tend toward Noel Coward’s mathematical
formulations on the matter. The revered English playwright and composer
declared that the proper martini called for “filling a glass with gin
and then waving it in the general direction of Italy” (which along with
France is a major producer of both red and dry vermouth). So while I
prefer to skip the vermouth altogether, it is, like most things in life,
simply a question of personal taste.
Once one has decided upon the extent of the relationship between the
herbs flavored wine and the juniper laced gin, there is the challenge of
how best to consummate the courtship—should the marriage be stirred or
shaken? Followers of the more traditional practices prefer a stirring
coupling, but I like to shake things up a bit. In fact, there is
evidence that suggests that this action produces a higher degree of
antioxidants—thus aiding those who use the medicinal argument to
rationalize their need for strong drink. But whichever mixing technique
is employed, it is important that the final product always be strained
into a well chilled glass.
The last detail is to decide whether to bless this wonderful wedding of
the grape and berry with either olives or a lemon twist. Again, this
decision is only subject to the whims of the palate, but I must caution
those, who like me, prefer a citrus quality over that of a briny finish.
When using lemon, the success of the cocktail depends upon the coaxing
of some oil from the peel onto the surface of the drink. This garnish
serves an important function, and it is not, as so many bartenders are
prone to think, just decorative.
Now that you have passed the Martini-making course . . . you practically have
a degree in it, why not announce a graduation party to display
your new skills? A graduation party for a skill learned on the
internet, why not? Invite your friends and family through
graduation announcements with custom designs like those made at http://www.mixbook.com/cards/graduation-announcements.
A couple of hints to spice up the relationship:
· For those who like olives, try soaking them overnight in dry vermouth before adding them to your martini.
For those who prefer lemon, rub the inside of the glass with the peel
before pouring the drink. The fine coat of oil will impart a lasting