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MANY WORDS, FEW INGREDIENTS
hen I started thinking about this piece on the Martini
I was super excited. “What a great drink”, I mused to
myself, my only concer n being how I could compress so
many words into a short space. Ironic I thought, that a
drink with the fewest of ingredients could stir up (pun intended) such a
kerfuffle. Where to start?
MAKE MINE A “VANILLA, CHOC-ORANGE MARTINI”
Mar ia von Trapp would no doubt suggest the logical place to start
would be the very beginning.To truly understand any subject matter,
I find the best place to start is by first understanding the history and
or igin of your subject.
However, spring is in the air and I am throwing logic out of the
window and working from the middle, to the back then taking a huge
lob out to the front.
So let’s start by throwing out a few of my ‘favour ite’ Martinis. I give you:
The Apple-tini, Mitch Martini, Espresso Martini, Lychee Martini,
Por n Star Martini, Flirtini,Vanilla Choc-Orange Martini.
I could continue, but before you stop reading and write-off myself
and/or this publication as stuck in the late 90s, let me explain by asking
a question: What do these delightful candied, fruity, pseudo-beverages
have in common?
Well, aside from the fact they were on the menu at almost every bar in
London and probably flying out the door of Melbourne’s Ginger 15 years
ago, the other common denominator here is: they’re not actually a Martini.
None of the above drinks are anything other than a mixed drink
with the moniker ‘tini’ added as a suffix. So how the hell did this
happen? What exactly is the Martini if not a category of cocktails in a
‘v’ shaped glass?
I’m sure most of you would know that the ter m cocktail or iginally
refers to a category of mixed drink specifically containing a spirit of
any kind, sugar, water and bitters. These days ‘cocktail’ is used almost
universally to descr ibe anything more complex, or boozier, than a G&T.
So does this suggest that a Martini is a vodka (or gin) based drink in a
so-called ‘martini’ glass? Of course not, you scream.
We all know the ter m has been frivolously and tenuously used to
descr ibe drinks that are anything but a Martini.The martini glass itself is
another example of that misuse.
One of the earliest sightings of the Martini in print comes courtesy
of Har r y Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual (1888). “Stir up
well with a spoon; strain it into a fancy cocktail glass”, Johnson tells us.
No mention of a martini glass here.
HOW, WHEN WHERE – A HISTORY OF THE MARTINI
Working back to the beginning.We all know the Martini is very much
gin stirred down – with a preferential amount of ver mouth – to be
cold, perfectly diluted and served with a citrusy twist or, if you must, an
olive or three.
Like most things that pre-date Myspace, the actual or igins of this
drink are fuzzy at best. Let’s face facts, we still debate the or igin of
drinks made less than 40 years ago. We may never quite grasp 100 per
cent how something being mixed up 130-odd years ago first came
about, but one common assumption is the drink is an evolution of the
Martinez, a gin var iant of the Manhattan.
The Martinez, as seen in print in 1884 in O.H. Byron’s Modern
Bartender’s Guide, was first thought to be mixed up for a lucky gold
prospector in the town of Martinez in gold-rush Califor nia. Paid for
with a nugget so large that the bartender felt compelled to offer a bottle
of whisky as change. Indeed the Martinez, like the Manhattan, calls
for sweet (or Italian) ver mouth and in large proportions. This is quite
removed from the dry (or French) ver mouth we mix with today in
ever decreasing proportions. As palates changed and different products
became more available, we started to see drinks become drier. In 1922,
Robert Ver meire’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them swaps out Italian for
French ver mouth in the Martinez and we see a drink that is starting to
resemble today’s dry Martini.
Drinks certainly did start to become drier over the years following
Johnson’s 1888 recipe, although the 1922 Martinez still called for
a 1:1 ratio of ver mouth to gin. By the latter part of the century
however, Martinis were becoming so dry that ver mouth levels of
miniscule proportions were being called for. Churchill was said to have
simply thought about France, or shone the light through the bottle
of ver mouth before imbibing a glass of cool gin, and the stor ies of
Dean Martin imbibing frozen, undiluted gin, gar nished with a Lucky
SHAKEN OR STIRRED
A debate that will no doubt continue as long as the question of how
much or little ver mouth we should be dashing in our gin. I say gin
because by definition a Martini is made with gin, and a kangaroo
cocktail is made with vodka. Would you shake a Manhattan or a
Neg roni? I wouldn’t but if that’s how someone likes to drink their
drink then let them be. As for James Bond? Well the British Medical
Journal suggests that Bond’s preference for shaken was as he was
“unlikely to be able to stir his drinks, because of likely alcohol
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
So how did we ar r ive at the name? Possibly taken from the use of
Martini & Rossi ver mouth, possibly a bastardisation of the name
Martinez. Martine was also bandied around briefly, and one (debunked)
tale claims a bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in the early 20th
century named Martini was to be credited.We may never know and
frankly I’d rather wor ry about my next drink than lose too much sleep
over the name.
How do I take mine? Cold and a little wet thank you.You can’t get
much cooler than LN2 which sits around a stingingly cold minus 200
degrees Celsius. If your local taver n chills your choice of spirit with
liquid nitrogen, you’re probably sipping on one of the coldest tipples
in town. Roosevelt Bar & Diner in Potts Point and both Eau de Vie in
Melbour ne and Sydney are dab hands with this method if you’re ever
in the area.
When I consume, I tend to opt for my Martini to be what moder n
standards would class as a little on the wet side. Use fresh ver mouth, use
good ver mouth, treat it as you would any other wine and lastly, don’t
be afraid to think outside the box a little. On that note, I leave you with
my personal favour ite ‘Martini’ (see left), inspired by my all too short
time in Spain and by Pepe Ruiz’s Flame of Love Martini. n
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