Don’t F#%k With My Martini

I will do my very best not to use my trusty soapbox, but I will still keep it close by in case I need it.

The concoctions that most “martini” bars foist onto the unsuspecting public are not—I repeat—NOT martinis. The last “martini” (and yes, I’m going to continue to use those quotation marks until we start talking about the real thing) menu I perused contained not a hint, not a drop, not a mention of vermouth. And bitters? I chuckle. Most of them didn’t even have gin in them. It was all very depressing. Some of the drinks offered might have been alright, but I was so despondent I could not bring myself to order one. I got a glass of red wine instead. It wasn’t very good.

English is a living language, continually evolving, changing with the times. We arguably have the greatest number of slang phrases of any language. They come and they go as fast as the generations that create them. When was the last time you heard someone use ankle as a verb (i.e. to wa54b85e667a129_-_elle-01-vintage-women-drinking-xlnlk as in “let’s ankle.”) or zozzle to describe someone who is inebriated?

“Martini” seems to have become, in most circles, synonymous with “cocktail.” Hm….living language or not, that’s just pushing it a bit far. It dumbs down the cocktail genre and does a disservice to the martini specifically. With such great cocktail names as “Widow’s Kiss,” “Corpse Reviver” (so popular there is a 1,2 and 3), and “Queen’s Park Swizzle” why do we want to call them all martinis? If you want to do a riff on a Martini, that’s great. It’s been done hundreds of times. Just give it a new name.

A martini is gin (vodka if you must), vermouth, and orange bitters. A rather narrow definition to be sure, but isn’t that true with most things? You shouldn’t call a dish chicken piccata if there is no chicken in it. So why should anyone wish to call a cocktail devoid of gin (vodka if you have nothing else), vermouth, and bitters a martini? I blame James Bond or Mad Men or just plain laziness.

And while we are on the subject of martini ingredients, a 12 ounce cocktail glass of freezer-cold vodka over which the bartender has waved a dust-covered bottle of stale vermouth is not a Martini. It’s not even a cocktail. It’s a glass of cold vodka; which is fine if that is what you want. But do it as the Russians do and put it in a small glass, down it, wince, cough, slam the glass on the table, and grin inanely. Don’t sip it from a cocktail glass like you’re Oscar Wilde.

But wait, wasn’t the word “cocktail” originally associated with a particular type of drink and now is used to mean any mixed drink with booze in it? Fair enough. However, the cocktail evolved to encompass many different sorts of drinks (and here’s the important bit) including the Martini. So while the martini is a cocktail, not all cocktails are Martinis.

Hey, how did that soapbox get under me? Strange.

Martini (circa 1900)

2 oz Gin (Old Tom)

1 oz Italian (sweet) Vermouth

1 dash Orange Bitters

Stir ingredients with ice until very cold and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist or cherry.

Yes, that’s correct. The original martini was made with sweet vermouth and it’s very good. It can also be made with dry vermouth:

Dry Martini

1 ½ oz Gin (Old Tom)

1 ½ oz French (dry) Vermouth

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Stir ingredients with ice until very cold and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist or cherry.

The original “dry” martini was equal parts vermouth and gin.  The “dry” referred to the French vermouth, not how much was used.  That would come later.

The “Classic” Martini

1 ½ oz Gin (London Dry)martini

½ oz Dry Vermouth

1 dash Orange Bitters

Stir ingredients with ice until very cold and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist or olive.

While the Martini is certainly adjustable to suit one’s taste, if you leave out the gin or the vermouth, I’m sorry, it is no longer a martini, so please do not call it one. Help to stop the insanity!

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