Hallowed Be Thy Name!


“I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini” - Robert Benchley – circa 1935, on the sets of MGM’s China Seas. H.L. Mencken described it as “The only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.”


At a press meet to announce the Repeal of Prohibition, FDR mixed a Martini. He, in fact, was quite a generous proponent of this his favourite libation. 1943, Teheran – Allied Leaders meet to plan the defeat of Nazism. Roosevelt asks Stalin to join him in a toast. The drink – Martini. U.S.-Soviet relations under FDR were famous as the “four Martinis and let’s have an agreement” era.

The Martini has long been considered the ultimate aperitif, the kingpin among cocktails. Someone once said that a Martini is to the mixed drink what Rolls Royce is to the automobile, what Tiffany’s is to diamonds. He knew what he was talking about. It is also the only cocktail to have over a dozen books dedicated to its mysteries. The Martini explosion coincided with end of prohibition. This was the time of speakeasies. Where the rich and famous rubbed shoulders with gangsters. By the 1950’s it became a symbol of corporate success. Men were back from the war and were reclaiming their jobs (women should go back home). A man’s drink (women now drank stuff dressed in umbrellas). Martini lunches became commonplace for stressed out executives, succumbing to being pleasantly anaesthetised. That was also about the time that its popularity began to wane. It could never die – 007 amongst others would ensure that. But decline it did.


The 1990s suddenly saw a renewed interest in cocktails. Was it nostalgia for the best of the century as a new one approached? Whatever. And there was the Martini – right up front. Back with a vengeance. Stylish, sexy, sensual, and with an attitude. Not just the classic. In myriad hues and flavours. Some brilliant, some ordinary, others an affront to this glorious drink.

Although the Martini started out using sweet vermouth (1862 in San Francisco), it is the dry version that is drunk in copious quantities. How a dry Martini should be mixed is almost a religion; very debatable. Hemingway made his with 15 parts gin to 1 of vermouth. Somerset Maugham acknowledged only Noilly Prat vermouth. Winston Churchill made his with Boodles gin and was happy if just a shadow of the vermouth bottle passed over his glass.

Gin is, of course, the mother of the Martini. Yet over the years, vodka has slowly surpassed it in popularity.

Again, an expert will tell you that a Martini is always stirred and never shaken, unless you happen to be James Bond! Shaking definitely makes for a colder cocktail but it also dilutes it and the drink loses its traditional translucence. Bull, according to the average American bar. They’re happy shaking.


Make It Right

Get the basic routine very clear. Everything must be cold. Begin by packing the waiting glass with ice to chill it. Lots of ice in the shaker first. Then the booze. Then either shake or stir and strain into the cold glass minus the ice. Forget about medium and sweet Martinis. Obsolete. What you want to ask is `how dry’. Dry – 50mlgin/vodka to 10ml extra dry vermouth. Extra Dry – Pour the vermouth over ice in shaker, stir it around, then throw out the vermouth. Add some more ice to the vermouth-flavoured lot, pour the spirit and continue doing what you want. Really, really dry – what they want here is a Naked Martini – lots of spirit, no vermouth. Stick an umbrella in to keep out the rain!

Garnish: couple of olives/lime peel/either/both.

Flavoured: For a full flavour add more liqueur or flavour syrup to the spirit. Splash a whisper or rinse the glass with the liqueur for just a suggestion of flavour. Here’s a sample to get you started.

  • Green Apple Martini: 60ml vodka; 10ml green apple syrup; green apple slice
  • Casino Royale: 45ml vodka; 10ml Cointreau; 5ml Blue Curacao; orange peel/slice
  • Melontini/Emerald Buddha: 45ml vodka; 15ml Midori melon liqueur; melon balls/jujubes
  • Raw Passion: 30ml gin; 30ml Passoa; lime peel, mint leaves
  • Liquid Comfort: 30ml vodka; 30ml Southern Comfort; dried apricot/peach
  • Drunken Archer: 45/60ml vodka; 15ml Archer’s Peach Schnapps/10ml peach syrup; almonds
  • Licensed To Kill: 50ml orange vodka; 10ml Campari; orange peel/slice
  • Goldeneye/Smoky: 45ml vodka; 15ml scotch; dried apricot
  • Espresso Martini: 45ml vanilla vodka; 15ml Kahlua; 30ml black coffee; 10ml hazelnut syrup; Kit Kat



Questions anyone?


Martini Cheat Sheet

Vermouth brands (Dry): Noilly Prat, Cinzano, Martini & Rossi

Gin brands: Gordon’s, Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater, Tanqueray, Tanqueray 10, Hendricks…

Glass: Classic `V’-shaped, clear glass

  • Drier the Martini, lesser the vermouth
  • Dry Martini with cocktail onion instead of olive – Gibson
  • Gin & French – French = dry vermouth
  • Gin & It – It = sweet red vermouth
  • How cold? – to the point of brief anaesthesia
  • Chill the glass – pack with ice
  • Flavoured – add flavoured spirits/liqueurs to the gin /vodka – in place of the vermouth
  • Use flavoured vodkas generously
  • To keep the gin/vodka in the freezer at all times is a great idea
  • Olives – green, stuffed, pickled in vermouth