~~ PHILOSOPHY OF THE MARTINI ~~
(texted copyrighted (c) by Terry Zinn
This is my philosophy of the Martini, concocted during the past 30 years, and more recently with this photography book on the Martini in mind. I did not intellectually set out to form a philosophy about this famous drink. Rather, my thoughts are a reflection of conclusions savored over numerous Martinis and pondered about in retrospect. My philosophy is just one man’s viewpoint regarding my tastes and preferences, for your consideration. A Martini should not be consumed alone, although sometimes you must. If you are lucky to be in a congenial crowd, others are bound to follow your epicurean lead. A true Martini is a drink of reflection, best enjoyed with conversation between sips. The cocktail conversation also lets expression flow more freely, and the gin or vodka often adds to glib but insightful conclusions.
James Thurber is attributed with saying, “One is all right, two is too many and three is not enough.” Dorothy Parker took it a bit farther when she was widely quoted as saying, “I like to have a Martini, but only two at the most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under the host.” William Faulkner, that great chronicler of southern life, is quoted as saying, “When I have one Martini, I feel bigger, wiser, taller. When I have the second, I feel superlative. When I have more, there’s no holding me.” In our current technological age and appetite for speed, I say, “Candy is dandy. Beer is near. Wine is fine. Liquor is quicker, but a Martini takes time.” So a solitary dry Martini, served with conversation is most respectable, but caution should ensue.
The Glass and Reflections and Martinis go together.
The very glass it is savored in is symbolic and practical. No other drink is as recognizable, or as refined as a beverage in the diamond shaped and stemmed traditional Martini glass. Not even the popular, usually Mexican-themed Margarita glass measures up to the elegance of a Martini glass. Even across a crowded bar, lounge or restaurant everyone knows with a simple glance, exactly what you have ordered. Most observers usually think to themselves, "Why didn't I order a Martini? It looks so elegant and inviting?" The Martini is the upper class of cocktails. I believe this because I have found in my global travels, not all bars have the appropriate glass, even in the most luxurious establishments. Without the v-shaped clear vessel, a Martini is not a Martini if it is not in the appropriate glass. Without the proper glass, it can be just a vodka and water or gin and tonic in a high ball glass. With all elite drinking and dining accessories, the glass assists the taster in the enjoyment of the drink. The high surface liquid exposure at the top of the glass, invites the bitter alcohol to evaporate and not startle the taster. It also inhibits a quick "downing" of the drink ~ so easily accomplished with straight- sided glasses or tumblers.
The patron must slowly sip the beverage, especially when it is first delivered. Otherwise, the obligatory cocktail napkin may be employed to tidy up the table or the drinker’s apparel unwittingly christened with the liquid. The traditional glass is easily embraced or cradled with the fingers and palm, as the Martini rests comfortably in the hand, with no tension delivered to its icy exterior. This also requires a bit of attention to its equilibrium with the earth and its gravitational pull. It is so easy to see when someone has passed their alcohol quota, as they inadvertently spill or slosh the drink beyond its tenuous rimmed border. It is imperative to keep one’s elegant reputation while imbibing to be in control of the liquor inside one’s body as well as out. Thus. a Martini can only be sipped tenderly with a sense of expectation, leading toward mixology ecstasy. The first sip is the best. The taste buds are awakened and the mind spins to deliver a verdict: “Is this what I was expecting when placing my order? Was this more or less to my individual, dry or sweet tastes?”
Dry, of course is a coded way of saying you want more alcohol content than not. And if fruit juices are added to make a Cosmopolitan or other such variation, the sweetness is in that code. A very dry Cosmo should result in a pale cranberry hue and not a dark creation, which usually means the spirit of the cocktail has been restrained if not negated. If one only wants a pretty drink, then why not just opt for a non-alcoholic fruit punch in a Martini glass ~ which is what an intense colored cocktail is. It turns into a punch, if there are more non-alcoholic ingredients than alcohol. Recently, the fashion has been to have a myriad of ingredient combinations. Such lavish choices may perplex the drinker into thinking this smorgasbord of offerings provide something special. Usually, no note of flavor is imparted. This mix of ingredients makes for a muddled-tasting beverage, which people are sometimes too embarrassed to return. Many upscale cocktail bars and restaurants have detailed Martini menus, which boast of exotic ingredients. Often, these only satisfy the eye and intellectual curiosity, but not the palate. If all you want is a carbonated soda, it’s usually available where Martinis are served, although frequently watered down and missing the fizz. I prefer ~ endorse ~ the Martini recipe of two parts liquor to no more than one part mix ~ if a mix is your preference for flavors. That one part mix is a combination of all the nonalcoholic ingredients. If it’s more than that, it becomes a punch, not a Martini. For my tastes, a Martini should have a “punch” or kick to it. Six parts vodka or gin to one part, or less, of vermouth is the traditional Martini proportion. Flavored vodkas run the gambit of almost any citrus variety you can imagine. I prefer the freshness of natural ingredients added to the drink during creation. Yet, a sour green apple vodka and a slice of apple garnish is a quick fix for that thirst for flavor. A good bartender can make an exceptional sour Apple-tini that is exquisite with their secret touch of ingredients, which may include Cointreau, a citrus-flavored vodka, and a generous splash of fresh squeezed lime with pulp. Such a Martini can be a pleasing and tasty experience.
I’m not sure why, but when an expert bartender or host serves me a Martini, it has an added personal touch of satisfaction. Perhaps being served by another person sparks the imagination of personal satisfaction. It’s like a gift from one person to another. Of course, this experience can be diluted if the resulting drink is not what you ordered. I often order a dry Stolichnaya ~ a Russian vodka. I ask for it to be served extra, extra cold and garnished with three olives. If the bartender shakes the vodka from fifty to one hundred times, as I do when I make one at home or while traveling, then very tiny ice crystals form on top of the Martini once served. I call this Martini a Titanic, referring to the ill-fated ship and its tragic encounter with an iceberg. I've also heard it called "Ice on the Pond," and "Mother's Milk.' This hint of shaved ice gives a visual elegance and texture to the first sip. I ask for the three olives, no reference to the vodka of the same name, to test the waiter or bartender’s attention to detail. Also, the three olives make a nice interim hors d’oeuvre. I often choose Stoli vodka, as it is a good companion to the oil of the olives. Adding more olive juice to the drink is called a “dirty Martini.” I find the excess of three olives my preferred hint of dirt. If you can have an olive stuffed with almonds or blue cheese, the drink is all the more elegant and rewarding. Some connoisseurs like to place their vodka in a freezer before serving. This is best if you are having a shot of vodka, and not necessary for my style of Martini. If the vodka is at room temperature and then shaken with ice fifty to one hundred times, not only does the vodka come to you very cold, but slightly, ever so slightly, kissed with the melted ice, making a smoother Martini.
The Martini glass should be well-chilled before serving the drink. This not only keeps the beverage at optimum temperature longer, but is a tactile recognition this cocktail was prepared with forethought, not just sloshed together. The best establishments or hosts have the Martini glass already in a freezer or cooler, just waiting for you. If not, they can fill the glass with ice and a little water to chill it while they are preparing and shaking your order. A careless waiter can ruin the bartender’s efforts by letting the Martini lanquish on the counter, while they gossip with others or take other people’s orders. If a fresh chilled and molecule excited Martini is left alone for more than a minute, it suffers upon taste. TIPS, which actually means to insure prompt service from wait staff, is just as important in the delivery of the Martini. To insure the best Martini it should be promptly served to present the best the mixologist has to offer. I believe, “Two things should never be consumed: over-cooked broccoli or a warm Martini.”
Artist Harold Stevenson, prepares a vodka Martini he calls a Grandfather Martini. He pours appropriate amounts of a mid-priced vodka in a pitcher, in relation to how many drinks he is preparing, and then no matter how many people he is serving, only adds one capful of vermouth. He then stirs the vodka with a few ice cubes and serves. He may then add ice cubes to the Martini glass, making it Stevenson’s Grandfather Martini. The added ice cubes do dilute and prolong the cocktail. I assume grandfathers can have more cocktails this way.
Shaken or stirred ?
This is a perennial question bartenders and hosts seem to ask. Vodka is traditionally shaken, while gin is traditionally stirred with ice in a pitcher and then served with a lemon peel, or even better, tangy petite cocktail onions. It is also well professed that stirring the cocktail does not bruise the gin ~ whatever that means. (I have no idea. It’s a well-known saying among Gin Martini folklore.) If the vodka martini is to have any fruit juices added, or freshly muddled fruit or herbs, then it must be shaken to mix the ingredients and preferably strained, to give life and zest to the beverage. CHAPTER THREE THE MARTINI’S BIRTHRIGHT The first traditional Martinis were of gin, while vodka is in fashion recently as it has a neutral, colorless, odorless taste. Gin comes from the Netherlands, where it is called genievre, (this is not the correct spelling.This is what was printed in the book I got it from… Perhaps a French dictionary, or even a garden glossary can lead us to the correct spelling. It is an evergreen pinaceous shrub with European origins now grown in America.) meaning juniper – distilled from grain with added juniper berries. Vodka’s origin is in Eastern Europe, where in Russian its means little water, and is a neutral, flavorless spirit. Vermouth was once thought of as a medicinal cure. It is a fortified white wine, a liqueur flavored with various herbs, even the poisonous wormwood. In German the word is wermut, which means wormwood. Most vermouth used in today’s cocktails is a white dry vermouth, also known as French vermouth.
The origin of the Martini is as muddled as any basil lemon Drop Martini. See my photo and the Basil Lemon Drop Martini narrative on page 35. The East Coast of the United States attributes the Martini name to the bartender at New York’s Hoffman House in the 1880s. The West Coast connoisseurs (or authorities) say its very name came from the California town where it was born, Martinez, during the Gold Rush era near San Francisco. New York claims another authorship, citing the time when an immigrant named Martini di Arma di Taggia tended bar at the Hotel Knickerbocker in the early1900s. Why then can we not order a dry Taggia or a Hoffman? While this might spawn intellectual debate there is little disagreement that the Martini is definitely American in origin.
The Martini and its classic glass have been enjoyed by many celebrities who have been photographed and were so enamored of the drink, they made comments about its attributes. Besides being a prop in a myriad of 1930s and 1940s movies, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was photographed with one, and England’s Prime Minister, Winston Churchill commented on his preference. It is said that Churchill liked his Martini with lots of vodka and very little vermouth. So little in fact that he wanted a bottle of vermouth, so he only had to look at it while he prepared his cocktail. I think you could call that six parts vodka and a glance of vermouth.
The list of movies where the Martini is a companion ~ a drinking buddy ~ is long and interesting:
Take One False Step (1949) Shelly Winters and William Powell
Man’s Favorite Sport (1964) Paula Prentiss and Rock Hudson
The Half-way Girl (1924) Doris Kenyon
Thunderball (1965) Sean Connery as James Bond
Humoresque (1946) Joan Crawford
How to Save a Marriage (1968) Eli Wallach and Dean Martin
Dry Martini (1928) set in Paris during America’s prohibition era
My Favorite Wife (1940) Cary Grant
The Thin Man (1933) Maureen O’Sullivan and William Powell
After Office Hours (1935) Clark Gable and Constance Bennett
All About Eve (1950) Gary Merrill and Bette Davis
The Seven Year Itch (1955) Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe
Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed (1963) Dean Martin and Carol Burnett
Tony Rome (1967) Frank Sinatra and Jill St John (or is it Tony Roma?)
Dr. No (1962) Sean Connery as Bond, with Ursula Andress
Arthur (1981) Dudley Moore. ,