Spirits & Cocktails

Snooth User: gr

Recipes: Martini

Posted by gr, Feb 21, 2009.

Okay, I've been procrastinating on this long enough. I started getting snobby about cocktails with the martini, and then cast it off for quite a while, but I've returned recently. My palate has shifted quite a bit since, taking my model from M*A*S*H, I ordered a gin martini as all gin and then saluted France (which doesn't even make sense! Dry vermouth was traditionally called, state-side, "Italian vermouth"!).

So, here we go on a roughly chronologically-ordered walk through to the modern martini. I'll be skipping a few steps but hitting the highlights. For more on the historical details, I encourage you to consult Jerry Thomas's "Bartenders Guide" (I'm looking at the recent photographic reproduction of the 1887 edition, but it goes back earlier in the 19th century), Harry Craddock's "Savoy Cocktail Book" (originally published circa 1930), Gary Regan's "Joy of Mixology", and Paul Harrington's "Cocktail: the Drinks Bible for the 21st Century". And, probably, also Charles Baker's "Jigger, Beaker and Glass: Drinking Around the World" (that's originally the sub-sub-title, as RBoulanger can atest, having recently retrieved a truly vintage copy of same from his maternal grandfather's library), a copy of which I regrettably lack. Editions of all of these are readily available on amazon.com.

In all cases, the preparation directions are to stir (for roughly 30 seconds) on ice and strain into a cocktail glass (preferably chilled), and then garnish as you please: I usually use lemon twists, but that's because I grew to detest olives in martinis over time. The cocktail onion is also a valid garnish, but something of an acquired taste. Garnishing with an onion makes the drink a Gibson in some circles. (As replacing the gin with vodka makes the drink a Kangaroo in certain circles. People who correct you on these sorts of things are jerks, doubly so if they're serving you the drink.)

Note that the martini is to be stirred, not shaken. The latter became popular in modern times due to a miscomprehension stemming from the Bond films: Bond's request for his martini to be shaken, rather than stirred, is strange, arguably absurd, and part of his cover at the time (to appear foppish, largely). One does not shake drinks absent citrus or egg white: they neither need nor benefit from the aeration. (Some bartenders choose to stir rather than shake any drink with bourbon, but that's a whole other can of worms.) To quote Jeffrey Morgenthaler ( http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/ ): "Shaking a clear drink is like shaking a baby. First, there's a lot of foaming, and then you're staring death in the face."

The Martinez (widely considered to be the historical predecessor to the modern martini; it does, as you'll note, differ from the modern recipe in several significant ways)

2½ oz London dry gin
1¼ oz sweet vermouth (prefer Cinzano or Punt e Mes)
¼ oz maraschino liqueur
2-6 dashes (just a recommendation: "to taste" hereafter) orange bitters (Jamie Boudreau, always complicating things, calls for a dash each of Regan's and Fee's, while Regan himself calls for regular Angostura, not orange at all; I just use whatever orange bitters comes to hand)

The 50/50 Martini

2 oz gin
2 oz dry vermouth (but make sure you're using a decent vermouth, or you want to skip to the next recipe; Noilly Prat is the lower fringe here, Martini & Rossi doesn't cut it)
orange bitters to taste

The Martini (it gets the canonical name because this is how I like them now, so there)

3 oz gin (you can vary this pretty widely for different results; I like all of Plymouth, Bluecoat, Hendrick's, South, and Tru on a semi-regular basis: each of those make for a very distinct drink)
1 oz dry vermouth (the lower volume is more forgiving of lesser vermouths)
orange bitters to taste (including not at all)

gr's Old Martini Recipe (I still like this from time to time, but it's just not terribly exciting)

4 oz gin (the drink pictured here is yellow because I used Tru Organic Gin — http://www.truorganicspirits.com/gi... — for it, because I can no longer get my head or mouth around drinks without some degree of Flavor to them; it'd be clear with most gins)

Stir as usual, wash the glass with dry vermouth and discard the vermouth, garnish with a lime twist (pictured with a lemon twist because I already had some cut).

Any questions?


Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 24, 2009.

Truly, this could have been the Snooth Blog's first Cocktail-oriented blog post. It is too good to be buried as just a forum piece.

I'd point out that the Bond shaking over stirring comes from the books. The fact that he's ordering Vodka Martini's should be a good clue that something radical is going on here... especially for the early 1950s. The stir/shake controversy is comes up many times in culture, but one of my favorite references is in the 1958 movie Auntie Mame.

Do you really positively believe that the Martinez has anything to do with the Martini? I thought there was way more dispute here.

As a possible follow-up, can you enlighten us on the Vermouth naming mess? Dry? Extra Dry? Bianco/White? Sweet? Italian? French? Red? How many distinct styles are there really?

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 24, 2009.

Anyone who enjoyed Gabe's description should check out:


Reply by gr, Feb 24, 2009.

Re addition to the Snooth blog: I probably wouldn't refuse, but I'm content to contribute this way. It seems to me that cocktails are on the fringes of being topical for Snooth, at least for the time being, and I'm hardly an authority, just an interested amateur.

Re Bond: Do you actually have handy an example from the books? I know that I've said that in the past, including to you unless I'm mistaken, but I've backed off from that assertion because I don't actually have reference for it.

Re the martinez: It can easily be assailed as revisionist history, but all of Regan, Wondrich, and Harrington suggest that there's some degree of lineage. Certainly, various sources report early recipes called "martini" using either rosso (rather than dry) vermouth or orange bitters.

Re vermouth: I can go into greater detail another time, but there are only three real types of vermouth: rosso (commonly, "sweet" -- made from red wine) vermouth, bianco (sweet, white wine) vermouth, and dry (also white wine) vermouth. "Extra" dry vermouth is greater bullshit than "extra virgin" olive oil (which actually nearly means something). The Italian/French distinction (which I reversed above, incidentally: Italian vermouth was used in the US to refer to rosso vermouth, French vermouth to dry white vermouth, so I owe the M*A*S*H writers an apology) mostly turns up in books published in the US, which is where it was first used in mixed drinks (initially, just the vermouth plus bitters, with maybe a garnish): those on the continent generally did (and still do) drink it straight. (Personally, I'm not a fan of doing that with either rosso or dry vermouth, but sweet white vermouth on ice is quite nice.) I'll definitely come back to this, because that skims over "adulterated" vermouths and distinctions in quality.

Re martini history: Jason Wilson also wrote a good article on the topic in the "Washington Post" recently, which draws heavily from Dave Wondrich: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy... -- that includes a photograph from what I understand is a good cocktail bar in DC, Gibson.

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Feb 26, 2009.

Well penned, gr. I've got to say I'm quite surprised to hear you're dropping so much vermouth in your Martinis these days. Not that I disagree with the decision, it's just quite a change.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 26, 2009.

on Bond - Well here's the famous order from Casino Royale:
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s [gin], one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”

He calls the drink a Vesper Lynd after the ironically named (can you figure it out?) love interest of the first book. Since Kina is no longer produced, you must use Lillet Blonde. In later books, he does order Vodka Martini's made with Wolfschmidt's Vodka. I'll have to figure out which ones - oh, I've been meaning to read all those books anyway!

Another Bond drink from the books is the Americano. He orders one at a cafe because "One cannot drink seriously in French cafes. Out of doors on a pavement in the sun is no place for vodka or whiskey or gin." Too bad this wisdom never made it to the films.

On vermouth's I am interested to learn more about the quality levels and what you use sweet white for - besides melting ice cubes! The subtle, but important distinctions between Noilly, Stock, Tribuno, Martini, Dubonet & Cinzano are suddenly fascinating.

Reply by gr, Feb 27, 2009.

On Bond: I'm familiar with that Vesper order (they've been milking it just a tad with the Daniel Craig movies), but I'm looking for Fleming actually using the phrase "shaken, not stirred". I'm not convinced it happened.

On vermouth, one quick tip, more later: Tribuno is a "don't". It's slightly better than Spatola, but that's like saying a swirly is slightly better than waterboarding.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 27, 2009.

Haven't figured out the pun in her name, though, have you?

According to big, bad Wikipedia: "The phrase first appears in the novel Diamonds Are Forever (1956), though Bond does not actually say the line until Dr. No (1958)." I'll have to race home and check the texts.

Wow - Spatola... I guess the fact that it's $4.99 a liter should be a good hint that it is cooking vermouth.

As for Tribuno, it's not even made in Italy... it's from Cali's Central Valley-yum!
Found a great blog post about how good it tastes:

Reply by Philip James, Feb 27, 2009.

I'm glad you addressed the silly "shaken, not stirred" misconception, it bugs me just how many people actually ask for their Martini shaken

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 27, 2009.

Philip, you will appreciate (being reminded, I hope) that in an episode of the West Wing called "Stirred" late in the 3rd season, the following exchange takes place:

President Bartlet: Can I tell you what's messed up about James Bond?
Charlie: Nothing.
President Bartlet: Shaken, not stirred, will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.

Reply by gr, Feb 28, 2009.

Philip, I realized later that I had, in fact, covered that previously:


(And you responded in much the same way. ;^>)

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