However offensive to the martini purists, this has to be one of the most evocative references in history to a cocktail. (For the uninitiated, martini’s are stirred—generally only cocktails needing texture and aeration [things with egg yolk, juices, cream etc.] are shaken.) And since my only familiarity with this most classic of classic cocktails was a disastrous sampling on one of my first ever visits to the local lounge as a mere lad of eighteen, I decided it was past time to truly sample the mysteries of the traditional martini.
So what is a martini— besides those colourful and mislabeled drinks found in cocktail menus everywhere? Well a traditional martini is gin and vermouth. Period. The original dry martini (a product of the 20s) was generally London dry gin and dry vermouth combined at a ratio of 2:1. Over time the amount of vermouth has steadily dropped, by the 40s it was 4:1 and these days 6:1 or 8:1 is quite common with some even eschewing the vermouth altogether beyond, as Noël Coward put it, “waving it in the general direction of Italy”. A common variation called a dirty martini contains a splash of olive brine or olive juice.
- cracked ice
- 4 oz of Dry gin
- 1 oz dry vermouth
- olive for garnish
Crack the ice with the end of your bar spoon and add to a cocktail mixing glass. Add in the gin and vermouth and stir—about 20 seconds should do. Strain into cocktail glasses and garnish with an olive.
The verdict: we tasted a small sampler of the original 2:1 martini before moving on to the 4:1 version we’d decided was canonical. No one stated a preference for the original but it wasn’t bad. Our classic martini was a lovely smooth sipping drink that had no pretensions towards modern cocktails. We still aren’t used to the idea of our cocktails not being the typical 1 oz of alcohol, so the bite of the martini was a good reminder to take it slow. After a bit I added some olive brine to “dirty” mine up a bit but frankly it was a mistake. In the end, another martini night is definitely in order to try out a few more variations on the proportions, but there seemed to be agreement that the martini, the martini is definitely worth the hype.