NOTE- 24/11/2014: This post was done a while ago and so those of you who visit regularly may have read it already. I reverted it back to Draft status because it had clocked up over 75,000 views, but I couldn't find the Traffic Sources. Which means to me that it's become some kind of spambot magnet or whatever the technical term is. I'm putting it back up now. We'll see what happens.
I'll start this post by saying that I haven't had a Dry Martini since around 1992. As far as cocktails go, it's one of the more basic recipes out there. And yet, it's also one of the most potent.
In my humble opinion, anyway.
"A man must defend his home, his wife, his children, and his martini."
- Jackie Gleeson
It also has almost as many variations to its recipe as there are people on the planet (wow, what a party that would be) and these variations usually depend on the amount of Vermouth that is added to the drink.
Your purists will state the correct amount of Vermouth as something along these lines:
"After stirring the Gin in the shaker, pick up Vermouth bottle and, without opening it, wave it over the chilled cocktail glass. Then discard Vermouth in trash."
OR (even more stringent)
"After stirring Gin in the shaker, retrieve bottle of Vermouth from neighbouring room and return to doorway of room where you are preparing your Dry Martini. Stand in door-frame and wave Vermouth bottle once in the direction of the cocktail shaker. Then discard Vermouth in trash."
Your less adventurous Martini drinkers will advocate a recipe calling for 2 parts Gin, 1 part Vermouth. My own recipe leans more towards the Vermouth-in-the-doorway method.
"I like to have a martini, two at the very most --After three I'm under the table, After four, I'm under my host."
- Dorothy Parker
And let's not even talk of Appletinis, Green Tea Martinis and (Oh, my God!) Chocolate Martinis. Those are for children.
I'm talking about the Dry Martini.
From William Powell as Nick Charles in "The Thin Man" (Dir: W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)...
...to Cary Grant in "North By Northwest" (Dir: Alfred Hitchcock, 1959).
picture courtesy of http://www.glamamor.com/2011/03/inspiration-north-by-northwest.html
Okay, that isn't his drink in this scene, but he arrives at a meeting with plans to catch up on the drinking. Besides, it's such a cool photo, I just had to include it. I'd kill for a suit like that, although I did manage to track down a similar tie some years ago. The suit was made by Kilgour, an esteemed Savile Row Tailoring house.
Off-topic, I was driving my Mother's Datsun 200B towards a roundabout intersection back in November 1986 when news came on the radio that Cary Grant had died. I nearly hit a parked car.
A few days later, I was still miserable about his death and my girlfriend and I were meeting some friends for drinks that night. We were going to Mietta's, one of Melbourne's most respected fine dining restaurants. Of course, we weren't going there to eat. Prices were hefty and fine dining wasn't my thing, even though I was working in hospitality. I saw my fair share of polished cutlery and wine glasses on a daily basis, thank-you very much.
Nope, we weren't going to the restaurant. We were going to the bar, located on the ground floor of Mietta's and it was like stepping back in time. The decor was straight out of a 1920s English Drawing Room. All that was missing was Jeeves.
Dart-board sized tables with marble tops, a bentwood chair on either side. Larger tables against one wall, a black-lacquered grand piano near the left corner at the rear, incase anyone who knew how to tickle the ivories felt the urge to do so. And ashtrays. Because back then, you could smoke inside a restaurant or bar and provide atmosphere to the place. I kept expecting Noel Coward or F. Scott Fitzgerald to walk in.
Mietta O'Donnell herself was often to be found at the door to her establishment and she would greet you with a smile as you walked in. She was a well-respected figure in the restaurant industry and sadly, was killed in a car accident in Tasmania in 2001. Many have said that fine dining in Melbourne died on that day in 2001 as well.
My girlfriend ordered a Midori and Lemonade (it was the '80s, remember?) I ordered a Dry Martini as I opened my cigarette case and lit a Kent with my Zippo. Dear God, I was such a try-hard back then.
"I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it."
- Rodney Dangerfield
And here's the thing about getting a Dry Martini at Mietta's in the 1980s. They served it in the correct cocktail glass. Have another look at that picture of William Powell in "The Thin Man".
Can't be bothered?
Okay, check out this still from "All About Eve" (Dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
picture courtesy of http://blogofthecourtier.com/2012/06/27/a-bumpy-night-ahead/
Don't mess with Miss Davis. To me, that's the right size for a Dry Martini. And I'm not alone in thinking this;
And so, I've spent the better part of the last five years checking thrift stores for cocktail glasses of similar size. About a week ago, I thought I should get around to writing this particular post, so I grabbed a couple of sherry glasses from a nearby thrift store because they were the right size.
SIZE OF THE COCKTAIL GLASS
I've got a standard cocktail glass. It's the one that everybody thinks of when they think of cocktails, especially the Dry Martini. And, as stated above, I picked up a couple of sherry glasses because, to me, they represent the proper size for this drink.
Here are the two of them side by side;
The larger one (left) holds 150ml (5 oz approx) and the smaller sherry glass on the right holds 90ml (3 oz approx). Now, the idea is not to fill the glass to the brim. We're not animals, after all. You need to leave some clearance so that you can reach for the olive-laden toothpick without getting your fingers wet.
Remember how I said that I haven't had a Dry Martini since around '92? I was diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer a few years earlier and scaling back on alcohol was a necessity. Martinis were off my menu, but I did have a moment of weakness and mixed myself one at a party. In 1992. The ulcer was eradicated about ten years ago and hasn't flared up since. Well, actually, I've found that ultra high levels of stress will sometimes produce that old familiar sensation in my gut, but as long as I'm not called on to rescue a stricken nuclear sub off the ocean floor, I should be okay.
Anyway, onto the main ingredients.
There are many Martini drinkers and afficionados who will swear by Gordon's Gin or Tanqueray or Plymouth or some other, more exotic brand. I don't mind Tanqueray, myself, but I prefer Bombay Sapphire. Now, I'm no expert on alcohol. I can't taste pepper or oak in red wine. I can't taste the juniper berries used in Bombay Sapphire. I just like the taste of it. If you want to read more detailed articles about mixing drinks (I hate the term 'mixology') and various spirits and cocktails, then head over to;
http://savoystomp.com/ for starters. However, I've found a wonderful range of sites that deal with the bon vivant aspects of alcohol and drinking responsibly. Plenty out there.
And so, I use Bombay Sapphire Gin for my Dry Martinis. And I also use Noilly Prat French Vermouth. This is a Dry Vermouth, and it can be drunk with a mixer or used in equal measure with other spirits, but Vermouth is really rather more well-known as the 'other' liquid ingredient in a Dry Martini.
I will use a cocktail shaker that I uhh...'liberated' from a hotel bar I worked at a few decades ago.
That weird-looking thing with the spring around it is a cocktail strainer. It's gonna keep the ice out of my drink.
And then there's the olive. Although, whenever I've prepared one of these, I've always had a few olives on standby so that I can chomp on them while I prepare the drink.
"Happiness is...finding two olives in your martini when you're hungry."
And use a good toothpick. Don't use those cheap-assed flat ones. They can tend to splinter and wind up jammed between your teeth. No fun.
Okay, so let's get down to business. I pour a small dash of Vermouth directly into the glass. It doesn't matter how much Vermouth you use because...well, it ain't stayin' in the drink, let me tell you. I swirl the Vermouth around in the glass, making certain to coat as much of the inside as possible.
Satisfied that there's a nice, thin coating of Vermouth inside the glass, I pour the rest down the sink. Thank you Noilly Prat. Your sacrifice will not have been in vain. And yeah, I know the glass has a cutesy floral pattern etched in it, but this was common in cocktail, brandy and sherry glasses of the 1950s.
"He knows just how I like my martini - full of alcohol."
Next, I put some ice in the cocktail shaker. I was low on ice, but since I was using the smaller glass, I could get away with only needing four or five cubes. Besides, the gin wasn't gonna stay in the shaker long enough to dilute, anyway.
For this 90ml (3 oz) glass, I would be using 60ml (2 oz) of Bombay Sapphire. Given the conical shape of the glass, this amount of gin would get close to the top, yet still leave a little breathing room.
I poured in two 30ml measures and give the shaker a quick swirl for about ten or twelve seconds.
It was enough to put a chill through the gin and lower half of the shaker. Now, y'all know I'm a Bond fan and I have tried this drink 'shaken, not stirred' in the past. Once. Some of your hardcore Martini drinkers will argue that shaking will "bruise the gin" and what-not. I don't know about that, but what I do know is that shaking it will make the drink look cloudy when you pour it. BFD.
I will do a write-up on Bond's (or rather, Ian Fleming's) version of a Martini (The Vesper) at some point. But right now, back to this one.
The strainer is in place. The ONLY thing getting through it will be gin. Another reason not to spend too long swirling the shaker around is because you want to avoid any small shards of ice getting into the drink. No real reason, except that a Dry Martini should always look perfect.
After I poured it into the glass, I looked at it for a moment. I hadn't had one of these in two decades. The effect was somewhat shattered by the fact that I was preparing this drink on a black placemat draped over the top of the microwave oven in the kitchen. Better lighting just above the microwave oven. Long story, don't ask. However, that square of black cardboard taped to the kitchen tiles helped a little with the illusion.
And then, of course, I had to place the drink in an atmospheric setting for its final photo. I wanted to make it look like you-know-who had just dialled down to Room Service.
I took a tentative sip. And was transported back to that Friday night at Mietta's in 1986. That was a memorable Dry Martini. And so was this one. This one tasted as good as I remembered. And I took my time sipping it as I continued writing this post and transferring pictures from my camera to the laptop.
One more picture, without the soft-focus filter.
"I'm not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube. I'm talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight.. comfort; redemption and absolution.
I'm talking MARTINI."
Now I wish I had written that.
Thanks for reading. And cheers!
EDIT, 20 mins later: Special thanks to Little Miss E for taking some of the photos for this post!