Shaken AND Stirred: The Martini

Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are. It’s been a week since the massive disappointment that was Bloody Marys, which left me gagging and barely-buzzed. I don’t think that will be a problem this week. Why? Because Skyfall comes out (in the United States) this week, and in honor of the ever-resourceful agent James Bond, we’re drinking Martinis at Six Drinks Too Many. And that means I’m getting wasted tonight.

In case you missed my rambling before Halloween, I love Martinis. It’s the king of drinks and the symbol of cocktails for a reason. There’s nothing quite like a well-made Martini, and even though it might be hard to develop a taste for such a potent and liquor-y drink, I encourage you to try one if you have not before. Maybe you’ll even find a version you like here.

But first a couple of side notes. I know I generally tell you to use good liquor, but in the case of the Martini, it is essential that you use a good gin (or other liquor depending on the Martini you’re making). You can probably find a vermouth you like for not too much money, but don’t go cheap on the gin. Personally, I prefer Plymouth gin. Find a type and/or brand that you like.

My second side note is on the eternal battle: shaken versus stirred. We all know where 007 lands in this debate, but his method actually breaks with tradition, and a lot of Martini aficionados hate James Bond — but we’ll talk about that a little bit later.

So, a Martini is traditionally stirred, and that’s because shaking a drink will affect its texture. A shaken drink will get more air in it, giving it some bubbles, and it will look cloudy. Stirring a drink will leave it crystal clear and beautiful. Shaking a drink will also melt a little bit more ice, in addition to leaving a few small slivers of ice floating on the top of your drink, diluting a little bit more than stirring it. In all honesty, this probably doesn’t make that much of a difference taste-wise, but some people will swear it does.

The advantage to shaking a drink is that it will get it cold much faster. You can get a drink equally cold by stirring, but it will take longer. Also, some people prefer the cloudy look — it makes the drink appear icy and cold. In the end, it’s a matter of preference. Try both methods, and see which you like better. Generally, recipes will tell you to stir a Martini with gin and shake a Martini with vodka, and that’s what I’ll be telling you to do in these recipes. However, I have shaken gin and I have stirred vodka, so to each their own.

Also, don’t believe people that tell you that shaking will bruise a liquor. These people have no idea what they’re talking about, but want to seem sophisticated. You can’t bruise a liquor, and the idea that you can is ridiculous. You can introduce air into it, but after a minute the bubbles will dissipate.

And with that, let us begin!

 

Martini
-2 oz Gin
-1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
-Green Olive(s) or Lemon Twist

The Martini

This is it, in all it’s glory. The classic Martini. The 4-to-1 ratio of gin-to-vermouth is what I prefer, but you can go anywhere from the super wet Martini with a 1-to-1 ratio, or the super dry Martini with only a dash of vermouth. Of course, a lot of people like an extra dry Martini with no vermouth in it all. I don’t consider this a Martini, but if you prefer a cup of cold gin, then by all means, drink a cup of cold gin.

But don’t actually drink a cup of cold gin. If you want to make a really dry Martini, there’s two good ways to do it. The first and more common way is to put a dash or two of dry vermouth in the glass before you make your drink and coat the inside of the glass with it. This will give a little bit of vermouth flavor when you strain the gin into it.

The second way is to pour some vermouth into a mixing glass with ice, stir it around for about ten seconds, and then strain it back out. This will leave the essence of the vermouth on the ice and in the glass, and when you pour the gin in, it will get a little bit of that flavor and feeling.

However, I still recommend against this, and hope you’ll prefer your Martini with at least a quarter ounce of vermouth in it. But, as with most things Martini-related, to each their own. As long as it’s gin, vermouth, and a garnish, it’s a Martini. Drop one of those ingredients, and disagreements about whether or not it’s a real Martini will follow (and certainly, any drink in a stemmed cone glass is not a Martini, no matter what modern nomenclature tells us).

Anyway, I think the 4-to-1 ratio is a good medium, and a good introduction to how Martinis taste. Its enough vermouth to smooth out the gin, but not too much to hugely affect the balance of the drink. If you haven’t tried a Martini yet, this is a good place to start.

Now let’s talk about the garnish. The olive is classic, and it’s what I prefer. Biting into an olive after drinking a Martini just feels right. However, the more understated lemon twist is also wonderful, and might be a better choice for the beginner. And besides, once you finish making your lemon twist, your hands will smell amazing, and that will help you attract a mate. I’m looking out for you.

Also, feel free to experiment some. The Martini is the perfect drink to demonstrate the importance of the garnish, as a Martini tastes wildly different depending on what garnish you use. Once you’re acquainted with the lemon twist and olive, see if you’re feeling adventurous. Try it with a sprig of basil, mint, rosemary, or some other herb to tell people that you probably shop at health food stores. Or do something wilder like an anchovy, a pepper, pomegranate seeds, or chocolate chips to tell people that you’re a weird hipster that doesn’t follow society’s rules. The Martini can be a blank canvas to accentuate the subtle notes added by any garnish, and thus display you’re unique personality, you quirky character, you.

Anyway, to make it, stir the gin and vermouth with ice and strain it into a Martini glass. You’ll want to stir until the glass or tin you’re using becomes too cold to touch — about 30 to 40 seconds. Add your garnish and enjoy.

Speaking of garnishes…

 

Gibson
-2 oz Gin
-1/2 oz Vermouth
-Pickled Pearl Onion(s)

The Gibson

As I was just saying, garnishes are important things. A Martini with an onion instead of an olive tastes so different that it warrants a different name.

There are a few origin stories behind this cocktail, and probably none of them are true. But, they’re still a lot of fun. My favorite one is that there used to be a politician or businessman named Gibson. The story goes that good old Gibson would go on these lunches with colleagues and clients where they would drink, but he didn’t want to become inebriated and become a poor negotiator or do something embarrassing. So, our resourceful man had the waiter bring him a glass with water in it instead of a Martini. To mark his from the others, he took it with an onion instead of an olive. That’s my kind of politician.

There’s another story about how a guy named Gibson challenged a bartender to improve upon the Martini’s recipe. The bartender was a bit of a sarcastic fellow, and merely changed the garnish of the drink and offered it to his customer. I don’t like the onion better, but I hope our bartender won the bet.

Anyway, as to the taste of the drink — it’s a little bit brinier and sharper than the standard Martini. And biting into the onion(s) at the end is a VERY different experience. It’s very sharp and oddly sweet. It’s probably an acquired taste, and if my refrigerator is any indication, the Martini is superior — I’ve gone through about three bottles of cocktail olives in the time it’s taken me to use maybe ten of the onions. The Gibson isn’t bad, but it’s not as good. The olive and and the lemon have stood the test of time, and so the onion must take bronze. Awesome X-Men-esque origin stories aside, I’ll keep my glorious green friends.

Make the Gibson like you would the Martini, but garnish with the onion(s).

Let’s go super-brine now.

 

Dirty Martini
-2 oz Gin
-1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
-1/4 oz Olive Brine
-Green Olive(s)

The Dirty Martini

This is for Martini lovers that love the high seas and want to taste the briney deep. Arr, mateys! Avast, drink this drink with great joy, as it is quite good, and the classy lad who can drink this will have himself many wenches. It’s not for everyone, but if you can enjoy it, it is exceptional.

The Dirty Martini, like the Margarita, is a fantastic use of salty flavor in a cocktail. If you stop and think about it, salt isn’t a flavor you would expect yourself to want in a cocktail. However, it works very well in the right contexts, and this is one of those successes.

Also, if you looked at the picture, you’ll notice that I made this drink on the rocks instead of up. You can make a Martini either way, but on the rocks is very uncommon. It’s probably not that popular because the extra ice dilutes it more than most tastes prefer. And I agree with that — generally you should drink a Martini up. Even so, the mood may strike me to take one on the rocks, so far be it from me to keep you from enjoying the same.

I find that I like a Dirty Martini more on the rocks. Possibly because of the extra dilution, but more likely because of the extra coldness. The ice helps this drink to feel even more like the dark cold depths where an angler fish might be lurking for his cocktail, and I find that very appealing.

So, stir the liquid ingredients with ice, and strain it into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass (or into an empty cocktail glass). Add the olives (spearing them will help you out, because fishing them out of the ice can be difficult once you finish your drink), and enjoy.

Let’s move on.

 

Perfect Martini
-2 oz Gin
-1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
-1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
-Orange Slice

The Perfect Martini

So, in case you didn’t know, “perfect,” when it comes to cocktails, refers to a drink that has equal parts dry and sweet vermouth. It is definitely not the same kind of perfect that your grandmother says you are. Or, maybe it is the same kind of perfect, in which case I’ll drink to that.

So this amber-hued drink uses both types of vermouth. As you might have guessed, it’s sweeter than your standard Martini. However, other than that the two are similar in taste. So, if you try a Martini, and it’s just not sweet enough for you, this is a good choice. Of course, that also makes you a pussy, and I will laugh at you and point. Consider your options carefully; I have a devastating mocking laugh.

This drink is good, but I still prefer the regular Martini to it. If you want to try it, make it like any other Martini, and garnish it with the orange slice. Rim the glass with the slice so that a little bit of juice gets on the rim. Then drop the orange in. You can also perch the slice on the rim of the glass, but dropping it in will affect the taste, whereas keeping it on the side will only affect the aroma and aesthetic — a good garnish always affects the taste of the drink (with the exception of elaborate garnishes that a purely for show).

 

To Be Continued…
Man, I’m kind of like Heroes episodes with all of these cliffhangers, huh? No, I don’t care if that reference was three years too late. But, in any case, I’ll be coming back Friday with four more Martini recipes. Be sure to read then, because these next four do away with the traditional gin base. I’m not sure how much you’ll like it, but I guarantee you it’ll be better than Heroes after the first season.

See you then!


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