I was a child of the ‘80s. Thank God I was not old enough to drink. For some reason, America completely lost their memory of their traditional cocktail heritage and fell into a dark age of domestic beers and fruit ‘martinis’; essentially anything in a cocktail glass was a ‘martini.’ Ugh. Mercifully, we have returned from that miserable era to a more sophisticated time. However, some bars still have a ‘-tini’ section on their menus- mostly fruity or chocolate undrinkable nightmares. So let the FWL educate you on that most wonderful American invention this side of the light bulb: The Martini.
One - There is no fruit juice, chocolate, coffee, syrup, or even bitters in a martini. Yes, that’s right, the martini may be presented in a cocktail glass, but, unlike its close relative the Martinez (gin, vermouth, maraschino, bitters), the martini itself is not a cocktail. In its true form it only has two ingredients: 5 to 1, gin to French (dry) vermouth. (Classically, the ratio is 6 to 1, however most bartenders prefer to give modern palates a bit of a gin break).
Two - There are only two exceptions to the two ingredient rule. An olive wash in the cocktail glass prior to the alcohol strained into it. This is known as a Dirty Martini due to the briny olive tint to the drink. (For God’s sake, don’t pour olive brine into an already made martini!) A smoky scotch wash (like Laphroaig or Ardbeg) is also a classic touch; this is known as a Burnt Martini.
Three - A Perfect Martini is the same recipe as the traditional martini, however the vermouth added is half French (dry) vermouth and half Italian (sweet) vermouth.
Four - Ordering a Dry Martini at a real bar will not get you dry vermouth (you will ALWAYS get dry vermouth). Instead you are telling the bartender that you want your gin to vermouth ratio at 7 to 1 or higher. An Extra Dry Martini should only entail a vermouth wash. A Wet Martini drops the ratio to 4 to 1 or less.
Five - You always stir a martini. James Bond isn’t a freaking bartender, and we stopped listening to Brits telling us how to do stuff circa 1776. The martini is smooth, sophisticated, and strong. If you shake it, it will be cloudy, ice-sharded, and watered-down. Barf.
Six - There is NO vodka in a martini. Vodka and vermouth is an old drink known as a Kangaroo. Why a kangaroo? Not sure, but probably the terrible name (who wants to drink a Kangaroo?) was used to discourage you from replacing the gin of your perfectly-fine martini.
Seven - There are three acceptable garnishes for the martini. The olive, stuffed or unstuffed. A two olive garnish makes the drink now a Franklin Martini. The pearl onion, whose addition makes your drink a Gibson. The citrus twist, traditionally lemon, but lime or orange can add interest.
Eight - They should NEVER be ordered ‘on the rocks.’ If you have to order your martini on the rocks, order something else.
Nine - Martinis do not have to be served in a cocktail glass. In fact, if we threw them in coupes, maybe the dumb ‘-tini’ menus would stop.
Ten - Gin and vermouth together makes a great base for other flavors- juice, bitters, tonic, chocolates, amari, syrups, and a host of others. If a martini is too bracing for you, go ahead and add other flavors to it- that’s totally cool. Just don’t return to the ‘80s and slap ‘tini’ or martini to the end of the drink’s name. Come up with something original and fun, like the following...
Holly’s Originals Series
2 ounces gin (we used Tanqueray)
1 ounce Italian (sweet) vermouth
1 ½ ounces strawberry-rhubarb syrup
1 dropper of Bittercube Jamaica #2 bitters
Add all ingredients in a stirring vessel with ice. Stir vigorously for 30-40 revolutions. Strain into your glass of choice. Garnish with lemon or mint.