“One martini is alright. Two are too many, and three are not enough.” – James Thurber
One of the more civilized things a person can do is to enjoy a cocktail (or two) before dinner. Five o’clock heralds the beginning of our cocktail hour, and we each prefer a martini. We seldom miss our appointment, and if we do miss it due to other obligations, yours truly can get a little pissy.
A designated cocktail hour gives us permission to start drinking as if we actually need an excuse. It’s something to look forward to, so in the early afternoon I start watching the clock and begin the countdown.
Within the context of entertaining, cocktails before dinner are a great starter. Not only are they an aperitif, but they have a way of getting things rolling. They lubricate the conversation, lower personal inhibitions, and can serve as a socioeconomic equalizer.
Although there are many cocktails to choose from, I personally think the best choice is the martini. It’s relatively simple to make (only two basic ingredients), and it’s light, refreshing, and delicious on the palate. It’s served in one of those wonderfully shaped glasses, which are absolutely the height of sophistication.
There are basically two types made with either gin or vodka. Gin has a bit more taste, although this can actually serve as a deterrent. To some, it tastes a bit like tree sap while the taste of vodka is more subtle. Once this choice is made, the brand of the base liquor is very important as is the choice of the dry vermouth.
The martini aficionado must now determine the wet/dry proportions of the drink. A “wet” martini has more vermouth than base liquor, while a “dry” martini has more of the base liquor. The wet variety is often called an Upside-down Martini or Reverse Martini. Julia Childs loved these, and her recipe called for ¾ oz. of gin with 3¾ oz. of vermouth. This is a bit too wet for me, but I’ve never been one to argue the decisions of Julia Childs.
Some other examples of the wet/dry spectrum are as follows:
- A Delicate Martini is 2:1 vermouth to gin
- The Fifty-fifty Martini is equal parts gin and vermouth
- My Favorite Martini is 2:1 gin to vermouth
- The Classic Martini is 3 or 4:1 mix
- A Dry Martini is greater than the 4:1 mix
- To mix it Extra Dry add only a few drops of vermouth to the gin
- For an Essence Martini add the vermouth to the glass, swirl it around and pour it out, and then add the gin
- The Secret Martini – gargle with vermouth, spit it out and then whisper the word “vermouth” over the top of the gin
- A Zen Martini is a martini with no vermouth at all. And no gin either.
Shaken or stirred? Ah, this is where James Bond and I part company. I like mine stirred. I usually find splinters of ice in my cocktail when it is shaken, and some say shaking the blend can actually bruise the vermouth, so for aesthetic reasons, I carefully stir mine.
If the simplicity bores you, you can trick out your martini in a number of ways. The most common is to add olive(s) and/or olive juice, making your martini “dirty.” Olive juice can be purchased. Julia Childs also liked to add capers and a bit of caper juice to hers. With a dash of bitters, one can add spice, and there is a myriad of recipes for the flavored varieties – but to my tastes, the simpler, the better.
Well, all of this exhaustive research has made me thirsty. As I look at the clock, I see it isn’t five o’clock yet, but as the Jimmy Buffett saying goes, “It’s five o’clock somewhere.”
My Secrets In Preparing A Great Martini
I like my mine mixed with Hendrick’s gin and Dolin Dry Vermouth. I chill everything beforehand. As a matter of fact, there’s a part of our freezer reserved for drink equipment and glasses.
- I carefully measure and pour the ingredients into the chilled cocktail shaker, which has been filled half full of ice cubes.
- I insert the stirring spoon between the ice and the walls of the shaker and stir a total of thirty 180-degree motions.
- I strain into a classic glass that’s been prepped by having a piece of lemon rind folded over, and pith side is rubbed along the rim of the glass.
- I take the same lemon rind, and between my thumb and forefinger, I rub the two sides together, so the oils drift down and rest on top of the cocktail.
- I garnish it with a separate piece of lemon rind, and there you have it – perfection.