The Ten ‘Rules’ of Martinis
At some point I had to tell my friends and family that I was putting a moratorium on martini-related gifts. I had too many glasses, fancy toothpicks for garnishes, novelty shakers, books about the cocktail, etc. It was getting ridiculous. So, I’m claiming expertise. And here are some of my personal gripes about martini culture.
One: Any drink in a martini glass is not a martini
A martini is a cocktail made with gin or vodka and dry vermouth. Garnished with olives or a lemon twist. It is not a fruity drink or the abomination known as an espresso martini. No, no, no.
Two: The meaning of ‘dry’
A dry martini has a splash of vermouth, an extra dry martini has a little less. But there must be vermouth, otherwise it is a chilled glass of vodka or gin. Don’t make me have to tell you this when I order.
Vermouth is a fortified wine flavored with herbs, basically an amaro. Dry vermouth is not sweet. Sweet vermouth is never used in martinis but it shines in Manhattans and Negronis, two more classic cocktails.
If you like martinis, do yourself a favor and try a premium vermouth. You’ll be shocked by the difference. And never use vermouth from the US. It should come from France or Italy.
Three: Gin is not poison
I know many people believe they have some kind of allergy to gin that makes them feel like shit after drinking a classic gin martini, or two. It is more likely they are responding to the fact that top shelf gin is 94 proof as compared to other liquors topping out at 80 proof. And the drink is all alcohol.
That’s a lot more alcohol. It’s strong and you will notice the difference. These days I tend to drink vodka martinis, though I do like good gin.
Four: Classic English gin only please
Now that many states have eased limitations on opening craft distilleries, there are things calling themselves gin that I can only describe as hipsters trying to outdo each other with unique flavors that end up smelling like cheap perfume and tasting like crap. The first time a friend made me one with some ‘artisan’ gin she had picked up on a wine tour I literally did a spit take.
Yes, I sprayed it. Wtf? Classic English gin, the good stuff only please. And never use cheap gin. That will hurt you. I know.
Beefeater. Bombay. Hendrix. Plymouth.
There are two acceptable garnishes for martinis: green olives or lemon peel. Preferably one olive, not three. I drink mine up twist. And, about those stuffed olives. I was served a martini in a Russian caviar bar in a casino in Vegas while waiting for a show. It tasted weird.
The olive was stuffed with a pickled sardine, which I hate. If you must have three olives stuffed with blue cheese, you are ordering an appetizer, not a cocktail. And BTW, if the garnish is pickled onion, the drink is called a Gibson. But they are basically extinct.
Also, I hated Las Vegas.
Six: Do not serve me a martini in a coupe
A martini glass is called a martini glass for a reason. Do not serve them in the trendy glass of the day. Nor should they be on the rocks unless it is blazing hot and you are on a boat. No one can not spill an up martini on a boat that is moving.
I invented, in my head, an unspillable martini glass once. Maybe I should do something with that. Nope.
Seven: I should never have to explain to a bartender how to make a martini
But I have had to. Once in a kid bar and a second time in Paris, where the young bartender’s eyes grew wide as I told her how much ice to use (they hate to put enough ice in drinks) and then wider as I coached her on how much booze the pour had. That was fun.
But seriously, don’t call yourself a bartender if you can’t be bothered to learn the most rudimentary classic cocktails, most of which have two or three ingredients plus a garnish. No excuse for not knowing how to make a drink with three ingredients.
Eight: I do not care about shaken versus stirred
There is no such thing as bruising the gin and some shards of ice are perfectly acceptable. No one would taste the difference between stirring and shaking if their eyes were closed.
I watched a hipster bartender, during the height of the craft cocktail nonsense, shaking my drink and visibly counting the shakes. When I asked him if he was counting, he said yes, it must be thirty shakes. I laughed out loud.
Oh, and this drove his fellow bartenders crazy when it was busy because he took way too long to make a drink. Thank god that craft cocktail stuff is bygone.
Nine: I invented a classic cocktail
I called it a cloud martini because it had a surface like a cloud. To make it you replace the vermouth with aged peaty single malt scotch, just a splash, and garnish with a lemon twist. It’s good but it didn’t catch on. Too sophisticated I guess.
And, when a customer orders a twist it is always lemon peel, not lime or orange. And if there is any fruit on the lemon the drink will be ruined. Not sure why but maybe the citric acid is the culprit. Again, you only see this in kid bars where I’m the only one not drinking a beer.
Ten: Drink what you like, not what I tell you
Or don’t drink at all. This is entertainment, not an arcane art. If you want an espresso martini, that likely has no espresso in it, or anything else, enjoy.
So much for the ‘rules’
I hope you know this is tongue in cheek, but maybe you now know what a real martini is. And how we fetishize things in our bored culture way beyond practicality (thirty shakes, really?).
The primary rule of a martini is that it must be cold as hell. Thank you.