The cocktail is an art form that peaked in the middle of the 20th century and has been in rapid decline since. As a young lad, I was schooled in the fine art of cocktailing by my father and grandfathers, I learned many valuable lessons that I plan to pass on. I also want to resurrect some of the old classics that vastly surpass the sugary & fruity concoctions made today with their simplicity, elegance and bold flavors. Most of the time I will focus on one drink, and to provide, at least in my opinion, the definitive recipe, but hope to expand to other related topics as I see fit. Please mix yourself a cocktail, read, drink, and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Dirty Martini

In a very scientific poll I recently conducted, I was quite surprised by the landslide majority of people who prefer the Dirty Martini over all others. While I am also a fan, I didn’t realize so many others were too, but who wouldn’t like a little salty brine in their cocktail?

If you thought the history of the Martini was light, the facts of this one will prove to be nothing more than a speed bump on the path to your next drink. The best I could come up with, after months of research was a vague reference to Russians adding pickle brine to their vodka as a hangover cure. Another reference simply stated that it can be traced back to the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, like that has any relevance. So I am going to take this opportunity to write my own history for the drink.

A product of the Yalta conference, the Dirty Martini was slightly overshadowed by other world changing moments. The drink came about one morning when FDR commented to Stalin that he was feeling a little hung-over. Joseph, being the caring and compassionate man he was, suggested his favorite morning cure-all of vodka and pickle juice. Regrettably, neither pickles nor vodka had been served with breakfast that morning. Fortunately, Churchill, being a man of the sauce, reached into his valise and produced a bottle of gin and a jar of olives.Dumping the coffee out the window and using the silver coffee pot as a makeshift shaker he quickly fashioned a batch of cocktails, tinted slightly dark (or dirty) by the remaining coffee. The three of them unanimously proclaimed the recipe a victory and the rest is history.

Enough poetic license, on to the important part. Like the Martini, the proper ratio depends on the palate of the imbiber. I prefer two and one half ounces of Plymouth gin mixed with one-fourth ounce of dry vermouth and one-half ounce of olive brine. This drink falls into a grey area for my translucence test since the brine does make the drink slightly cloudy. I typically shake this one because of its ease and I like the tiny slivers of ice that come through the strainer. I also prefer bleu cheese stuffed olives in this drink. With your first sip, just imagine what the fate of post-war Germany could have been had FDR been hung-over.

Dirty Martini
2 ½ oz gin
½ oz olive brine
¼ oz dry vermouth
Add all three ingredients to an ice filled shaker. Mix vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with three olives.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Martini

I know it’s been a while; in fact it’s been an eternity. In a feeble attempt to make up for leaving you all to your own alcoholic devices, I have a true classic for you. The cocktail by which all others are judged, the Martini. More specifically the dry Martini.

For a cocktail whose reputation far precedes it, information on the exact origin of this drink is sparse at best. A few theories exist, none standing out as the most likely or reliable. The most popular is that it is a variation on the Martinez, which I plan to cover in the very near future. The Martinez was made with gin, maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth and bitters. By the late 1800s this evolved into a mixture of gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters that became known as the Martini. The drink gained popularity during prohibition when bath tub gin was one of the more readily available spirits.

In practice today, the bitters have been eliminated and the cocktail is a simply elegant combination of two ingredients, gin and vermouth. The debate rages about the proper ratio between the two ranging from 7:1 to 2:1. The truly perfect Martini though is in the eye of the drink-holder. Of course I will give you my humble opinion, but I encourage you to experiment for yourself. The other great Martini debate is whether to shake or stir. There are arguments for both, the James Bond defense not being one of them. The rule of thumb I use is translucence, if you are using dark or cloudy ingredients it doesn’t matter, if they are clear though the agitation of shaking the mixture makes it cloudy, it doesn’t alter the taste only the appearance. Shaking does seem to cool the liquids faster though, so I recommend chilling your glasses, your pitcher and your ingredients if you plan to stir. On the plus side, stirring seems to leaves a slight velvety feeling on the drink.

Enough already, let’s get to the good stuff (who knew I could be so long winded for a drink with two ingredients). Start with your chilled pitcher and your favorite gin, I’m pouring Plymouth. Measure a precise two and one-half ounces and gently pour it into the pitcher. Pour in one-half ounce of dry vermouth (for the mathematically challenged that is a five to one ratio), add ice and stir. When you feel the mixture is properly combined and chilled, pour it into an ice-cold cocktail glass and garnish with three olives of your choice.

2 ½ oz gin
½ oz dry vermouth
Combine both ingredients in a chilled pitcher with ice, stir. Strain into a chilled glass. Serve with three olives.