The martini – Marmite of the cocktail world; people loathe them or love them . I love them. They are a perfect, grown-up, sun-hits-the-yardarm 6 o’clock cocktail. They make me feel sophisticated (unfortunately after a couple I am perhaps anything but). I think they are honest and straightforward drinks. They don’t purport to be anything other than that which they are – down the line and STRONG.
I’d like to be offered one in the drawing room of Ina Garten’s house in the Hamptons; it’s just turned six and it’s time for pre dinner drinks and you KNOW she’s going to give you something good to snack on. Alternatively a Gatsby-esque party would be good. Failing all that, my lounge will do.
Evidently I’m not talking about the kind of martini you get served by roller-skating waitresses in little skirts – incidentally Martini and lemonade was Ria’s (little sis) first foray into alcohol. That’s all she would drink, she completely bypassed the Archers and Mirages of this world, ignored Strongbow and Mad dog 20/20 and went straight for a Cinzano and lemonade. Vermouth is, of course, a really important part of a martini but I prefer mine with a little gin!
Despite the fact there are essentially only two ingredients in a good martini you may find that lots of places don’t make the kind of martini that you want to drink – unless you are prepared to be really prescriptive with a good bartender, I don’t really have a problem with that. There are so many arguments about what makes a perfect martini; essentially I think the perfect martini for you may apply only to you, a concept rather than a recipe to follow.
The four decisions to make in constructing the classic martini are
- Shaken or stirred?
- Sweet or dry vermouth?
- Ratio of gin to vermouth
- What to garnish it with.
Noel Coward described the perfect martini as “filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy”, suggesting the less vermouth the better the drink.
Somerset Maugham was of the opinion that “Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other” famously unlike one Mr.James Bond. Incidentally Bond started off drinking Vespers – a mix of vodka and gin in a 3:1 ratio, shaken with half a measure of Kina Lillet aperitif. He moves on to Vodka Martinis in Live and Let die.
Churchill liked a martini, but during the war when supplies of French vermouth were hard to get hold of he filled his glass with cold gin and nodded in the direction of France – that is DRY and to this day we know that drink as a Churchill Martini.
According to some experts, any drinks that only contain liquor, like a martini (that is no citrus, egg, sugar syrup, cream or other viscous fluid) should be stirred and not shaken, it’s easier to monitor the water content being provided by the ice. Others argue that a really high ratio Martini – that is mostly gin and a tiny amount of vermouth – should be shaken to take the edge off the biting alcohol.
I like mine relatively dry; I stir it and depending on my mood/what’s in the fridge, have it with a twist or an olive.
What follows is what I like in a martini. Give it a go. Play around with the amount of vermouth or how you mix it or with any part of it and find out what you like.
MY perfect dry martini
-A mixing vessel that you can stir briskly in, perhaps the bottom part of your cocktail shaker
-Something to stir with
-Gin 3 oz- (I’m currently drinking Plymouth Gin and I think it makes a great martini)
-Vermouth 1/2 oz –(I tend to use Noilly Prat because we always have it for cooking fishy things, though some may find it too “briny”. Martini extra dry is pretty neutral and lets the gin shine)
- SO it’s a 6:1 martini for those of you that care.
Put some ice in your mixing vessel.
Pour the vermouth into your martini glass, roll it around so it coats the sides and pour it off into the mixing glass onto the ice.
Add the gin to the ice and vermouth.
Stir briskly for about 20 seconds (I don’t want too much ice to melt to dilute the drink, but want some to soften it a little).
Pour into you martini glass and serve with a twist of lemon peel or a lovely olive.
For a Gibson- add a cocktail onion.
Make it dirty with a little olive brine.
Add a couple of drops of bitters to the glass and see how you like that.
Make it with vodka and not gin- don’t let any tell you what you should or shouldn’t be drinking…
Remember what they say,one is alright, two is too many and three is not enough ( James Thurber).
Or as Dorothy Parker put it:
I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.