Picking up where we left off last time, the Martinez, compounded from sweetened gin and sweet vermouth, is not only an offspring of the Manhattan, but it is also purported to be the antecedent to the Martini. As others have suggested, Gary Regan may have said it best in his seminal work, The Joy of Mixology:
“This drink [the Martinez], I believe, was born of the Manhattan and is the father, or perhaps grandfather, of the Dry Gin Martini”
Gary writes with a terse, lean prose that I tend to veer away from. Anyway, as tastes gradually shifted away from the sweet end of the taste spectrum, Old Tom gin was supplanted with London Dry. Ditto for the vermouth: it came to pass that Italian vermut dolce was overthrown by French vermouth sec. At some point bitters entered into the fray. Mind you, it took some 20 years for this transformation to the dryside to be complete – the first dry Martini recipe seems to have been published in 1906 under the guise of the “Mahoney Cocktail” in Charlie Mahoney’s Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide. This recipe called for equal parts gin and French vermouth. Around the same time, the “Gibson Cocktail” was also being mixed, also calling for a one-to-one ratio of gin-to-vermouth, but sans garnish and bitters (a pickled onion would be added as garnish later).
What this tells us is that vermouth was – and still should be – part and parcel of a Martini. To eschew vermouth when fixing a Martini amounts to pouring yourself a large glass of chilled gin. Bollocks to that. So, who or what do we have to blame for the grievous maltreatment of this cocktail icon?
Prohibition. And macho dudes.
When the US renounced the use and authority of reason and held those who enjoyed a drink in contempt and behind bars, vermouth became a scarcity. The fine imbibing folk of America were forced to choke down cheap – and often quite toxic – hooch.
After Prohibition was rescinded in 1933, along came the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Winston Churchill, and accompanying them, red-blooded, lion-hearted ideals of what masculinity and virility should be.
Hemingway favored a Martini dubbed the “Montgomery” – 15 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. Apparently 15:1 is said to be the ratio Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery preferred when going into battle. Uh huh.
And Churchill, rather than add vermouth, was known to merely bow in the direction of France when making his Martini in homage to its source. Alternative to bowing, he’d just set the vermouth bottle on the window sill and let the sun’s rays pass through the bottle and onto his Martini, thereupon declaring: “that’s dry enough.” His excuse for abstaining from vermouth was something like “France is occupied by Nazis,” but that sounds like bullshit to me.
Continuing the theme of anti-vermouth bullying, Alfred Hitchcock famously said that the closest he wanted to get to a bottle of vermouth was looking at it from across the room. This malevolence spread to the mainstream: Clark Gable’s character in Teacher’s Pet preferred to give the vermouth bottle a quick shake to wet the cork, then simply run the moistened cork around the lip of his cocktail glass. Pffft.
I think it’s worth noting that all of these alleged manly men shared a common trait.
So, it stands to reason that perhaps they were more concerned with the efficient delivery of alcohol to their systems rather than, say, a well-balanced and delicious cocktail.
Thankfully, vermouth-heavier versions, i.e. the classic style, are once again gaining popularity, just like 1990s plaid. Jim Meehan has observed that the Martini is the most protean of cocktails and is an accurate indicator of the tastes of a generation. Lately, I’ve been enjoying my Martinis made 3:1.
- 2¼ oz. Plymouth Gin
- ¾ oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth de Chambery
- 1 dash Regan’s No. 6 Orange bitters
Add the ingredients to your mixing glass, along with a pile of ice cubes. Stir for 30 seconds or so, whilst maintaining what you hope is a manly and confident expression. Try to ignore the purple polish on your fingernails that your daughter applied earlier that day. Once thoroughly chilled and properly diluted, strain into a cocktail…er, “Martini” glass and garnish with a lemon twist. If you prefer olives, may I suggest expressing the oils from the lemon twist over the surface of the drink, rubbing the peel face-down along the rim of the glass, then discarding before adding the olive accoutrement. Best of both worlds. Oh, and if you’re up for something a bit different, maybe try a few caperberries on a pick. Nice.
Martinis are classic for a reason. They’re delicious. As you bring the drink to your mouth, lemon zest, pine and eucalyptus aromas greet you. Maybe hints of lychee too. The first sip brings zingy juniper and lemon intermingling with the white wine flavours of ugni blanc (plummy? herbal? grassy?) and some faint saltiness. The pine flavours linger, along with a bit of a peppery finish. E.B. White was quoted as saying that the Martini was “the elixir of quietude.” Although I lack Mr. White’s talent for poetic musings, it’s hard to disagree with his assessment.
As you know, there are a million variations on the Martini. I’m still experimenting with different ratios, but I encourage you to be confident in your manhood and cast aside any preconceived vermouthaphobia tendencies that you may have. You won’t regret it.
And finally, a Dirty Martini is when you think of gay midget porn whilst drinking a regular Martini.
I think I’ll stop there. May the seed of your loin be fruitful in the belly of your woman,