Savored at the Commodore Club on the Queen Mary II or in the hand of Fred Astaire in a toast to his newest venture, the simple, icy cold martini has long been considered the quintessential American cocktail. It is sleek and elegant and even the conical shape of the martini glass evokes sophistication.
Much has been written about the origin and history of the martini. Perhaps the most well documented is its first appearance at the old Knickerbocker Hotel in New York in 1910, the creation of its head bartender Martini di Arma de Taggia. Its first imbiber is reported to have been John D. Rockefeller. A British journalist, John Doxat, having made an exhaustive study of martini history, asserts also, that the mix at that time was half gin and half dry vermouth.
The concoction became highly popular and other bartenders began to invent their own versions of the drink. Its evolution saw drier and drier combinations until today, the popular mix seems to be 5 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. There are those who, preferring the “driest” martini, are simply content to whisper the word “martini” across the glass. Winston Churchill used to simply bow in the direction of France when he made his martini. True aficionados, however, insist upon at least a modicum of dry vermouth.
In addition to Winston Churchill, many famous historical and fictional figures are associated with the martini—Ernest Hemingway, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Cary Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Truman Capote and the list goes on. Clearly the most famous fictional character to prefer the martini is James Bond, whose martini was not a martini at all, but was made with vodka and “shaken, not stirred,” in the movies, anyway, although not in Ian Fleming’s books. Purists would call this a “vodkatini.”
What is the proper way to make a martini? According to Anthony Dias Blue, a leading food and wine expert, first of all, chill the martini glass and the mixing glass. Fill the chilled glass with ice cubes, never crushed ice. Pour in 2 ½ oz. gin and ½ oz.dry vermouth. Stir at least 30 seconds. Strain into martini glass and add a high quality green olive or a twist of lemon peel.
This is my no means the definitive classic martini. As I mentioned, some like it shaken, some like it drier or wetter, and then there are the many newer, sometimes neon-colored variations sporting fruit juices, liqueurs and aperitifs.
Coming your way every day this coming week is a medley of martinis, all of which, I hope you will find delicious. What you most assuredly will find tantalizing are the photos by my collaborator, food photographer extraordinaire, Bill Brady.
Moulin Rouge Martini
1 ½ oz. sloe gin
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura bitters
Fill chilled shaker half full with cracked ice. Add ingredients. Stir and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
The sloe is a small wild plum. Therefore, the liqueur made from it is not a gin at all. Sloe gin has the enticing flavor of wild cherry and bitter almond. Bright red and medium sweet, it is used in mixed drinks and rarely consumed on its own.
Look at the world through rose-colored glasses!
Singapore Sling Martini
The classic Singapore Sling cocktail was created by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915 at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Originally a tall drink, this is the martini version.
1 ½ oz. gin
1 oz. cherry brandy
Juice of ½ lemon
½ oz sugar syrup
Optional: dash of Benedictine
Combine ingredients in a chilled shaker half filled with cracked ice. Stir and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a thin twist of lemon peel. You’re going to fall in love with it!
The Brindle Martini
4 oz. Bulldog Gin
1 oz. Elderflower Syrup
¾ oz. Simple Syrup
½ oz. Crème de Cassis
Fill a chilled shaker with ice cubes
and add gin, Elderflower Syrup and
simple syrup. Shake vigorously and
strain into a chilled martini glass. Add
Crème de Cassis and garnish with sage leaves.
Elderflower Syrup can be purchased at
specialty food stores and online. Simple
syrup can be made by mixing water and
sugar in equal amounts, bringing to a boil
and simmering for 10 minutes or until sugar
has dissolved and mixture has slightly thickened.
Store in refrigerator.
The Belvedere Martini
3 oz. Belvedere Vodka
1 oz. dry vermouth
Fill a cocktail glass with ice and water and place in freezer for a few minutes. Combine ingredients in a chilled shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Empty cocktail glass and strain martini into it. Garnish with an olive or two.
Variation: The Dirty Belvedere
Add a splash of olive juice to the Belvedere Martini before shaking. Garnish with blue cheese stuffed olives.
Key Lime Martini
Recipes for Key Lime martinis abound. Some contain vodka, some gin. Also, to simulate the flavors of a key lime pie, some have you add cream and dip the glass into fine graham cracker crumbs. Here are two favorites that are both tart and refreshing.
Key Lime Martini #1
2 oz. Charbay Key Lime vodka
2 oz. fresh sweetened lime juice
A key lime
Shake vodka and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice cubes. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Rub rim with cut lime and dip into superfine sugar. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Key Lime Martini #2
1 key lime
2 oz .vanilla vodka
¾ oz. Licor 43*
Splash of pineapple juice
Cut a wedge of the key lime for garnish. Rub another wedge on rim of a chilled martini glass. Dip glass into sugar. Squeeze the remainder of the wedge into a shaker filled with cracked ice.. Add vodka, Licor 43 and splash of pineapple juice. Stir and strain into the sugar rimmed martini glass. Garnish with wedge of lime.
*Licor 43 is a Spanish liqueur made of citrus and fruit juices flavored with 43 aromatic herbs and spices, including vanilla.
Muddled Strawberry Ginger Martini
3 medium strawberries
1 oz. gin
2 oz. Domaine de Canton Liqueur
Squeeze of fresh lime wedge
Muddle strawberries in the bottom of a shaker. Add cracked ice, gin, Canton liqueur and lime juice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a thin twist of lime zest.