First things first. The Martini is to be respected. It is a complex yet simple to make classic that is meant to be savored, not chugged or “shot.” A Martini, or a Dry Martini, to be more precise, is composed of Gin, Dry Vermouth and Orange Bitters. No more, no less.
If exotic flavors that help mask the alcohol as you attempt to sneak it past your tongue are more your thing, then the Martini is not for you. If you are a Martini person or wish to become one, here are five rules to live by.
Oh, while we’re on the respect-the-Martini note, let me add: no words should ever precede Martini on a menu other than classic or dry. And if the menu you are reading uses “-tini” as a suffix (“Appletini,” for instance) just get a Scotch on the Rocks. Or better yet, run.
1. Martinis aren’t made from vodka like bacon isn’t made from turkey. That’s not to say that a cold glass of vodka can’t be pleasant; just don’t call it a Martini. Did you really think they went to the trouble to name a cold glass of vodka?
2. James Bond had it wrong. He was trying to be flashy and distracting; he was not trying to get the best drink possible because if he were, he would order his Martini Stirred and Never Shaken. It has to do with texture; when you shake a drink, you aerate it and create millions of tiny bubbles. But a Martini should be silky smooth and elegant. It should coat the palate and give a full, rich mouthfeel.
Unlearn and remember: stirred not shaken.
3. Vermouth is your friend. Now this rule really depends on what kind of bar you’re in. Look at your bartender and ask these simple questions: Does he have a mustache, tattoos, or a vest? If you answered yes to all three, there is still one question that must qualify the rest: Does he look more like 1992 or 1892? If the answer is 1892, then you are in a “vermouth is your friend” bar. Not that they are superior, but they’re just more likely to go through lots of vermouth, which is a good thing, because the delicious stuff goes bad fast. So go for it! Hell, I go equal parts if the vermouth is good enough. If you’re in the 1992 bar, chances are that the half-empty insect-ridden bottle had to be dusted off before being cracked open. It’s this kind of abuse that made the whole world switch to extra-extra dry Martinis. And in a 1992 bar, you probably should too.
4. Know your gin. Think about it. Is citrusy and bold (Tanqueray, Beefeater) more your style, or floral (Martin Miller’s, Citadelle)? What about dryer (Bombay Sapphire) or sweeter (Hendrick’s)? Or maybe you just like a pine bomb (Junipero)? This should also help guide your choice of garniture—earthier gins might do well with olives, but most would be best served with a lemon peel. (I know the olive has become iconic but… oh, whatever, go ahead!)
5. Enjoy. Enough didactic lecturing, just relax and enjoy! Bottom line is that the perfect martini is the one you like best.
Dry Martini (How I Like it)
2 ¼ oz. Plymouth Gin
¾ oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
1 dash of Angostura orange bitters (not the original aromatic kind)
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass and strain into a martini glass. Express oils* from a lemon peel and place in drink.
*To express oils, take a section of peel from a lemon, getting as little pith (white part) as possible. Squeeze the peel, yellow side facing drink, so that aromatic oils scent the drink. Trust me, the ladies will love it.