Regardless of whether you like it shaken or stirred, today will appeal to anybody who loves the classic combination of gin and vermouth. June 19 is National Dry Martini Day!
A martini can be either sweet or dry, depending on the vermouth. The original recipe calls for half gin, half vermouth (an Italian wine), and either a green olive or a twist of lemon. Over the years the ratio of gin to vermouth has steadily increased; in the 1930s it was 3:1 or 4:1, and nowadays, it’s more like 6:1 or 8:1, if that. English playwright Noël Coward once declared the perfect martini was made by “filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy,” while Winston Churchill was said to merely whisper the word “vermouth” to a freshly poured glass of gin. Further complicating matters is the fact that vodka began replacing gin as the base spirit in the martini in the 1980s, though purists scoff at this notion.
Like many well-known alcoholic beverages, the origin of the martini is unclear, with several people laying claim to its invention. An Italian company began manufacturing vermouth in 1863 under the name Martini, which later evolved to Martini & Rossi. Around the same time, a popular drink in San Francisco called the Martinez is said to be the inspiration for the martini; it consisted of 1 oz. gin, 2 oz. sweet vermouth, 1 dash oranges bitters, 2 dashes maraschino liqueur, served in a cocktail glass with a slice of lemon. Residents of the nearby town of Martinez would flock to the Occidental Hotel for the drink before taking a ferry back home. Many believe the drink was either named for the town, or the town for the drink. Residents of Manhattan can relate. Regardless of its true origin, the martini became the cocktail of choice in America by the mid-20th century, thanks in large part to Prohibition, when it was fairly easy to whip up a batch of illegal gin. By the 1970s the drink was viewed as old-fashioned and fell out of favor, but it has experienced a resurgence in recent years, even if it does often contain vodka now.
I love gin, so there was no way I was going to become a sellout and go the vodka route. I’d never actually had a martini before, but after picking up a bottle of dry vermouth, was all set to make my own. I went all James Bond and served it shaken, not stirred. Took one sip, and………….
………….nearly spit it out.
Holy cow, was that disgusting! I love my gin and tonics, but it turns out gin straight up with a splash of vermouth is not so appealing. Oh, well. Live and learn. Fortunately our rules state that we only need a single sip or bite of the celebrated food/drink. I did take another good-sized sip ten minutes later to see if it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d thought the first time.
It still was.
Oh, well. Live and learn. But the olive was tasty.