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Why You Need to Know How to Make a Martini

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September 30, 2020

So you went to college. Among the things they don’t teach you when you’re chugging lousy keg beer while standing on your head is a marketable, and sometimes profitable skill: how to make a proper martini. Interesting people know how to make martinis because interesting people drink martinis. It stands atop the list of iconic drinks for a reason. H.L. Mencken called it “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet” and who are we to argue? There will come a time, whether it’s at your boss’ dinner party or when hosting your own where being able to confidently mix a pitcher of martinis will score you some major points and the admiration of your fellow guests. So let’s start with the basics: gin or vodka? The purists will say that the only true martini is one with gin. Let those persnickety drinkers think that. If you’ve ever had a good vodka martini you know there’s nothing wrong with a new take on an old classic. No home bar is complete without vermouth (sweet and, in this case, dry) and garnishes.  These days vermouth has gone out of style. The original martini recipe called for two parts gin to one part dry vermouth. These days, most drinkers expect a dry martini, making the ratio more like 4-to-1 or 5-to-1. A request for a “dry martini” might mean just a few drops of vermouth, or coating the glass and then dumping it out before adding the gin or vodka. We’re not here to judge the dry martini drinker, it’s their prerogative. But classics are classic for a reason so don’t be scared of the vermouth. There are other fun words associated with the martini order. A “perfect” martini refers to one with equal parts gin or vodka and vermouth. The dirty martini adds juice from the olive garnish. Like other classic cocktails, they can be served neat (room temperature), up (chilled, with the ice strained) and on the rocks (over ice). Traditional garnishes are olives or a twist of lemon. If you don’t want to waste an entire lemon for just one peel, there’s a handy bartender trick: press and roll the lemon before cutting it and the pulp separates from the rind more easily, leaving you with a clean twist garnish.  A martini fun fact: James Bond’s famous order of a vodka martini “shaken, not stirred” is actually pretty lame. It might sound fancy, but classy bartenders will always stir martinis with a cocktail spoon that is designed not to chip the ice. Shaking the martini causes the ice cubes to break, and thus waters down the drink. James Bond is ordering a watery martini – and being snooty about it. Much has been made about the origins of the martini. An early version of it appeared in a bartenders guide in 1887, and was originally popular in the Bay Area, home to Martinez, California. Locals there claim the name was derived from their town (martini/Martinez) but it’s just as likely that it was named after the Martini brand of vermouth. Knowing how to pour a good martini is among the toughest tests any bartender, professional or amateur, needs to master. There’s nowhere to hide, no fillers to mask an uneven pour or a cheap brand of liquor. Either you nail it or you don’t. But when you get it right, it’s a thing of beauty. We’re not saying that a good martini will make you into the Great Gatsby, but does anyone think Gatsby wouldn’t know how to pour a good martini? We rest our case.

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