The martini is an iconoclastic drink.’ The fuel in Winston Churchill’s belly and the preferred lunch for many ’60s businessmen, the martini speaks of class and elegance. It is, coincidentally, delicious in its original form.

However in these trying times, the martini has been bastardized. What once was a derivative of the Martinez, a drink created as a celebration by a gold rush miner who struck it rich, it has become predominantly a suffix. Apple-tini. Watermelon-tini. Everything but the kitchen sink’-tini.

What once was a humble, minimalistic drink has become a behemoth of cheap mixes and odd flavor combinations. I say that we should bring back the classic martini! But what, exactly, is the original martini? The pint half full brings you: the Martini Special.
I will spare you the brunt of my wrath concerning fruit and frou-frou drink amalgamations that have been dubbed ‘martinis.’

Also, I will contain my fury relating to the martini being made primarily with vodka.
At its roots, the martini is a gin drink. A good martini must start with a good gin. A martini, as I said before, doesn’t have many parts to it. It has two: gin and vermouth (more on the quantity of vermouth later). That’s all. So, if you get a cheap gin, it shows. In a painful, wake-up-without-pants kind of way.

I typically make my martinis with a classic London dry gin: Bombay Sapphire. It isn’t too expensive and it makes a mean martini. If you wanted something cheaper, Beefeater is a respectable choice.

I’d say you could use Gordon’s as well, but it is a bit too rough around the edges to use in a martini. Just use Gordon’s in a gin and tonic (an equally as awesome drink).

Next is the quantity of vermouth used in a martini. Winston Churchill was a great man in terms of drinking attributes, cigar smoking panache and sheer wit.

His preference in terms of a martini was, in essence, 2 oz. of gin stirred (more on this later) over ice and poured into a martini glass with only the faintest glance at a bottle of vermouth.

Many bartenders these days just pour some vermouth over ice and then pour it out of the shaker. While I endeavor to be (or at least channel) Winston Churchill at every single moment in my life, I unfortunately disagree with the British Bulldog.

I like my martini to be more than just a cold glass of gin. So a good measure of vermouth (that actually stays in the drink) is important. Really, I can’t honestly suggest an amount to you as it is pretty much personal taste.

If you like a sweeter drink, a healthy dose of vermouth is in order. If you prefer it less sweet, reduce it.

But it’s important to have in there. The flavor combination of the gin and vermouth is really tasty.

Finally comes the age old question: shaken or stirred. We know the preference of the top British secret agent James Bond, and I am inclined to agree with him.

A lot of cocktail ‘experts’ say that shaking ‘bruises’ the gin, or alters the taste. As a chemical engineer, I don’t hold much stock in this theory. Alcohol is a particular kind of solvent, called a polar solvent. While it’s not like the famous bear, it pretty much means that it will dissolve polar substances, like salts.

Water is another famous polar solvent. Fats and oils, like the essential oils from the botanicals in gin, do not dissolve in alcohol. Try dissolving oil in water. Doesn’t work, does it? I guess the theory behind ‘bruising’ is that the oils in the gin may come out of suspension but, since they are unhappy bedfellows to begin with, this was probably going to happen anyway once the gin gets cold enough (like trying to dissolve sugar in cold tea, the oils will fall out of suspension like the sugar you find at the bottom of the glass).

Anyway, science mumbo-jumbo aside, this is really personal preference. I don’t think it will do too much to the gin whichever way you go, so shake or stir to your hearts content.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen – the not very precise but appropriate recipe for the classic martini. Go out and try one! You might be pleasantly surprised how two ingredients can taste so very good.

As always, e-mail is at the bottom of the column. Give me a shout if you end up trying a martini and liking it. Or not liking it. Either or.

Spolverino is a member of the class of 2010.
His e-mail address is scott.spolverino@rochester.edu



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