History of the Martini
California, New York, or London? Where did the martini originate? It seems the answer to that question is not only unclear, but up for debate. There are those that believe it originated in California after the Gold Rush had begun. This group believes it was named after a man named Martinez, even here there is confusion, because some say named after the man named Martinez while others say it was named after the town of Martinez. Either way, it was actually published in The Bartender's Manual of 1880. I had no idea bartender's guides were published that long ago!
Then there is the San Francisco theory. This theory believes it was served at the Occidental Hotel as early as 1860 and travelers heading to Martinez, the town, brought it with them. The gold mining town of Martinez that is.
Remember Martini & Rossi? Surely some of you remember the commercials before they were pulled from TV? They made vermouth and some say that was how the martini got it's name back in the mid-1800s. Of course there is the Manhattan theory. A bartender and Italian immigrant in 1911, in NYC whose first name happened to be Martini, is said to have invented the drink for Nelson D. Rockefeller.
Then there are those that say it originated in London in 1922. Although, some would say it didn't originate then and there, but was perfected then and there.
It's really anybody's guess which story is true. I don't think any of the theories have actually been documented.
“Happiness is…finding two olives in your martini when you’re hungry.”— Johnny Carson
The Martini in America
So, for those drinkers in the audience, they may call the martini the all American cocktail. I have to admit to not being a drinker and never having had a martini, but I read and watch movies so I know about martinis.
Martinis are half gin and half vermouth. Simple as that, except when you're making a "dry martini", in a dry martini there is less vermouth. In fact, in a very dry martini the mixologist may just put vermouth in the glass, swish it around, and dump it out, filling the glass with gin.
On Whatscookingamerica.net the recipe for a classic martini calls for two ounces of gin and one half ounce of dry vermouth. It also adds a large olive and a lemon twist. Did you know a dirty martini is when a bit of olive juice is added?
Due to the popularity of martinis there have been experiments with various additions. For example, you can get an Appletini - a martini with apple juice, apple schnapps, or Sour Apple Pucker (a liquer). How about a Chocolate Martini? Like the Appletini there are different variations on the chocolate theme, like using actual chocolate, creme de cacao, or chocolate liqueur. There's even a chocolate flavored vodka you could now use in place of gin!
According to mensjournal.com, "That there is even a debate still to this day about vodka versus gin martinis speaks volumes about just how versatile and nuanced martinis are, even with so few ingredients."
Good old American know how will continually improve, or destroy, the martini depending on how you look at it.
Do You Like the Variations on Martinis?
Martinis in the Movies
When you think of martinis in the movies, what is the first movie that comes to mind? If you said James Bond, go to the top of the class. In Dr. No, Mr. Bond says he wants his martini "shaken, not stirred." In You Only Live Twice Bond Bond doesn't ask for the martini that is stirred, not shaken, but he makes no comment when he gets it. The first time he actually orders a martini is in Goldfinger. Bond mixes his own martini in the new movie, Spectre.
Back in 1934 William Powell as Nick Charles shows the bartender how to shake a martini. The movie was The Thin Man.
Who can forget the 'home made' martinis in M*A*S*H*. Trapper in reply to Hawkeye asking him if he'd like a martini and giving him one without an olive:
Trapper (Holding it, skeptically): Don't you use olives?
Duke: Olives? Where the hell you think you are, man?
Hawkeye: We do have to make certain concessions to the war. We're three miles from the front line.
Trapper: Yes, but a man really can't savor his martini without an olive, you know. (To their amazement, he pulls out an olive jar from inside his parka.) Otherwise, you see it just doesn't quite (holding an olive over his martini, which he has set on the floor, he aims and drops it) make it.
In the movie You've Got Mail, the main character, Joe mixes two martinis while on the yacht with his father.
In the movie, North by Northwest, Cary Grant orders a martini when he is talking to Eva Marie Saint on the train.
In the Wolf of Wall Street, when Belfort is taken to lunch with his boss, his boss orders two Abolut martinis.
I've certainly not covered all movies with martinis in them, but you get the idea.
Ingredients for Classic Martini
- 2.5 oz Gin
- .5 oz dry vermouth
- olive for garnish
Instructions (What to do with the Ingredients)
- Pour vermouth into a chilled martini glass and swirl, then dump vermouth into a shaker full of ice. Add gin to the vermouth and ice, shake or stir - your choice. Strain into glass and garnish with olive(s).
- Remember to insure your martini is ice cold! (You might want to chill the glass.)
The Perfect Martini Glass
Different Types of Martinis
Above I mentioned two variations on the classic martini. Here is a list of several more:
- The Martinez
- Hemingway Martini
- The Vesper
- Lemon Drop
- Sir Winston Churchill
Just a sampling of the different kinds of martinis. Like the two I listed the paragraph above, there is a variation on the ingredients. For example, The Martinez uses Don Eduardo Reposado, Cointreau, sugar and fresh lime juice. The Lemon Drop uses Skyy Citrus, fresh lime juice, and sugar with a sugar rim. So I would hazard to guess there are as many variations on the martini as there are people.
I guess the sky's the limit if you're a martini person. Oh, don't forget the glass! It isn't a proper martini if it isn't served in a martini glass. Despite what most restaurants and bars use, a martini glass does NOT need to be twelve ounces. The style of the glass is more important. Having a nice long stem to hold onto with that triangular shape, that's what makes a martini glass. While you're at it, you might want to buy a better grade of olive too. A nice Spanish olive would suit.
Gin or Vermouth, Or
Less vermouth than normal
Gin, vodka, Kina Lillet aperitif
Equal parts gin and vermouth
Vodka in place of Gin
Equal parts sweet and dry vermouth
Olive juice (from the jar)
More vermouth than gin
I am certainly not advocating for the martini or any other alcoholic beverage, however, if the martini is your drink of choice, I hope you have found this interesting. As you can see from my opening paragraphs, martinis have been around for a while and it looks like they're here to stay.
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