THE MARTINI HITS 100!
The Martini Hits 100!
From martinez to chocolatini: A retrospective.
This year is as good as any to celebrate the centennial of the dry gin martini, though we'll probably never know exactly when the world's most sophisticated cocktail was born. What we do know is that it was invented sometime between 1895 and 1905, and that it is probably a variation of its dark-liquored cousin, the Manhattan. But before you read on, go fix yourself a martini right now, and sip it as you learn about the evolution of America's classic cocktail, and how the drink has evolved over the past 100 years. (Wait—two drops just isn't enough vermouth. And if it's a classic martini you're trying to make, you'd best not forget the orange bitters.)
Although its genealogy certainly won't hold up in court, historical sources suggest that the martini is descended from the Manhattan, which was probably invented as early as the 1870s; it was included in Jerry Thomas's 1887 book, The Bar-Tender's Guide or How to Mix all Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks. In his latest book, Straight Up or On The Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, William Grimes cites an even earlier reference for the Manhattan—1884, in a book by O.H. Bryon. Both Bryon's and Thomas's bar guides include the Manhattan, but they also detail a drink called the martinez. In both cases, the bartender is instructed to make the martinez like a Manhattan, substituting gin for the whiskey.
Historical citations start to get a little foggy at this point. Some books published in the 1890s contain martinez recipes, while others use the same ingredients to make a drink called the martini. At some point soon after this, somebody decided to use dry vermouth instead of sweet, and, in 1906, Louis' Mixed Drinks with Hints for the Care and Service of Wines listed the "dry martini" as a drink made with dry gin, dry vermouth, Angostura bitters and orange curaçao. That version of the martini (arguably the first) is still a ways from the kind of dry martini we serve today.
|The 1906 publication date of Louis' Mixed Drinks is coincidentally the same as that of a newspaper advertisement run by Martini & Rossi to publicize "The Original Martini Cocktail," a drink made with "1/3 Martini & Rossi Vermouth, 2/3 Tanqueray or other Dry Gin, Squeeze of Lemon Peel, A dash of Orange Bitters," that you "Stir, but don't shake." Text within the ad read, "You cannot make a genuine 'Martini' (dry or otherwise) without Martini & Rossi Vermouth. No other cocktail has as big a following…Made as above it is the best trade builder we know of." Is it possible that this company had enough clout to change the name martinez to martini? We'll never know, but the company did send approximately 750,000 liters of their vermouth to the States circa 1900, so it's certainly a possibility.||
The dry martini's orange flavor continued to be popular, in the form of orange bitters, right up until Prohibition hit in 1920. When the government decided we could drink in peace again in December 1933, the orange component started to fade away, but people were still using the same proportions of gin and vermouth (two parts gin to one part vermouth) as their predecessors had. Right around the time that World War II was ending, though, bartenders eased up on the vermouth, and began using the "vermouth rinse" method of making the drink: They swirled dry vermouth around in the glass until it was coated with the liquid, discarded any excess, and filled the glass with chilled gin. The orange bitters got lost in the mix somewhere; our modern-day "dry martini" had arrived. But where did it go?
Vodka Martinis Reach Maturity
Order a martini in most bars today, and you'll be presented with a long list of drinks, most without gin and vermouth. If you're very lucky, the bartender won't automatically reach for a bottle of vodka when you tell him that you want an old-fashioned martini.
What happened here? As long as we are celebrating drinks' birthdays, we can put 51 candles on the cake for the vodka martini—but this time we have substantial evidence regarding its birthdate. Barnaby Conrad III, author of The Martini, notes that the earliest written mention of the vodka martini was in Ted Saucier's 1951 cocktail book, Bottoms Up. For a relative newcomer, though, the vodka martini has caught on in popularity. Most 21st-century bartenders will tell you that the vodka martini outsells its gin-based older sibling by at least 10 to 1. Purists, it seems, must be very specific these days, and order a gin martini by name—if you just say "martini," chances are that it will contain vodka, not gin.
The last decade or so has brought other types of martinis, which are horses of a very different color. If you're over the age of 40, chances are that you don't think of them as martinis at all—they're what we all used to call cocktails. Nobody is really sure how so many cocktails became to be known as martinis, but our good friend, Dr. Cocktail, a k a Ted Haigh, thinks that it could have been a marketing ploy thought up by some wily cocktail promoters during the early- to mid-1990s. If that's true, no matter what you think of this phenomenon, they deserve a hearty slap on the back.
The fact that modern-day drinkers are comfortable calling any drink served in a V-shaped cocktail glass a martini, and many twentysomethings assume that a martini is a drink made with anything at all as long as it looks pretty is just evolution, folks. It doesn't mean that the dry martini is lost and gone forever, it's just a matter of fact that the word "martini" has, to a great extent, replaced the word "cocktail." And since there isn't a darned thing any of us can do about it, we suggest that you join us in embracing these new drinks—they are the very backbones of today's cocktail culture.
What forms do these new-fangled martinis take? Judging by the recipes that bartenders at some of America's trendiest bars gave us, the "new martinis" all seem to be vodka-based, straight-up, semisweet (thanks to liqueurs, fruit juices or dessert toppings) concoctions—and the more colorful, the better. They're far cries from the perfect dry martinis of the past—and by "perfect," we mean martinis that have gin or vodka, with as much (or as little) vermouth as you like. This is America, after all, where personal preference and diversity are the most succulent flavors.
Our quest for new martinis began at New York's Carnegie Club, where bartender extraordinaire Lou Cantres told us about the worst martini he's ever seen. A bar at which he once worked had infused honey and lavender into some vodka, and it tasted "like very expensive air freshener."
"It missed its calling," Cantres said. "It should have been sprayed in bathrooms or car interiors or even added to bathwater." Luckily, many of the nation's other bars offer much yummier martini concoctions.
Shake the vodka, Cointreau, schnapps and lime juice over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Carefully pour the blue curaçao down the side of the glass so that it rests on the bottom. Add the garnish.
The Pierce Brosnan
Pour the vodka into a well-chilled martini glass. Add the Champagne and stir briefly (don't shake!). Place the sugar cube onto a barspoon or teaspoon, soak it with the absinthe substitute and ignite it with a match. Drop the flaming sugar cube into the drink.
Eve's Seduction Apple Martini
Shake the vodka, amaretto, lemon juice, lime juice and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a chilled Champagne glass. Top with a bit of chilled Champagne.
The Banana Split Martini
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has been drizzled with strawberry and chocolate syrup. Garnish with a slice of banana and a strawberry pirouette cookie.
The Chambord French Martini
Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.
The JDSB Strawberry Mint Martini
Press the mint leaves in a chilled martini glass to release the oils, then discard the leaves. Shake and strain into the glass. Add garnishes.