Well, here we are. Chapter 3 of the B&B Classic Cocktails, and this one is the classic. The Martini. This is a relatively straightforward drink, so I think I'll also take this opportunity to include some of the more esoteric points on cocktail mixing that I'd like to empart.
Notice I didn't qualify it by calling it a "gin martini?" That's because martinis are made with gin -- period. As far as my cocktails are concerned, I'm actually fairly flexible. There are only a few things I'm strictly canonical about, and the crazy imposters masquerading as martinis these days are one of my biggest pet peeves. Dump any silly, fruity concoction (invariably made with a vodka base) into an "up" glass and you might barely get away with calling it a ____-tini. But don't call it a "martini," Certainly, there are a lot of variations. And very few of them are worth discussing, unless you're as cool as James Bond. And its important to note that the "James Bond" martini is another one of these imposters -- its made with 3:1 gin-to-vodka, and a half measure of Kina Lillet. (The closest you can get these days is Lillet Blanc), and its actually known as a "Vesper."
The Martini gets its name from a somewhat aprocryphal drink known as the "Martinez" which preportedly originated sometime around the gold-rush days. Certainly the apertif wine used in those days would be long gone by today, but the Martini (as it came to be known) gained popularity over the years and has amassed an unparalleled tradition and mythology surrounding the drink. Indeed, the Martini has become a symbol for the nightclub scene in general, and although it is rarely seen these days amongst this generations' incarnation of the nightclub crowd, retains immense popularity and credibility in all refined drinking circles.
So now, without any further adieu, gather your ingredients:
Ice, chilled cocktail glass, Gin, Vermouth, Olives, and your trusty shaker.
Tonight we'll be mixing with Boodles British Gin (which we discussed as our first Spirit of the Month selection way back when) and Noilly Prat Vermouth. Hundreds of variations are possible, but this happens to be my current favorite. White specific Vermouth apertif compositions are often closely-guarded secrets, however the most ubiquitous varities, Gallo and Martini & Rossi, are available just about everywhere. I hightly recommend seeking out the Noilly Prat, however, as its generally the "martini purist's" vermouth and IMHO, tastes orders of magnitude better than the aforementioned two. However, brands of gin and vermouth are highly subjective and personal -- definitiely feel free to experiment.
First, fill your shaker with ice. Be generous.
And add the vermouth.
Notice I'm not giving you measurement directions? That's the beauty of this particular cocktail, if you decide to take it the modern, dryer direction. Winston Churchill preferred to simply "look at [the vermouth] from across the room," and a certain Queen of England preferred the vermouth to be only hovered over the shaker oh-so briefly. Common ratios for those who like to add an appreciable amount of vermouth range from 3:1 to 6:1, and pre-prohibition Martinis in the USA were known to consist of equal parts, but by the method which was taught to me by my favorite bartender several years ago, I simply pour in a measure of vermouth, give the shaker a few gentle shakes to coat the ice, and then pour it out.
This is the one instance where I'll use the holes built into my shaker for their designed purpose. Giving 5-6 shakes and dumping out the vermouth (for me) seems to leave just enough in to empart the faintest sweetness (which I don't get if I strain out the vermouth at this step... I've tried).
Here's the coated ice:
Then pour in your gin. This is where you determine the strength and volume of your drink. As I have a pretty good idea of what sort of volume is appropriate for my glassware and taste in an after-dinner cocktail, I just pour straight from the bottle without measuring. Perhaps the first few times you might want to measure, but part of the excitiement of the Martini for me is that its one of the very few drinks I can make start-to-finish without measuring a drop, with certainly adds a bit of flash. Some pre-coat the glass with vermouth, which I think is silly if you own a proper shaker. You do, don't you?
Then pop on the lid and give ~8 firm, yet not violent shakes.
Yes, I shake my martinis. Half the purists are moaning right now, something about "bruising the gin" or whatnot, but in my opinion, the small bit of dilution emparted by shaking rather than stirring really "opens the drink up" and liberates the junpier flavor better than stirring. Its not so much a matter of cold vs. really cold, as I don't usually shake as much as most bartenders might. Just enough to see the faintest bit of frost towards the bottom of the shaker:
Then pop the lid off...
And strain into your glass:
(Did I mention how badly you really need a proper cocktail strainer to do this? Get it all out of there without any additional ice-rattling.)
And you'll have something that looks a little bit like this:
Some folks like their martinis completely clear, out of the shaker. You generally get closer to this when you stir, but I like the slight bit of cloudiness for the first few minutes. If you can see visible ice chunks, you've probably shaken too long and/or hard. The mirror-shine on (my) perfect martini is one those little things that keeps me enamoured with this drink -- notice the reflections of my wall hangings?
Plop in your olive (I've been using the bleu-cheese stuffed ones lately, although I'm not really an olive person and will probably go back to the small, unstuffed ones or nothing when I'm done with this jar... and don't get me started on "dirty" martinis), and you're done!
Garnishing with a cocktail onion makes the drink a "gibson." I'll leave the "onion soup" jokes out of this because I've never actually ordered one, and I can hardly be arsed to buy a jar of cocktail onions when olives are a bit of a stretch themselves.
Bitters are optional, although many devotees (and even some self-described purists) demand them. There's nothing wrong with experimenting here though (orange bitters are most common), and a certain someone here even suggested I once add a drop or two of scotch to my martini. It was interesting and enjoyable. But in general, I like the taste of gin, and like my Martinis "sharp" and more or less unadulterated.
Hope this inspires you gents to mix yourselves some classic cocktails! Cheers!