Greetings, Wonketteers! Let's circle back and hit one of the great bar classics, and a personal favorite. I've got a really nifty hack to serving 10 of these at once for the holidays. Let's make up some dry martinis. Recipe's below.
Classic Dry Martini
2.5 oz The Botanist Islay Gin
.5 oz Lionello Dry Vermouth
Fill a stirring vessel to the top with ice. Add gin and vermouth. Stir 12-15 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with 1or 3 bleu cheese stuffed olives.
Martinis are an absolutely iconic American drink, but very few people order a proper one. I'm going to plant my flag in the ground and make a stand here: A vodka martini is not a martini. If you order a vodka martini, no vermouth, you will have earned the contempt of your bartender. That's no martini. It's three shots of chilled vodka in a glass with a side of pretentiousness. Real martinis, at a minimum, use dry vermouth. A genuine American martini uses gin. Accept no substitutes.
I do get it. Both of the ingredients in real martinis are misunderstood and abused. Gin has a bad rap as being a nasty juniper liqueur. Vermouth tastes like white wine gone bad, because lousy bars don't chill it. And worst of all, nobody stirs a martini properly – it needs to be frigid cold, and diluted just enough to give the ingredients some breathing space. If you respect your ingredients and take your time, I promise you: it will be worth it. A real martini, well made, is American in a way America used to be. It's complex; it's cool; it demands to be sipped at its own pace, while it's still just the right temperature. Nothing fake, no easy sugar to make the medicine go down. A real martini tastes like nothing else in the world. You owe it to yourself to try a proper one.
I might be a bit passionate on this one. What can I tell you? I'm a martini fan.
Let's review the ingredients briefly.
This martini disappeared, in a cool, smooth, elegant, and mysterious fashion, after this photograph was taken.Matthew Hooper
The Botanist Gin: It's a touch embarrassing to rave about the martini as an "iconic American drink" and then recommend a Scottish gin. This particular bottle is worth the embarrassment. Islay's a home for strong flavored liquors, and this gin stays in the mold. It's floral, it's citrus, it's herbal, it's a touch undefinable. The best reviewers find it hard to pin down exactly what tastes so good in this gin. But it's undeniably delicious. It cooperates with just about everything you add to it, be that vermouth or tonic. And it is very, very light on the juniper.
Lionello Dry Vermouth: Truth be told, most dry vermouth is quite good if you store it in the fridge. Lionello Dry is currently my favorite. It's nice and mellow, and really lets The Botanist gin shine. But the classic Martini and Rossi dry vermouth is an extremely good choice as well. Some bar historians believe that the martini was named after Martini and Rossi vermouth, and it does the job it's intended for extremely well.
Garnish: Most people prefer bleu cheese stuffed olives in their martini. Stuffing olives is a pain in the butt, though – buy prepackaged ones and save yourself the grief. You can put one olive in your martini, or three – but never two. An even number of olives in your martini is bad luck. If you garnish a martini with pickled pearl onions, it's called a Gibson. If you garnish it with a lemon twist, it's … a martini with a twist. Cocktail terminology doesn't always make sense.
Technique: The martini has so much history and culture behind it that making one is almost a ritual. At the bar, I fill a mixing vessel to the brim with ice, add the ingredients, and stir for at least 10-15 seconds. ALWAYS pour into a chilled martini glass. Temperature is the secret ingredient in a martini – the colder, the better. Don't shake your martinis. They'll look cloudy and taste flat.
When I make martinis at home, I sidestep most of this work. After a long shift, I'm in no mood to stir anything. Instead, I make my martinis ahead of time and store them in the freezer. That way, they're as cold as possible. Here's how you pull it off.
Batched Dry Martinis
2 cups gin
1/3 cup dry vermouth
1/3 cup bottled or filtered water
Add all ingredients to a glass bottle, shake once or twice gently to mix, and store in the freezer. Allow at least 24 hours for chill time before serving. Makes 6 martinis.
This is far and away the best way to make martinis for a crowd – instead of doing all the stirring (and going through all that ice), you just pour and go. The recipe scales: 6:1 gin to vermouth, 6:1 gin to water. With this trick in hand, setting up a martini bar for the holidays is simple. Chill a bottle of martinis, have some olives and lemon twists ready, set out some glasses, and you're all set.
Obviously, there isn't a good way to make a non-alcoholic martini. But recently we've been seeing some interesting non-alcoholic liquor substitutes that might be worth checking out. Companies like Ritual have been making non-alcoholic "spirits" for a while now. Reviewers that I trust say they're very tasty. A "clean" dry martini made with ordinary vermouth would be less than one percent alcohol. It's an interesting possibility, and one I'm still struggling with. Is a martini made with a gin substitute still a martini, if it's served in the proper glass and presented with all the rituals? If you're trying to stay sober, is it wrong to keep up your "three martini lunch" with a nonalcoholic substitute? If the ritual defines the martini, is my batched martini still a martini if I drink it out of a juice glass without a garnish at 2 a.m.? Questions to contemplate … over a martini.
In summary and conclusion, drink well, drink often, and tip your bartender — donate to Wonkette at the link below! Tiki Underground is winding down in anticipation of moving. I'm currently behind the pine at Dodie's Dockside in Lorain, OH. Mmm, lobster rolls. And if you'd like to buy some ingredients or bar gear from Amazon, please click on the links above, or this one!