Sunday, November 20, 2005

Better Make That a Double

The history of the martini, as with several other popular cocktails, is a murky one. All manner of things from an opera star, to rifle, to a town in California has laid claim to being the genesis of the drink and its name.

A strong conteder for ancestor of the the modern martini was first created in 1911 by Martini di Arma di Taggia, head barman at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, when he mixed half and half London Gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth and orange bitters. The regulars at the Knickerbocker asked for variations and added the olive, and over the years the recipe has morphed.

During the depression years, something closer to the contemporary drink became popular. With three parts gin, one part dry vermouth, it packed enough kick to guarantee a hangover to match the economic outlook.

It's been claimed in some quarters that FDR was the first to popularize the dirty martini, wherein a splash of olive brine is added. Whoever had that happy first thought to add that little dash, good on them, for I like my martinis like I like my women: dirty, and on the rocks. Of course, my wife assures me I'm not nearly as hilarious as I think I am--but I digress.

During the cold war years, the martini called for less and less vermouth. Some go so far as to claim that the proper way to make a martini is to leave the cap on the vermouth bottle. However, that drink has a different name: just gin.

Nowadays, the avid tippler can get all manner of drinks laying claim to the name of martini. Made with vodka, or flavored: chocolate, hazelnut, raspberry...the list goes on.

For my money, the more classic is best: gin, with just a kiss of vermouth, and two olives. Some claim that you should only stir a martini, as shaking will bruise the gin--I'm afraid these poor souls are confused, it's babies that you're not supposed to shake.

So the next time you're out to enjoy a tasty recreational beverage, consider having the king of cocktails, and make it a double for me.

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