Making a Proper Martini
02 Aug 2013 08:29
I’m sick of going into places that claim to be bars and having the people who call themselves bartenders not know how to make a Martini. I’m not talking about some goddamn craft cocktail with nine ingredients including a garnish from an Abyssinian coconut. Just a Martini. Everyone—whether you are a bartender or not—should know how not to ruin this simple, delicious drink.
When I say a Martini, I am, of course, talking about a gin Martini. Vodka is a drink for people who don’t like alcohol, a neutral spirit purposefully designed to have no flavor aside from the alcoholic burn. If you want vodka, I can’t stop you from drinking it, but I can recommend against it. Consider yourself warned.
The classic gin Martini has only two primary ingredients: dry (white) vermouth and gin. What the hell is dry vermouth, you ask? A fortified (meaning extra alcohol) wine aromatized with herbs and spices. There are many brands but get Dolin. It’s delicious and quite reasonably priced. After you open it, keep it in the refrigerator and throw it out after six weeks if you don’t drink it all; it will go bad.
As an aside, there is also sweet (red) vermouth, a magical ingredient that’s critical to many spectacular cocktails. Sweet vermouth lasts longer in the refrigerator, and I find it fine for up to six months (although a bottle never lasts that long in my house).
For this drink—as with every other drink—the quality of your ingredients matter, so get good gin. What is “good” gin? I like Bombay Sapphire best, but there are dozens of choices here. Experiment; it will be fun.
I’m not going to be dogmatic about the gin/vermouth proportions because what matters most is how it tastes to you. Not sure? Experiment; it will be fun. The classic proportions are two parts gin to one part vermouth, and a “part” is normally an ounce. Not sure how to measure an ounce? Get a few of these nifty little measuring cups and never guess again. I like mine with a significantly higher proportion of gin, but your taste will vary. It’s said that Winston Churchill felt he got enough vermouth in his Martini by glancing toward France, but a Martini with no vermouth is just a glass of cold gin. Nothing wrong with a glass of cold gin, but it’s not a Martini.
Now you’re almost ready to make your Martini, but you must consider two other ingredients: your garnish and whether or not you are going add a dash of orange bitters.
I garnish with a lemon twist. A twist is a piece of the lemon rind that DOES NOT INCLUDE ANY LEMON PITH OR PULP. Slice off the piece of rind (you can use a special tool if you want, but a sharp knife will work just fine) and then twist it over the finished Martini to release the essential oils before dropping it into the drink. If your twist includes any of the lemon pulp—as they do in many crap bars—your drink will be ruined. Like olives instead? Fine. But make sure they are chilled so you are not dropping a little warm bomb into an icy glass of gin/vermouth perfection.
I don’t use any orange bitters, but try one with a few drops sometime; you may love it that way, and it’s not sacrilege to add it. In fact, there are many purists who will claim a drink without bitters of some kind is not a cocktail at all.
One more decision: to shake or to stir? There are entire web pages devoted to this question, and you can peruse them if you want. But here are few considerations: shaking will make it colder but will also add more water to the mix and has the potential to cloud the drink. Despite the fact that it is not the traditionally accepted way to make a Martini, I like mine shaken because the cold jolt is part of the joy of this cocktail to me. You may prefer yours stirred. Experiment; it will be fun.
So now to making the drink. Measure your gin and vermouth into a glass or a shaker. Add ice. Make it cold by stirring vigorously or shaking. Pour into a chilled Martini glass. Add the orange bitters if you want. Add your garnish of choice. Enjoy.