Mixology 101: Martini

Updated: 29 Jun 2012

Jay Chooi strips the king of cocktails dry and explores its modern interpretations.

A Martinez account
Like most stories of origins, the Martini is awfully misunderstood. A remarkable one is that the Martini was invented by Jerry Thomas, a bartender in San Francisco for a lonesome traveller. The traveller expressed his approval, and then headed to Martinez, a town 26 miles north of San Francisco. Jerry simply named the drink after the town. A lacklustre one is that the cocktail is named after the similarly branded vermouth.

The classic Martini
Less is more A classic martini is made from two ounces gin or vodka, a dash of dry vermouth and garnished with olives. Shaken or stirred, it is a matter of preference – some believe shaking bruises the gin. The less vermouth, the dryer the Martini. An extra, extra dry Martini is, in actual fact, gin or vodka strained into a cocktail glass. Pure gin is sometimes called the Naked Martini; the kick out of the olive completes the drink.

A star is born
The Martini has long been associated with the famous, especially old Hollywood. Legendary Martini drinkers include Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Dorothy Parker, Clark Gable, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and Mr James Bond himself. Humphrey Bogart’s famous last words were ‘I should have never have switched from scotch to Martinis’. When drinking Martinis, we are in stellar company.

The modern cocktail has spawned an overwhelming amount of mutations. Today, the loose interpretations of a vodka Martini are mostly based on the vodka’s phantom-like ability to take on the temperament and spirit of its companions within the glass. No two Martinis are alike, even the classic versions. As far as we are concerned, anything goes, except for the Onion Soup – the abomination that is a classic martini garnished with a pickled onion.

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