Martini Quotes

"I'm not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube.

I'm talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight.. comfort; redemption and absolution. I'm talking MARTINI.


Friday, January 30, 2015

The Negroni

Martini's Sweeter Cousin

     The Negroni cocktail seems to be somewhat of a long lost relative to the Martini.  It is both sweet up front, with a bitter kick on the finish.  For those of you unfamiliar with the concoction, it is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari.  It is commonly served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass and garnished with an orange peel.  For a dramatic flare, one often uses a flamed orange peel as a garnish.  The effect is to render out the oils. Although I highly recommend this for the first Negroni of the evening, I am not altogether sure that it is a safe thing to do for any subsequent pour.  The combination of alcohol, fire, impaired senses and possibly judgment are a recipe for disaster.  As with the Martini, the cocktail is sufficient to stand on its own merits. There is a lot going on here to challenge the palate with a sweet fortified wine, a bitter liqueur, and a classic herbal spirit.  

     While the Martini is distinctly and completely American, the Negroni traces it's roots back to Italy.  The most widely reported account of it's origin is that it was invented in Florence, Italy in 1919, at Caffè Casoni, now called Caffè Cavalli.  I do not know why the cafe is named after horses- I will have to go to Florence and find out.  In any event, the local Count Camillo Negroni asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to "strengthen" his favorite cocktail, the Americano.  He added gin rather than the normal soda water to the sweet vermouth and Campari. The bartender also added an orange garnish rather than the typical lemon garnish of the Americano to signify that it was a different drink. 

      As with the Martini, there is an alternative theory regarding the origin of the Negroni Cocktail. This theory attributes the invention to General Pascal Olivier de Negroni, who had the idea of this divine mixture (1/3 Gin, 1/3 Vermouth, 1/3 Campari).  This happened in Paris at the military officers' club of St. Augustine, on the eve of the Great War. "Your health before the grape shot!"

It reminds one of the origins of gin as "Dutch Courage" before charging into battle in the Thirty Years War.  As an aside, I truly enjoy the naming of wars with definitive end points, like the aforementioned war and the 100 years war.  Typically, today's conflicts are rather shifting, smoldering affairs.  The similarity to Orwell's 1984 is all too real.  Where is the enemy—or the end—in our “war on terror?”  One must drink another Negroni to reflect on such a thing.

A great quote about the drink came from Orson Welles while working in Rome in 1947, where he described a new drink called the Negroni, "The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other out."  I do take exception to the statement that the gin is bad for you.  As I have previously written, gin was a prescribed medicinal  and I ,at least, believe it still is today.

    Like its brethren, the Martini, we have gin and vermouth combined in the Negroni. However, whereas the Martini is purely dry, the Negroni is a complex presentation to the palate .  The herbaceous gin is there, but in this case, the vermouth is sweet with fortified aromatic flavors. With so much flavor, a subtle balanced gin will tend to get lost.  I make mine with Beefeater or Tangueray.   Maybe a navy strength gin would work well, but I have yet to find one locally.  What is distinctly different is the Campari.  This liqueur presents us with another layer of aroma and taste.  The bitterness of the Campari lends a nice balance to the sweet vermouth.  It imparts one with the want of something to deal with this finish, which is why it makes such a fine aperitif.  

Add the Negroni to the Martini family tree

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Airing It Out

The Best of the Best

The New England Patriots and The Martini

     I have remained silent on this issue for long enough. The Superbowl will be played soon and I am frankly tired of the nonsense.  The item shown to the left is a football. Until last week no one had any idea what the pressure is supposed to be, who uses which balls, who checks them or when.  Anyone who says that the inflation pressure has an effect on the game lacks all credibility in my book.   Deflategate exists only in the minds of the HATERS and the fourth estate, also known as the media.  I once had a modicum of respect for John Harbaugh, but no longer.  The current prevailing rumor is that it was this lecherous fool who tipped off the Colts about this recent so called Patriots scandal.  If you coach a bunch of players who are not smart enough to cover a tight end on a passing route, you deserve to lose- which the Ravens did.  They presented the Pats with a great opponent, and it was truly an epic game.  Harbaugh was out coached and lost.  Deal with it people.  The game, and I hesitate to call it that, against the Colts was simply a mismatch.   Brady could have been throwing anything from a beach ball to a watermelon and the Pats would have won.  With all that money  Andrew Luck is getting paid, could someone get him an appointment with a dentist please?  He looks like a cross between a beaver and a shark with those overlapping choppers.  Maybe I just notice these things being married to a dentist.  And if you thought 45 - 7 was lopsided, wait until Bill and Tom exact their revenge next year!  Does anyone remember the 16 - 0 season following Spygate? 

     I will not even delve into the silliness of explaining the difference between weight and pressure which more than a few of the press misunderstood.  I see no need to discuss climate changes on gas pressure.  I frankly don't care if they did take the air out.  Aaron Rodgers admitted that he overinflates his footballs.  I don't hear the uproar there.  This issue has nothing to do with any of that.  This simply is a manifestation of what we see every day in our current culture.  We love to build up the underdog and then tear him down.  The winning continues and people get a little bored of that same old story. Eventually, people come to resent this ongoing success.  It happens in politics, business, just as in sports.

     The fact that people are trying to tarnish the career and legacy of Tom Brady is beyond offensive.  It is insubordinate and churlish, chicanerous and deceitful!  (Some of you may recognize this line from the Key and Peele substitute teacher episode on the comedy channel).  First of all, he's got a great name- Tom.  But in all seriousness, he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.  The argument is over- forget Peyton Manning et al.  Brady has beat them all.   He is hard working. He is dedicated.  He eats, sleeps, and breathes football.  And, he is simply more talented than all the rest.  

      So what, pray tell, does this have to do with the Martini.  there are several similarities that come to mind.  The Pats fan, like the Martini drinker, knows that he is superior.   It is understood, and requires no justification.  We see the world with a little more clarity.   Maybe we are a bit aloof, if you will.  Don't judge us, it comes with the territory.  Also, Martinis are made clear and cold, not to mention dry, very dry - no fluff here, which reminds me of Coach Belichick's press conferences.  But perhaps the closest resemblance is this:
They can be made a little dirty.  


Monday, January 26, 2015

Call Day and Martini Free

     A Mini Martini Prohibition

     The worst day of the week for me is not Monday, or even hump day, it is decidedly Call Day.  This day may fall on any of the standard 7 days and may even occur twice in one week.  Although I am fairly well remunerated as an anesthesiologist, there is no amount of money that can adequately compensate me for this onus.  Spending 24 hours in a hospital can be outright torture.  To add insult to injury, alas, there can be no Martini on call.  Drinking in the hospital while being responsible for patients' lives is not only frowned upon, but may actually be a criminal offense.   I guess perhaps a MASH unit is not the same which is how Hawkeye Pierce got away with it!

     I arrive at the hospital at 6:40am and my day begins innocently enough with a c-section at 7:30am.  A quick spinal anesthetic is placed without much fuss.  After the patient is brought to the recovery room, I head out on "rounds".  I see all the inpatients who had surgery the day before and anyone on the pain service.  Finally time for lunch-nothing like the hospital salad bar.  Next I'm called up to OB for a labor epidural.  Women in labor really seem to appreciate my services.   Next, time to take over the OR for staff getting to go home.  It's good practice to let your colleagues out as soon as possible, so some day they will return the favor.  Dinner at the hospital cafeteria and no Martini bar in sight.  Although, I always put three queen olives in my salad as a sort of surrogate.  Cases continue until 8:30pm and another epidural goes in while the previous one comes out.  This doesn't include the three preoperative evaluations to prepare for the next day's add on surgeries or the innumerable pages throughout the day.  Hit the call room at 9:30pm and hope for the best, knowing that there is still an epidural running which could turn into c-section at any time.  Hopefully the local knife and gun club remain inactive tonight.

Can't wait until 7:00 am.

      Sleep comes slow and interrupted.  It is never the same at the hospital compared to the home environment.  There is a level of comfort that can never be adequately attained "in house".   Reading helps.  Tonight, it's "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley.  For those of you unfamiliar with the novel, it shares a lot of similarities with Orwell's "1984".  Huxley was actually Orwell's teacher.  If you enjoyed "1984", then this one is in the same genre and I'm sure you would find "Brave New World" just as compelling.  (N.B. the ubiquitous beverage in "1984" is Victory gin)

In any event, time creeps inevitably forward, closer to the end of Call day and this little period of prohibition.  Another day away from the family, basketball practice, tennis lessons, homework help, etc.  I begrudge Call day because of all these things I miss and more.  Time lost can never be regained, unless of course you consider time travel or your name is Billy Pilgrim (read Slaughterhouse Five another good read).  Soon enough I will be heading out to my son's hockey tournament.  The first game is at 9:00pm which leaves plenty of time for a Martini or two before the puck is dropped.   I will have to make up for Call Day.

Blizzard 2015

Martini Winter Survival

Old Man Winter has finally decided to rear his ugly head in a big way here in New England. I am generally not what you would call a very patient person and yet I have been hoping for milder weather for some time now.  While some of the locals do as our aviary friends and flock to the warmer climes of the south for the winter, I have been waiting for all that warm weather to come to me.  I have been anxiously awaiting for the phenomenon of Global Warming to turn my typical northern winters into something a bit more balmy.  Perhaps I am putting too much faith in the (political) science of climatology.

     Looking back, I have nothing but good memories of the major Nor' Easters that I have endured as a New Englander.  Living through the Blizzard of '78 was a major life event for people around here.  It has been described as a 100 year storm, which means (you guessed it), they only come around every 100 years or so.  The "perfect storm" of a stalled front off the southeast coast driving counterclockwise waves of snow, coupled with freezing temps, near hurricane force winds, and an astronoically high tide (in the literal sense) combined to produce that memorable event.  With snow drifts to the roof tops, impassable roads, and closed grocery stores, what else could people do but actually be nice and help each other out.  It never ceases to amaze me how the neighbor who has led a near Hatfield/McCoy feud all year, woulld gladly help a neighbor shovel out their car.  Sometimes it takes the worst times to bring out the best in people.  

      Looking towards the Blizzard of 2015, it's time to prepare.  Here in New England, as soon as the word "Nor Easter" hits the airwaves, the stores are jammed and the lines begin to form at the gas stations.  For some reason which I have yet to fathom, there is a run on bread, milk, bottled water, and batteries.  Now I can definitely understand the gas.  You need that for the car, the generator, and the snowblower. I can maybe see the batteries for when the power goes out, but the rest seems to me a bit of overkill. When was the last time, food supplies were interrupted for days on end in the good old USA?  Perhaps some backwards country, like North Korea, has trouble with food supplies.  Oh no, I said it,  I suppose now it's me vs. Kim Jung Un or Il or whatever his  name is.  As soon as I post this, I will have to go and update my antiviral software.  By the way, in case your following me Kim, your favorite movie was just released on Netflix and I am watching The Interview tonight.

Back to preparations....

  1. Gin - Botanist, Dingle, Hendricks, Bombay Sapphire
  2. Vermouth 
  3. Olives
  4. Batteries for the remote control for the gas fireplace
  5. Food

What else could I need?
Now armed with all this knowledge and background plus having seen every Bear Grylls show, I feel that  I can survive anything given a knife, some rope, and a fire starter.  Oh yes, and the Martini essentials.....


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Martini Misgivings Misplaced?

Tangueray Revisited

 We have all been there before at one time or another in our lives.  We arrive at a situation with certain expectations or with preconceived notions only to have some new obstacle put into our path.  As it happened, I walked into a restaurant for a typical family dinner.  Generally speaking, most restaurants will carry Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Hendricks, etc. I usually order a martini prior to dinner and can always expect a reasonably poured Martini.  It does irk me a bit when the waitress brings the shaker with the Martini still lurking in there being diluted by ice and time.  Further frustration ensues when she pours only half out into the glass and continues to leave the rest of my favorite beverage drowning.  But, I refuse to let these minor annoyances ruin a good time.  As this particular restaurant has a reputation of having a good 'tini bar, I thought I would take a peak at the gin selection.  Much to my chagrin, I only espied Tangueray sitting on the shelf.  I thought surely I am missing something.  I went back to the table and when the waitress came to take the order, I inquired as to the gin available.  The standard collection previously mentioned was then recited.  So, I promptly ordered up a Hendricks Martini.   Unfortunately, my waitress returned with the bad news.  She had been misinformed(much like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca who came to the desert for "the waters").  A shipment had not arrived today and alas, only Tangueray was available.  I proceeded with more than a little apprehension, with the premise that any Martini is better than no Martini at all.

     Now perhaps I have gotten away from my roots.  As a younger man, Tangueray was THE gin.  Walking into any bar, all that is required to find the gin section is to scan for the distinctive green bottle.  Having delved deeper into the craft gin market, I suppose I was becoming a bit slanted against the old reliables.  But, Tangueray is a venerable gin with a long history.  It was initially distilled in 1830 by Charles Tanqueray in London.  When Charles died in 1868, his son Charles Waugh Tanqueray took over operations at the distillery, which continued to operate until it was severely damaged during World War II. The only still that survived the bombing is referred to as "Old Tom", and is still (pardon the pun) in use today producing a fine collection of spirits.  

     Tangueray is a London dry gin and lists Juniper, Coriander, Angelica, and Licorice as the chosen botanicals.  The juniper and citrus taste stand out here, being a bit heavy towards the acidic side.  For this reason, it mixes well in cocktails including a sweetener.  Poured neat, I can't say that it stands up well to some of the newer, balanced gins.  So as far as a Martini goes, I would shy away from this one given the multitude of options out there today.  That being said, it was refreshing to try something a little different from what I am accustomed to drinking as of late.  After all, Tangueray has been in the business of making gin for over one hundred years.

     My initial misgivings may have been somewhat justified, but it is a good thing on occasion to go tabula rasa once in a while to see where one stands.  Life is both experiential and perceptual.  No two people are identical, nor would their experiences of a singular event be identical, which makes for an existence with endless possibilities. 

 Now that is something to ponder over your next Martini!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cycling and The Martini

     If you have had the chance to view my personal page, you'll notice my homepage has a picture of the Liquigas team hard at work in the team time trial.  This is an event like no other. The man on the front digs deep to take his pull at the front.  Those behind have slight respite. The lead rider pulls aside slightly to let the convoy through, but still needs to focus and maintain effort to slot in at the rear.  Your turn isn't over until you slot in the rear slipstream.   Drift off the back, and you'll never find your way back on that train!

     My passion for cycling shares a thing or two with my love of the Martini.  Cycling, like the Martini, is both simple and yet complicated.   You simply ride your bike as fast as you can.  But there are oh so many factors that one has to consider; the training schedule, the terrain to be covered, the proper gear ratio, power, cadence, etc. The Martini likewise has many factors to consider in its production; the gin, the botanicals, the vermouth, garnish, temperature.  Yet, in the end, it is just three ingredients to put together in order that simple becomes sublime.

     The sport of cycling can be cruel, punctuated with much blood, sweat and tears.  But if one steps back, there is an elegance which is almost hypnotic.  Watching the individual man/machine interaction, as the combination of human and divine engineering meld into one, can be so uplifting.  I vividly recall a ride I went on last fall.  The temperature was around 50 f, just enough to go for a warm base layer, but the sun was brilliantly warm.  It was one of those days when all seemed right in the world.  The pedals turned effortlessly, the climbs melted underneath the wheels.  I remember wishing that ride could have lasted forever,  that I didn't have to go home and pick someone up from school or one of some such domestic responsibilities.  It's like that with a well made Martini, wishing for that bottomless glass.

     Well here's looking forward to warmer weather, outdoor riding, and Martinis by the pool.  For now, training in New England is mostly a basement affair.  Although, for those of you around the south shore in Massachusetts, you might want to try indoor Computrainer rides a go at Cycle Life Studios.  I had a great ride this morning and am looking forward to an equally great Martini tonight.  

Remember Cycling and Martinis have a lot in common, especially this:

Frequent practice helps !

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In sickness and in health



      The cold and flu season has begun in earnest here in New England as many of you with small children are probably well aware.  The youngsters seem to be a very favorable culture medium for the myriad of contagion that afflict us.  Being a physician myself, an anesthesiologist by trade, I am by nature not a good patient.  In any event, I seem to have caught one of the bugs and have a raging head cold.  This got me to thinking about the ori"gin"s and medicinal properties of my favorite spirit.


      As is true for the Martini, the history of the origins of gin remain somewhat cloudy.  Although sources can be found relating distillation of spirits with botanicals such as juniper back to the thirteenth century,  documented "recipes" for what has become transformed into the modern gin are generally credited to the Dutch.  It was clearly used in Holland in the seventeenth century where it was sold in chemical shops as medicine, to treat everything from stomach ailments to gout.  Juniper was added for taste and also touted for its medicinal properties as well.  The Dutch called it Jenever, after the juniper flavoring.   The Jenever became Genever and anglicized to the current term Gin. The British soldiers involved in the war in the Lowlands were given it to combat the cold damp weather.  It was also noted to be somewhat of a stimulant prior to battle from whence comes the term "Dutch Courage ".  Apparently, it was also being produced in England on a very small scale which multiplied exponentially when the troops returned home.


     Gin was essentially the only alcoholic beverage produced almost exclusively for it's medicinal value.  The therapeutic properties of the main botanical, Juniper, stem from a volatile oil found in the berries. This oil contains terpenes, flavonoid glycosides, tannins, sugar, tar, and resin. These compounds are responsible for the diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties attributed to Juniper. The flavonoid amentoflavone in particular exhibits antiviral properties. Aha!  Just what I was looking for- a scientific basis for attempting to fight off an upper respiratory tract infection with a Martini.  With these thoughts in mind, I reach for the Hendricks. 

Physician Heal Thyself!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Dingle Dangle

 The Dangle     

Having picked up a bottle of newly arrived Dingle gin, I thought I would give it a go with dinner before heading out to my son's hockey practice/scrimmage.  I realized this was a potentially combustible mix of hockey and alcohol, but it was only one Martini before a practice.  For those of you unfamiliar with the sport of Hockey, there exists the phrase "Dangle, Snipe, and Celly".
The Dangle: The puck is displayed temptingly to the defender, but pulled away with quick physical prowess, setting up......
The Snipe:  A shot taken with sniper like precision. 
The Celly:  the exuberant celebration after scoring the goal.  
While mixing my Martini, I thought to myself "Could this be a Dingle, Snipe, and Celly?"  I was more than a bit intrigued by the prospect of trying this Irish Gin.  

The Dangle

       Usually when I head out to the liquor store, the "craft gin" section only exists in my mind.  I was pleasantly surprised to find this selection on the shelf.  The distillery opened for business in 2012 with the goal of bringing the taste of Kerry to the masses and is only one of two distilleries producing gin on the Emerald Isle.  This is a London dry gin in the microbrewery genre, made in small 500 liter batches utilizing copper pot stills. The botanicals in this case include Rowanberry, Fuchsia, Bog Myrtle, Hawthorn, Heather, Angelica, and Coriander.  Now I know that coriander is commonly used to impart a citrus, ginger flavor and Angelica is in the celery family giving a woody, vanilla aroma.  Bog myrtle can be smelled from half a mile away with its rather strong sweet earthy aroma.  As for the rest, I can only guess, although I do have heather in the garden.  

       The result is something quite different from your typical dry juniper driven gin.  Dingle has managed to balance the piney juniper with the other botanicals in a splendid fashion.  The aroma is pleasant but not overpowering with a nice blend of juniper with cut grass, pepper, and a floral bouquet coming to the foreground.  The taste similarly blends nicely, with coriander, pepper, and a nice sweetness against a juniper background.   After a few sips, close your eyes and you might just be taken away to an idyllic Irish countryside.  If you're one for craft gins of the balanced floral variety, I recommend you give this one a try.  It has become one of my favorites. 

Now Dingle, Snipe, and Celly my friends!

Bombay Sapphire: The Hard Man


The Cyclist   

     Martini Tuesday has arrived.  Remember to plan your life around the Martini and not the other way around.  I find myself constantly juggling my family, cycling, and Martinis. This reminds me of a wonderful story about what Sean Kelly, the great Irish cyclist, a true hard man of the cycling world, said to his wife Linda-

"As she moved away from the car, she left a mark where her hand had rested. Fastidious in the extreme, Kelly wiped away the mark. Never said a word, just cleaned the area which had been stained. Mildly annoyed Linda complained that Sean’s priorities were first his car, then his bike and finally his wife. Kelly heard the accusation, turned and with a look of deadly seriousness told his wife that she had got the order wrong: ‘The bike comes first’. What could the chastened lady say?”   What can I say?  Priorities, Priorities. We all need to them. 

The Gin

       Bombay Sapphire is my personal go-to gin:Clear crisp taste, aromatic but not too heavy on the Juniper, plus I love the bottle.  Every Christmas, Santa brings me the holiday edition with its own distinctive glass.  Unfortunately, the rather delicate design usually means a trip to the recycling bin before years end.  Oh well.  For the garnish, I prefer the old standby olive, but the blend of botanicals actually lends itself to a lemon zest garnish.  A Bombay Sapphire Martini in a collector's edition blue glass with a yellow lemon zest twist is undeniably one of the most elegant cocktails to be reckoned with in the world of mixology.  Sip well my friends and enjoy the aroma, taste and finish of this classic hard man of the Martini world.

Bombay Sapphire is a brand of gin owned by Bacardi that was first launched in 1987. Its name originates from gin's popularity in India during the British Raj and the sapphire in question is the Star of Bombay. The rather homely woman in the picture is none other than Queen Victoria.  The flavoring of the drink comes from a recipe of ten ingredients (which the bottle's label boasts as "10 exotic botanicals"). The 10 precious botanicals used in Bombay Sapphire are held separate from the spirit in perforated copper baskets, and when the heated vapors rise, the distinctive flavor of the botanicals are released. The result? A complex aromatic liquid that delivers a broader, more balanced flavor.  This gives a lighter, more floral gin. They recently opened a state of the art facility in England complete with a visitor's center.  Now that sounds like an ideal vacation destination!   

Almond Bitter: Almonds from Spain bring out and tie together all of the flavors of the botanicals, delivering the silky smooth feel.

Lemon Peel: Sweet and juicy,  lemons are hand-picked and hand peeled (quite an art) and hung to dry in the Mediterranean air. Important in bringing the citrus flavors to Bombay Sapphire, the lemon peel is also significant in 'lifting' the other botanical notes.

Liquorice:  Liquorice from the grassy plains of China, delivers the deep, warm and sweet flavor with a distinct anise aroma.

Juniper Berries:  The best juniper in the world comes from the hills of Tuscany and these berries are at the heart of Bombay Sapphire's botanical recipe, bringing a dry, fragrant, herbal aroma.

Orris Root:   Orris is the first part of the root of the Iris flower  cut from the plant by hand after growing for 3–4 years. The hard, bone-like root can be ground to a fine powder, allowing its full floral flavors to be released during distillation.

Angelica:  The root of the angelica plant  brings a distinct earthy tone to Bombay Sapphire whilst also holding the other nine botanicals in perfect balance.

Coriander:  Coriander seeds are the key citrus flavor contributor in any gin. The  seeds used in Bombay Sapphire come from Morocco. They provide  the rich aromas and flavor combination of citrus and warm ginger-like spice.

Cassia:   In the same family as cinnamon but with a more delicate flavor, this botanical relation brings a light warmth and sweetness to Bombay Sapphire.

Cubeb:  Despite being part of the pepper family, cubeb berries have a much more floral aroma, including notes of lavendar and rose. They provide a dry, hot flavor which lingers on the tongue.

Grains of Paradise:    A relative of the ginger plant, these seeds offer a spectrum of exotic flavours from a strong peppery bite to light lavender notes as well as a long finish.

Keep drinking until you find all ten flavors!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Martini Mixing Essentials

    A Production

     A Martini is a wonderful experience of the senses, a marriage if you will, with the flavors and aromas combining to produce that seminal cocktail.  Something as effortful yet alluring as a Martini requires some thought and preparation.  There need be no melodrama or fluff to the production.  I have never seen the movie "Cocktail " with Tom Cruise, but the thought of all that flipping, spinning and such is enough to make me want to take out a restraining order against the guy. The cocktail should be able to stand on it's own merits without a superfluous show. That sort of mixology production is all smoke with no fire.  Now a real cocktail like the Martini is all about the fire.  And not the red hot sort, but more the eternal cold flames of Dante's inferno.   I bet Signore Alighieri would have been a Martini drinker.

The Players

Now let us set the stage, for the Martini is a drama (more on this later in a later post).  Here then are the players:

Cold  The Martini should be sinfully cold.  By chilling the components beforehand, you can avoid having to shake the ingredients with ice for any length of time.  The point is that if all the components are already cold, you don't need as much time with the ice which will only dilute what is otherwise an ideal creation.  One of the great disappointments in life is ordering a Martini and having it arrive with shards of ice floating in the glass, like ice bergs waiting to sink your Titanic Martini.  If you must use a shaker, make sure it (as well as your Martini glass) is kept cold for another layer of frosty insurance against the invading attempts of warmth.  I have known a barkeep or two who keeps his favorite bottle of Gin on ice as well.  Have no fear, as the freezing point of 80 proof alcohol is -30 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Clear  I prefer my classic Martini clear. It is such a deceptively simple recipe with only three ingredients.  It helps bring the garnish to the forefront if the liquid milieu is clear.

Aroma  As the ingredients meld together,  the uplifting aromas of the vermouth, the botanicals in the gin, and the garnish combine to produce an olfactory experience which is nearly as good as the liquid refreshment that is soon to follow.

Flavor  Gin crafters have before them a vast array of botanical ingredients to infuse into their products besides the typical juniper which makes gin-gin.  From the rose petal and cucumber in Hendricks to spruce tip and kumquat in Wire Works, there is a revival in gin crafting which is exploring new and unique flavor combinations of which we are the beneficiaries.  

Having concocted a Martini, I can't help but recall some lines from "Like a Hurricane" by Neil Young

               Before that moment you touched my lips
               That perfect feeling when time just slips
               Away between us
               On our foggy trip 

I believe that the majority of people assume he is talking about a woman, but consider for a moment that perhaps it is the Martini to which he is referring.  It works for me.  At this point, the five senses come together blissfully -  the consummation of the marriage.  But wait, more than a few astute readers have probably realized that's only four senses, what about hearing?  Have a couple more Martinis and you may just hear it speak to you.

      I could wax poetic about these various entities ( and likely will in future posts).  For now let it suffice that we have before us the necessary requirements of a Martini.  Choosing who plays the parts will be left to another day.  In the meanwhile, mix and experiment- direct the players.  For it is said that the mark of a genius is the ability to find seemingly new and endless variety in a finite set of variables. Conversely, stupidity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again whilst expecting a different result.

Unleash your genius!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Martini Genesis

From Humble Beginnings to Understated Elegance

      In this, the inaugural installment of my Martini blog, I will delve into the history of what may arguably be the finest liquid refreshment in this universe.  I say "this universe" as there seems to be a few in the theoretical physics realm who believe in the multiverse theory. Clearly that smacks of heresy.  Pope Francis will need to be handing out excommunication cards like a Las Vegas dealer.  But I digress.
First, let's clear the deck.  I am a traditionalist in the strictest sense of the word.  The Martini is made with Gin and Vermouth, nothing else. There is nothing fruity in a properly made Martini, and do not even mention Vodka.  Just because a beverage is put in a conical glass does not make it a Martini.  The beauty and elegance of the Martini stems from the simple, yet sublime fusion of just a few ingredients with a garnish.  There is simply no need to meddle with a proven winner.  As H.L. Mencken said, "Martinis are the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.

The Past

      As alcohol and a clear remembrance of things past (Proust reference) do not go hand in hand, the history of the Martini is not exactly clear. Some would say it is a bit "dirty" in that regard.  The commonly referenced creation story dates the Martini to the "Gold Rush" days in California circa 1849.  A miner who was returning to San Francisco after making his fortune, stopped into the town of Martinez, seeking a celebratory drink.   Venturing into a local watering hole, he ordered up a glass of Champagne.  As there was none to be had, the bartender suggested a "Martinez Special".

The Martinez: Forerunner of the Martini

Dash of bitters
2 dashes maraschino liqueur
1 pony Old Tom gin
1 wine glass vermouth
1/4 slice lemon

      As can be seen, we have to do away with the bitters and maraschino liqueur. The miner continued on to San Francisco where he walked into a bar and ordered a Martinez Special. The bartender there had never heard of the drink and asked for the recipe. The miner could only recall three parts gin and a very dry Sauterne wine. An olive was added and a legendary cocktail was born. The San Francisco version is that the miner showed up at the Occidental Hotel bar, where bartender Jerry Thomas, created the recipe which the miner then brought to the city of Martinez.  Both cities claim title to the iconic cocktail. 
Other theories do exist as to the origin of the Martini, though none are quite as interesting. The fact that it is made with vermouth, of which there is a very prominent Italian manufacturer, Martini and Rossi, lends credence to another possible genesis. Cocktails were frequently referred to in very generic terms back in the day. So, a Gin cocktail with martini vermouth may have readily been called a Martini.  Still others assert that it was created in the New York Knickerbocker Hotel by Martini di Arma di Taggia, an Italian immigrant bartender.  

However humble the nineteenth century Martini's origin may be, the symbol into which it has been transformed in the twentieth century can not be overstated.  Infused in literature and film by such luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Jack London and Humphrey Bogart, the Martini became a symbol of social status.  It permeated WWII politics, imbibed by Roosevelt and Churchill.   Everybody who was anybody was drinking Martinis and fortunately for us, the trend continues.......