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.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Aristotle, Tragedy, and the Martini

     Although the mind of Aristotle is clearly genius, this statement does present me with a bit of a dilemma, but I love it nonetheless.
     What Aristotle said of Greek tragedy in the "Poetics" is also true of the Martini. “Having passed through many changes, it found its natural form; and there it stopped.” …. I am not arguing that there is a natural recipe for the Martini, a natural proportion of gin to vermouth. I am arguing that there is a natural form, which comprises the essential qualities of the Martini… Its pleasure, which is not voluptuous but astringent, can only be expressed by oxymoron: sensuous coldness, opulent dryness, mysterious clarity, alluring purity.
—Lowell Edmunds, Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail 
     This got me thinking.  What other connection might the Martini have with Greek Tragedy?  It has always seemed to me that the Martini possesses something that is inherently aesthetic.  It has both form and substance, Apollo and Dionysus.   The use of the these as they relate to Greek Tragedy was expounded upon by Friedrich Nietzsche in  The Birth of Tragedy published in 1872.   His major premise here was that the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian elements  form dramatic arts, or tragedies. He goes on to argue that this fusion has not been achieved since the ancient Greek tragedians.  Not to go off on a tangent, but from here, Nietzsche impugns Socrates for the imparting of rationalism and dialogue into tragedy, claiming that the infusion of ethics and reason robs tragedy of its foundation, namely the fragile balance of the Dionysian and Apollonian.  Next he attacks Jesus for spreading the concept of pity, creates the ubermensch to overcome these two problems of man, and the next thing we know a guy named Adolf misappropriates these ideas- the rest is history.  
     Aristotle defined Tragedy thusly: “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its katharsis of such emotions. . . . Every Tragedy, therefore, must have six parts, which parts determine its quality—namely, Plot, Characters, Diction, Thought, Spectacle, Melody.” 
     May I dare to sit upon the stage with Aristotle for a moment, I would suggest the addition of Hope as a requisite to the tragedy.  Perhaps Aristotle recognized hope as the prerequisite to pity, fear, and despair.  Are not the depths of these emotions all the more deeper because of the underlying hope of overcoming them, and does that not make the katharsis that much sweeter?  I don't know. I am not that well read in Aristotelian philosophy nor do I read Greek.  
     In any event, let us consider the Martini as a classic tragedy.   That the Martini has great characters is obvious, likewise the interplay between them and ones palate clearly represents a wonderful plot.  As for the diction, a perfectly assembled Martini will speak to me quite eloquently indeed.  Concerning thought, Aristotle discusses how speeches reveal character.  Not only does a fine Martini have character, it tends to reveal something about the character of the drinker as well.  Now, melody is a little more difficult to put one's finger on.  As the Martini does not have an accompanying orchestra, I will lump this together with diction.  Lastly, we are left with spectacle.  Nothing more need be said here, for surely the Martini exudes spectacle.  
    The culmination of the Greek Tragedy as defined by Aristotle is Katharsis, or a "purging". The emotions of pity and fear aroused by the tragedy can be experienced in an aesthetic form and thus released, or purged.  So, next time you are taking in some Sophocles or a Martini, enjoy the Apollonian and Dionysian elements and savor them.  Martinis in particular should be taken in slowly and enjoyed.  Too many Martinis in too short a time is a recipe for disaster.  
It's far better that the purging take place on an aesthetic level rather than a physical one.

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