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.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day

Martyrdom, Lupercalia, and Chaucer

     Well, it is nearly upon us, the American Greeting card company's favorite day.  As we all prepare to declare our love and amorous intentions with cards, chocolates, flowers, romantic dinner reservations and such, let's step back and take a look at the origin of Valentine's Day.  The more that I research certain topics of which I thought I had a fair bit of knowledge, the more I find myself wading through a quagmire.  It seems that a good story may stand on equal ground with fact in what is passed down as History.  And, a lot of what is passed down in history draws much on the art of embellishment.  In this regard, Valentine's Day, the history of gin and the Martini genesis  share a thread of commonality. 

     One aspect of Valentine's Day is known with certainty.  The day was named to commemorate the life and martyrdom of St. Valentine, or Valentinus.  But who exactly was he? Well, we don't actually know for sure, as there have been several of that name.   However, Valentine's Day  was created to honor at least two Saints Valentinus.   Saint Valentinus of Rome is associated with the popular legend that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. Emperor Claudius II came to believe that bachelors proved to be better soldiers than married men, and he thus banned the practice.   Enter St. Valentine who continued to join young lovers in holy matrimony .  Claudius had him imprisoned and later put to death.  While imprisoned, he healed the daughter of his jailer, restoring her sight.  An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed "Your Valentine".  The other Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian for providing succor to the Christians.  
     Both Valentines were buried on the Via Flaminia which may have led to some of the confusion.  The traipsing about the countryside with religious relics was an important part of the spread of Christianity.  It is entirely possible that their lives and stories became intertwined.  As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church, when revamping their liturgical calendar stated "Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14." And, it is likely that a fair amount of story telling and subsequent oral tradition led to many of the legends of St Valentine(s). Remember also, that at this time, the early Middle Ages had been referred to as the Dark Ages characterising a general lack of learning or education.  Under these conditions rumor and embellishment flourished. 

Romulus and Remus
     Another popular story connected to the history of Valentine's Day is that it was created to overshadow the Roman pagan festival of Lupercalia.   Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on the ides of February(13th or 14th) to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.  It also to paid homage to the founders of Rome.  The twins, Romulus and Remus, were abandoned to the wilds around the hills of what is present day Rome.  They were found and raised by a she-wolf in the surrounding mountains. They eventually grew up, and began to build heir own city.  Remus mocked his brother, Romulus, because his  buildings were so small and inferior. Romulus in his anger, killed his brother and founded Rome, a case of sibling rivalry taken to a whole new level.  The festival began with the sacrifice of two male goats and a dog.  Young men were led to the altar, to be anointed with the sacrificial blood.  The sacrificial feast followed, after which the young men dressed themselves in the skins of the sacrificed goats.  They carried strips of the cloth bathed in the blood of the sacrificial animals and ran around the walls of the old Palatine city. The ladies would line up on their route to receive lashes on their bared bottoms from these whips.  This was supposed to ensure fertility, prevent sterility in women and ease the pains of childbirth.  Pope Gelasius I was said to have then  introduced Valentine's Day to supplant the influence of Lupercalia .  Although one could try and connect the dots, it appears to be historically inaccurate when placed under the microscope.  
 How then do we jump ahead from a martyred priest to the notion of romance?  It is now widely attributed to the poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer of The Canterbury Tales fame.  His poem, Parliament of Fowls, is widely quoted as being the first reference to Saint Valentine's Day as a romantic time.  I think it is highly likely that there were, in fact, earlier traditions connecting Valentine and romance that preceded Chaucer’s reference but which simply, for whatever reason, did not survive to the modern day.  The following excerpt shows the lines purported to relate Valentines Day as a romantic holiday.  It seems a stretch in that it only associates  birds' mating season with the date in question.  

"And there was not any bird that is created through procreation that was not ready in her presence to hear her and receive her judgment. For this was Saint Valentine's day, when every bird of every kind that men can imagine comes to this place to choose his mate. And they made an exceedingly great noise; and earth and sea and the trees and all the lakes were so full that there was scarcely room for me to stand, so full was the entire place. And just as Alan, in The Complaint of Nature, describes Nature in her features and attire, so might men find her in reality. 318
This noble empress, full of grace, bade every bird take his station, as they were accustomed to stand always on Saint Valentine's day from year to year. That is to say, the birds of prey were set highest, and then the little birds who eat, as nature inclines them, worms or other things of which I speak not; but water-fowls sat the lowest in the dale; and birds that live on seed sat upon the grass, so many that it was a marvel to see." 

     In 18th century England, Valentine's Day evolved into an occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering candy, and sending greeting cards.   Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.   Let it suffice to say that a rather dubious string of connections has been made to arrive at our present day celebration of Valentine's Day.  I think we must all agree that our present day celebration of Valentine's day is far better than it's rather suspect past.

     As we all must do from time to time, I will have to compromise a bit to the fairer sex.  As much as I love gin and the classic martini, for one night I will have to cross that line and make an exception.  I offer up two cocktails for your enjoyment.  One is a Valentine's Martini made with (gulp) vodka, and the other is a gin cocktail.  

The Sweetheart Martini


1.5 oz  vodka
2 oz cranberry juice 
1 oz grand mariner 
Squeeze of fresh lime juice


1. Shake all ingredients with ice in a shaker. 
2. Strain and serve in a martini glass
2. Garnish raspberries, strawberries, or even white chocolate 

Tanqueray Rouge


1.25 oz. gin (recommended: Tanqueray London Dry)
1 oz. simple syrup
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. pomegranate juice
1 spiral lemon peel


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the gin, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and pomegranate juice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
  3. Garnish with lemon peel spiral.

Enjoy the evening!

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