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.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Ides of March

Julius Caesar, Juniper, and the Martini

Caesar and the Ides of March

As most people know, the Ides of March is another name for the 15th day in the month of March.  However, few know how important the Ides was to classical history.  In the Roman Republic, Rome's society and government before the rise of Augustus (Octavian) Caesar, the Ides of March was a major holiday of celebration.  Each month on the Roman calendar had "its own ides", but March (Martius) was special in that it was the first month of the year on the oldest Roman calendar.  Therefore, the Ides of March was usually the first full moon of the year for the Romans and so the celebrations during the month have been compared to our present day New Year's celebrations.  Though the fact that March meant a new year was a big deal, an even greater deal concerning the Ides of March particularly was that it was the feast or celebration of the Roman king of the gods, Jupiter (Iuppiter).  So, when the 15th of March came around, Jupiter's priest would lead sheep to be sacrificed at the citadel (arx) in Rome.  As the sheep were led, waves of crowds would gather and cheer on the sacrifice.  Of course, food and drink (alcoholic) was aplenty and common people enjoyed picnicking throughout the day.  

Overall, the Ides of March of the Roman Republic was a time of social unity in Rome.  However, the Ides of March took on a whole new historical meaning in the year 44 B.C. (That's right, none of that politically correct BCE crap), when Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Forum.  Led by Politicians Brutus and Cassius, over 50 senators took place in killing Caesar, as he was stabbed 23 times before falling to his death.  Of course, most people who have heard of Caesar's assassination often know William Shakespeare's famous line of, "et tu, Brute?" (Literally translated from Latin as "Even you, Brutus?") from his drama Julius Caesar, proclaimed by Caesar as his life is ended.  Most historians will deem Caesar's death as the end of the Roman Republic and the start of the Roman Empire.  After his death, civil wars broke out in Rome.  Caesar's nephew, Octavian, set out with a goal of vengeance for his uncle.  He first executed 300 Roman senators and then led a series of military victories.  Most noted were the victories of Octavian over Cassius and Brutus at the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., and his final victory at the naval Battle of Actium in 34 B.C. over Mark Antony.  After these victories, Octavian took the name Augustus and founded the Roman Empire, making the Ides of March the origin for the Roman Empire!  In the new Empire, many people saw the Ides of March as a day to remember Rome's rebirth into a stronger region.  However, the day remained dedicated to Jupiter, and so the Ides was never truly devoted to celebrating the newfound empire.  So, what many people would call a typical day is really one enveloped in rich, Roman history.

The preceding primer in Roman History as it relates to the Ides of March is courtesy of my guest blogger, Drew Curtin, currently a Latin II Honors scholar at Boston College High School.  He is also my videographer and video editor for the various videos included in previous posts, such as The Outdoor Martini Bar, The Winter of Despair,  and The Olio.   Drew maintains a YouTube channel at ClubHeroes. 


      The ancient Romans used juniper berries as a cheap domestically-produced substitute for the expensive black pepper.  They also utilized the berries and it's oil for purification ceremonies and the treatment of stomach ailments.  Fast forwarding a bit, it was around the 11th century that Italian monks began producing a spirit with local botanicals and Juniper berries.   The Italian Juniper has a soft, smooth piney aroma with a slightly citrus note.  Today, the Italian sourced Juniper is a favorite ingredient of the craft gin industry.

The Martini

     There are a number of stories that claim rights to the origin of the Martini.  I have looked at some of these in a past postThe Martini Genesis.  In one of these stories, the martini was created in 1912 at the New York Knickerbocker Hotel by Martini di Arma di Taggia, an Italian immigrant bartender. According to the story, one Martini di Arma di Taggia mixed dry vermouth and gin together and the mixture gained the favor of John D. Rockefeller. It is unclear whether this story holds any water, but there does seem to be an Italian stream that flows from Rome to the Juniper to the Martini.

Had Caesar, Cassius and Brutus had a three martini lunch, perhaps the whole of western civilization would  have turned out differently.

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