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, February 7, 2016

Deserts and Martinis


       As the relatively mild winter weather continues here in New England, standing in stark contrast to last year's unrelenting winter, I find myself in the midst of planning a trip to Palm Springs, California, an oasis of fine hotels, golf, tennis, and a seemingly endless array of water driven recreation in the middle of a desert as only could be done in the US (or Dubai).   In the early 1900's, Palm Springs became a haven for those seeking better health and recuperation from what ailed them in a pleasant, dry environment.  In the surrounding foothills overlooking Palm Springs healing mineral spring waters fed the resort spa destination.  The area became a frequent getaway for the Hollywood rich and famous particularly in the post World War II era.  Hollywood values permeated the resort as it combined celebrity, health, new wealth, and sex. As Culver (2010) explains: "The bohemian sexual and marital mores already apparent in Hollywood intersected with the resort atmosphere of Palm Springs, and this new, more open sexuality would gradually appear elsewhere in national tourist culture."  That all seems quite interesting, but I will be going for the rather mundane reason of observing some tennis at the BNP Paribus Open at Indian Wells.  

Desert Despair

     With my desert itinerary in the making, I could not help but to draw parallels with my most recent read The Sheltering Sky, written by Paul Bowles, and published in 1949.  Just as WWI produced "The Lost Generation" of writers such as Hemingway, Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald et al, so it was that WWII produced a similar artistic community and Bowles was in the thick of it.  Rather than the Paris cafes frequented by the original "lost generation", Bowles was drawn to North Africa, specifically Tangier.  He used his familiarity of the area as the setting for his acclaimed novel. The basic plot revolves around Port and Kit Moresby and their hapless friend Tunner.  Port has planned a trip for the New York based couple to escape the world ruined in the aftermath of WWII, while at the same time attempting to repair a marriage which has fractured.  They travel to North Africa and embark on an ever more chaotic and degenerative journey into the Sahara Desert, which represents an existential quest for something to hold onto in a world ostensibly devoid of meaning or relevance.  The title comes from the following passage:

"You know," said Port, and his voice sounded unreal, as voices are likely to do after a long pause in an utterly silent spot, "the sky here's very strange. I often have the sensation when I look at it that it's a solid thing up there, protecting us from what's behind."
Kit shuddered slightly as she said: "From what's behind?"
"But what is behind?" Her voice was very small.
"Nothing, I suppose. Just darkness. Absolute night."

      Now here is a book that sounds the depths of despair.  I think it was the character Roger in The Strange Country, a never completed novel by Hemingway who said   “Missing is bad. But it doesn’t kill you. But despair would kill you in just a little time.”  It masterfully paints a very dark picture in the setting of the nearly limitless sunlight of the Sahara Desert.  

Dry Martinis

     All this talk of  the desert naturally brings to mind the dry Martini, but not everyone is fully versed in the usage of the term dry as it relates to an alcoholic beverage.  In the fermentation process, a carbohydrate substance is taken up by a fermenting agent, i.e. yeast for example, which utilizes the sugar for energy and produces alcohol as an end product.  Wouldn't it be nice to be a yeast for a day?  To oversimplify the formula, the human species also utilizes sugar to produce energy, but the biochemical process we possess produces carbon dioxide as an end product. If, or more precisely when, the fermentation process is brought to a halt determines how much sugar remains and thus how sweet, or conversely, how dry the resultant alcoholic distillate is. 

     Now the original Martini was concocted with Old Tom Gin which is decidedly less dry than the London Dry Gin to which most people are more familiar.  The  vermouth which was added was either sweet or dry depending on which story of the genesis of the Martini you believe in.  So initially a "dry martini" referred to the use of dry vermouth and London dry gin. In modern terminology, dry has become synonymous with the proportion of gin to vermouth.  The classic ratio is 3:1  and as the ratio of gin increased, the martini became drier.  Hemingway was famous for his use of the term Montgomery to describe his martini ratio of 15:1 , as he stated this was the only acceptable ratio of attacking force the British general would accept to assure victory.  I believe he had a certain amount of disdain for this particular commander.

It is ironic indeed that a dry martini could be so refreshing in the driest of climates.

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