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, October 30, 2016

Down and Dirty

   The Infinite Malady 

      Every now and then, I just have to shake my head in wonder at what has gone so horribly wrong in this world when fresh off the Google News feed comes the headline, "Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis have reached a record high level", and unfortunately, it seems that this is occuring with an unsettling frequency. According to the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reported in 2015 reached the highest number ever recorded.  A sorry state of affairs, pardon the pun, indeed.  How is it that we can live in such a technologically advanced society, with the best medical treatments in the world, and yet we continue to wallow in the muck and mire of base human behavior?  Well, people will be people I suppose.  The innate struggles of this all too human race rage on as we continue to wage a silent battle against the beckoning seven deadly sins in a timeless conflict against our virtues.  Even the best amongst us, those prolific in their contributions to mankind, struggle with personal vices.  Perhaps even the great bard himself whose tragic plays and countless poems provided so much insight into the human condition but yet seemed to be so fixated on syphilis was actually stricken with the disease...

The Bard

      The possibility that William Shakespeare may have suffered from syphilis has been the subject of a number of erudite articles.  It has previously been noted by his contemporaries that Shakespeare was notoriously promiscuous and a number of individuals that ran in his crowd had actually contracted the disease.   Although, at the time, what was classified as syphilis cases were probably also inclusive of other STD as syphilis, gonorrhea and herpes simplex were poorly differentiated because of the high frequency of coinfection. Treatment for syphilis back in the Elizabethan period consisted of inhaling mercury vapor which led to the saying, “a night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury.” There are numerous references to the "infinite malady" throughout Shakespeare's writings and I recommend an excellent medical article which lays out the case in a clear and scholarly manner.  The only way to know for certain would be to dig up the old Bard and have him tested, but some things are better left to the imagination.


      The Martini is elegantly simple- comprised of Gin, Vermouth, and a garnish which typically is the olive and it is the olive which defines the classic image immediately recognizable to all.  The brine of the olive stands up well to the dryness of the gin, so much so, that people have taken to adding a bit of the olive brine solution to the cocktail.  The resulting addition turning the cocktail a bit murky and thus the moniker- "dirty" Martini.  Now whereas the Martini has a classic ratio of 3:1, the amount of brine required to invoke the dirty Martini is a personal decision.  Some just add a drop or two while others wholly substitute the brine solution for the vermouth portion.  Personally, I prefer not to overshadow the nuances of the gin botanicals with an excessive amount of the olive brine.  The playfulness in me only orders a dirty Martini with a female barkeep, and I order it "just a little dirty."  One word of caution here when making your own, make sure to get yourself a quality jar of martini olives.  The last thing you want to do is have a glass of gin with a hapless pour of olive scraps and oil mixed in.  Even though it's dirty, the Martini still should be classy.

Let's lead a clean life-
You can have your Martini dirty!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hurricanes, Cholera, and Martinis


      The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is off to an ominous start as Matthew hurtled through the Caribbean portending a ruinous spell.  These potent storms brew off the west coast of Africa, wind their way into the Caribbean, and oftentimes meander up the east coast of the United states inducing fear and panic.  By the time the storms extend up to New England, much of their momentum has abated and fortunately for us, it is a rare thing indeed for a major hurricane to significantly impact us.  Matthew was the latest and most powerful of these swirling bundles of nature's fury to cut a swath of destruction along it's path.  The immediate affects are evident as the media inundate us with live video of the damage and destruction inflicted through a combination of lashing winds, pounding waves, raging storm surges, and torrential rainfall, but a hurricane's effects can be longer lasting.  After the initial drama of wind and waves plays out in our 24/7 culture and there are no more news clips to be had of capsized boats and battered homes, the real effects of the devastation sink in as communities struggle to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and possessions. Frequently, in less industrialized areas without back up systems in place for electricity, heat, and clean water and sanitation, pestilence in fact, may be a more significant part of the morbidity and mortality as outbreaks and epidemics tend to occur in the sometimes squalid living conditions.  And so, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a report of a potential cholera outbreak in Haiti has surfaced, like a fog creeping forth out of the tropical verdant swamps.


      Upon hearing the news of cholera in Haiti, I could not help but think of the miasma of the great swamp described in Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. "At nightfall, at the oppressive moment of transition, a storm of carnivorous mosquitoes rose out of the swamps, and a tender breath of miasma, warm and sad, stirred the certainty of death in the depths of one’s soul." The title of this novel says it all.  It is a quintessential representation of the conflict in the novel as Dr. Juvenal Urbino is systematically trying to rid the land of the cholera plague arising from the miasma of the swamps, just as his marriage is trying to rid his wife, Fermina Daza and her long time suitor, Florentino Ariza of their romantic love. The book also plays on the term cholera, which the adjectival form in Spanish, c√≥lera, can also denote passion or human rage. While some see this as just a story of undying romantic love surviving and triumphing over realism, that is a rather sophomoric interpretation of the novel, which is probably how it made Oprah Winfrey's book list. Marquez himself warned the reader- don't fall into my trap.  Marquez forces the reader to compare and contrast the varied forms "love" may assume.  The romantic, but also obsessive, love that Florentino professes toward Fermina is compared to physical illness--perhaps not so innocent and healthy after all.  It is not quite so black and white, and it should really be left up to the reader to ponder- perchance over a Martini.

Nantucket Gales

     Off the south coast of Massachusetts lies the Island of Nantucket made famous by the whaling industry and immortalized in Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick.  It is here that Triple Eight Distillery is brewing up their own storm of sorts. Gale Force Gin is produced here and it is a spirit that is most aptly named, for it is a firm brew that stands up, like the two red flags on the bottle as a sign of warning for gale force winds (or maybe for the alcohol content of 88.8 proof).  The style is more in the classic London Dry fashion, but slightly less juniper forward. Triple Eight Distillery uses a total of nine botanicals in the production of Gale Force Gin, however only four are listed-  along with Juniper are Angelica, Orris root, and Grains of Paradise.  There is a clear citrus component, the origin of which is not specified.  Tasting notes- a softened Juniper up front, a distinct citrus follows  and a smooth peppery finish.  It is a standout for the classic Martini and also is unabashed in a Negroni.

When Mother Nature exhibits her choleric behavior
Pour yourself a Gale Force Martini

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Togas, Frocks, and Capes

Togas and Torts

      In the modern world in which we live, we like to reassure ourselves that our civilized society endows us with certain rights and protections that are granted to us under the umbrella of the law.  For the most part, we wallow through life, toiling away at our chosen profession trying to make an honest living and fortunately, brushes with the law are far and few between.  But, how would our perspective on all this change when suddenly involved in a law suit?  Do we trust that justice would truly be served.  Ultimately, who keeps the scorecard on the justice system and what of the lawyers bringing frivolous law suits?

      Well, things were vastly different in the days of Roman Law during the Republic. There was no Roman equivalent to the American Bar Association and any individual with a sufficient education in the law could choose to bring a law suit.  However, one had to be careful in their proceedings.  Things could get personal and prosecutions were often politically motivated, however,  a prosecutor who brought an accusation wrongfully could be sued under the Lex Remmia de calumnia.  If the defendant was absolved of wrong doing, and he felt that the prosecution was malicious and a false accusation, then he could bring a counter suit accusing the prosecutor of Calumnia which is similar to the present day libel or defamation. According to the writings of  Cicero, the false accuser might be branded on the forehead with the letter K, the initial of Kalumnia (Greek).  The physical branding of lawyers bringing frivolous law suits would certainly change the landscape of the American legal system as we know it.  

Puritan Jurisprudence

       Though it may seem somewhat improbable that Hawthorne had this in mind when he penned The Scarlet Letter, studying the classics of Greek and Latin was one of the mainstays of education back in the day. So it may well be that Hawthorne read of Cicero's letters and orations and thus was born the puritanical justice of his famous novel.   Although, by his own admission he was not the most studious undergraduate at Bowdoin College. Nevertheless, it is with striking similarity that the heroine of the novel, Hester Prynne, found guilty of Adultery, was forced to don her frock with the scarlet letter A embossed upon it.  Now the Puritans were a bit on the austere side, what with the stocks and witch hunts and all, but comparatively speaking, Hester wasn't treated all that bad, for she merely had to wear the letter A, rather than have it branded into her forehead.    

Yankee InGINuity

       From the toga of Cicero to the frock of Hester Prynne, I thought of capes and with that came Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which I realize is a stretch, but it always comes back to the Martini eventually. In any event, Cape Cod is home to a new Gin on the market. Dry Line Gin is produced by South Hollow Spirits, a distillery located on the outer reaches of Cape Cod in North Truro, Massachusetts.  It is not often in life that I find myself in the position of being first or possessing the number one of something...anything, but such is the case with Dry Line Gin, this being the first year of production.  The distinctive bottle I procured is labeled #423 of batch no. 001. Dry Line Gin takes its name from the juniper-producing Eastern Red Cedar that is only grown east of the 100° Meridian and in this case is grown right on the property.  
      Initially, South Hollow Spirits distillery produced rum and as such, utilized sugar as the basis for fermentation to produce alcohol.  In expanding their repertoire to include Gin production, they have stayed with sugar as the fermentation base unlike most gin which uses a neutral grain derived alcohol. The Gin is twice distilled and brought to a final ABV of 47. The list of botanicals is somewhat classic including orange peel, lemon peel, for a bit of citrus bite, while cardamom, allspice, coriander, orris root, grains of paradise, angelica root, and anise provide the earthy tones. And what would a product from the Cape be without a bit of cranberry to infuse the spirit of Cape Cod?  The style of this gin is of the new "balanced" variety bearing little resemblance to it's London dry predecessors.  The flavor is broad and smooth, with a sweetness about it, no doubt influenced by the sugar base and the addition of cranberry.  The juniper is mild and remains in the background and there is little burn to this 94 proof gin.  It works particularly well in mixed drinks and can be enjoyed neat, but for my palate the sweetness doesn't work quite so well in a classic dry Martini.  I hope you enjoy it, but if not-

Don't Sue Me

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Green and Gold


      As I sit observing my youngest son as he begins to read the classic middle school read,The Outsiders, a bit of amusement crosses my face, for the irony does not escape me that I am watching my children grow up as they read a book about growing up and the loss of innocence, and likewise, my shadow in life grows just a bit longer with each passing day.  The book is frequently on the must read list for the adolescent student as it deals with that awkward period in one's life when youth has not been totally surrendered and maturity sits on the horizon but is not yet attained.  While the characters Ponyboy and Johnny are on the lam after a stabbing during a gang fight, they spend time reading in their hideout, which just so happens to be, not coincidentally I think, a church.  They read from Gone With the Wind and Robert Frost's poem Nothing Gold Can Stay.  Inevitably the students will be called upon to proffer an explanation as to why the author chose to introduce this particular poem into her novel, and the themes of youth, loss of innocence, and impermanence will be explored. 

The Fall

      Only the inimitable poet Robert Frost could make the traverse from the advent of spring to the Fall of Man in 8 simple, yet perfect lines of poetry. 

                Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I especially love how Frost utilizes alliteration in this poem.  The second line - Her hardest hue to hold is nicely balanced against the seventh line - So dawn goes down to day creating a stylistic symmetry.  I suppose he could have substituted the word dives for goes to further the point, but what do I know?  There is something in this poem which is somewhat somber, but not in a necessarily sinister sense.  Youth doesn't last forever, and it is a necessary fact that one grows up to the realities of life.  Even the calamitous Fall of Man was in a sense an inevitable result of the taking from the tree of knowledge.  Right and wrong and the attendant choices fasten the yokes upon us.  But there is a bright side in that we have free choice and though change itself is as inexorable as the marching of time, we may choose a betterment.  Let us pick up the pieces after the Fall, because although nothing gold can stay, we may still make choices of gold.

The Gin

     Now when considering the Martini, choices abound, particularly in the ever expanding assortment of Gins that are being produced. There is a Gin revolution of sorts currently transpiring today, and the American Gins are, I think, at the forefront. I am quite certain that the Gin produced in the early periods of the British Empire would be considered a bit harsh by today's standards. But, over time, production evolved to produce what we commonly refer to as a classic "London Dry Gin", primarily characterized by a Juniper forward flavor, and after all, the spirit is defined by it's inclusion of Juniper.  And, just as the Colonies fought a revolution of independence, so now the American Gins are offering up a change from the old London Drys.  "Tired of being colonized by dry British Gins?  Then Wire Works Gin is for you." So reads the label on one of my favorite gins which just so happens to be distilled a few miles north of my home.  GrandTen Distillery produces Wire Works Gin along with several other craft spirits right in South Boston.  The building itself is sited on an old foundry which originally supplied the early US government with arms and munitions, but later was converted to the production of wire and thus the name given to the Gin.  The newer Gins all play on the classic taste profile by subtle flavor manipulations of the added botanicals, which in this case are listed below-the full list is somewhat of a secret....

Juniper               Angelica            Spruce tips            Kumquat               Cranberry

I like the addition of spruce tips here which produces a smoother evergreen flavor than the juniper alone.  The addition of kumquat is a different play on the citrus component and what would a Massachusetts Gin be if there wasn't a cranberry or two added in.   For myself, I prefer a Gin that is proofed at 90%, but goes down smooth with little burn which is exactly what GrandTen delivers.  Overall, Wire Works Gin is one of the finest of the new age American Gins in terms of flavor and drinkability.  It works well straight up, in a mixed drink, or my favorite of all beverages- The Martini. 

By all means, garnish your Wire Works Martini
 with a 
Green olive.