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.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Roses and Martinis



      -A mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent.
      So goes the definition from Merriam Webster dictionary.  The origin of the word potpourri is actually derived from the French meaning "rotten pot".  This is in reference to the term which the French troops occupying Burgos, Spain applied to the local stew-olla podrida during the Napoleonic occupation of 1808-1813.  Over the years, the term for a stew of mixed meats became associated with the stew of mixed flowers and herbs. Potpourri has been in use since ancient times for the scenting of rooms.  Local herbs and flowers were gathered and then spread across the floor to dry.  Sometimes salt was added, and occasionally this was allowed to ferment for a period of time before being placed in pots and jars.  In more modern times, the mixture was fortified with perfume, but in order for the scent to last, a binding agent must be added to the mix.  That binder is none other than orris root, the same ingredient used in Gin to bind the flavors.  Fermentation, botanicals, and flavor binders provide an interesting parallel between Gin and potpourri.  The list of possible ingredients is lengthy, however many of them are the same botanicals used in the production of Gin.  There may be orange or lemon peel, herbs such as rosemary, cinnamon and allspice, and various plants including  juniper, jasmine, lavender, mint and, of course, the Rose.


Roses and Daggers

      In a sense, it is the Rose which is intricate to the story of Romeo and Juliet.  In this case, the rose plays the part of the respective surnames of our characters, embodying their feuding families and thus their tragic star-crossed love which was never meant to be (or not to be?...)  During one of their balcony conversations Juliet pleads with Romeo to forgo his name-that it is their families that are enemies and that he should forsake the Montague name or she,Capulet, for what's in a name.  The beauty of the rose does not change if the name is altered.  She loves him and that is sufficient. 
 -"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" 

As the final scene plays out, Romeo, thinking that Juliet is dead,  is despondent and takes his own life by swallowing a vial of poison.  When Juliet finds him dead, she tries to kill herself by kissing Romeo hoping there is scant enough poison left to do her in as well. Failing that, she stabs herself with Romeo's "happy dagger"--Shakespeare just can't resist the double entendre.

Roses and Cucumbers

     I dare say that for the average young adult growing up in the 70s and 80s, Gin was looked upon with a bit of disdain in these parts. It was fair enough to mix up in a gin and tonic or a gimlet, but few would consider drinking it neat, purely for its flavor profile. "Pine tree in a bottle" was a description of the uninitiated which was heard with some frequency. Tangueray was the ubiquitous brand and frequently the sole proprietor on the bar room shelf.  It represented the typical London Dry Gin recipe which was of course Juniper forward in flavor.  Bombay Sapphire was then launched in 1987 and expanded the repertoire of botanicals bridging the gap to what would become a new genre of Gin.  But it was Hendrick's Gin that shifted the taste and flavor profile and ushered in the modern era floral variety of Gin.        
       Hendrick's Gin originates from Scotland and was introduced in 1999.  It is produced in small batches of 450 Liters through a rather unique process.  Hendrick’s is the melding of two different spirits from two distinct stills: the Bennet still, a pot variety of still, and the Carter-Head still.  While botanicals are steeped in the Bennet still,  the Carter-Head uses a copper basket to infuse flavor into the spirit.  The two are then carefully combined to produce the right flavor profile. Many of the botanicals in Hendrick's Gin are common to other Gins such as Bombay Sapphire and include Lemon, Cubeb berry, Orris root, Caraway, Chamomile, Coriander, Angelica, Orange, Yarrow,  Elderflower and of course Juniper.  They provide ample flavor in and of themselves, but it is cucumbers and Rose, specifically Bulgarian Rosa Damascena that sealed the deal.  The musky rose flavor permeates but does not overpower the decidedly balanced aromatic profile.  The cucumber is not a flavor which stands up for itself, but contributes to the "clean" character of this Gin.  It is brought forward with a bit of garnish from the same. The veritable potpourri of botanicals lend a smooth, clean, and balanced profile with just the right amount of Juniper and citrus notes.  In a very crude sense, Gin in general, and Hendrick's in particular, is a combination of alcohol infused with potpourri, that little botanical mesh bag sometimes found in a ladies underwear drawer.   

Consider that whilst enjoying a Hendrick's Martini!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Girls, Girls, Girls

     Flapper Girls

       I try not to live in a romantic state of disbelief or fall victim to unrealistic expectations of the relationships between the sexes.  After all, men and women are fundamentally different in a number of ways but nothing bridges that gap quite like the Martini.  Say what you will about the allure of alcohol, or the feelings it imbues. There is nothing so unsexy as someone who is drunk, but there is nothing so sensual as one who has had a Martini, has developed that warmth of expression, and who remains lucid in their thoughts and feelings. As important as I think it is to root oneself in reality, I do allow myself at least one "fantasy"- I would have liked to have lived in the time of the Roaring Twenties, the glittering Jazz Age, when speakeasies- gin fueled- ruled the nights.  I am particularly enamored of the flapper girls, those short haired, hip twisting, Martini drinking sirens that seem to jump from the pages of F Scott Fitzgerald into my lap......

Crazy Girls

      Feeling a bit romantic, I picked up Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald thinking I could find there a beautiful love story to satisfy my yearning.  After all, the title would seem to indicate an amorous tale.  Page after page I kept up hope that something romantic and rapturous would occur.  As it turns out, I could not have been more wrong. There is not one iota of tenderness in the entire novel. It seems that perhaps I made a rather sophomoric error in appraising the title.  I think the night referred to here is a bit more dark and permanent, an escape from reality that is not necessarily restorative. Fitzgerald and the main character in the novel, Dick Driver, found their "night" in the bottom of a bottle.        

       While he derived his fame from The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald considered Tender is the Night his finest novel, I think perhaps because it struck so close to home. There are a number of striking similarities between the characters in the novel, Dick and Nicole Driver and the real life tragic lives of Fitzgerald and his schizophrenic wife, Zelda.  The title of the novel is derived from the poem Ode to a Nightingale by Keats.  As Keats sits in a chair watching and listening to a nightingale, he has a burning, almost desperate desire to leave "The weariness, the fever, and the fret, Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;" and travel into the deep forest where darkness rules and "tender is the night".  Fitzgerald develops a further spiel on the title in that Dick Driver, the main character and a psychiatrist,  develops "nightingale syndrome" which is loosely defined as occurring when a caregiver falls in love with the patient perhaps in an attempt to keep the patient safe. This is precisely what happens in the novel as Dick marries Nicole, his patient become wife. Unfortunately,  the relationship can't last as once the patient is cured, the basis of the relationship has no merit.  And so, Dick wallows along a path of self destructive behavior and alcoholism while Nicole now cured, remarries after their divorce.  

Gin Girls

       The gin girls of the modern era exude a certain allure and sex appeal which is a rather new phenomenon.  The Roaring Twenties with its flapper girls and speakeasies stand in stark contrast to the poor wenches of 18th century England.  Back then, living conditions were difficult and Gin was cheap. Cheap gin in old England was seen as a plague upon old Britannia a scourge upon the land and its subsequent taxation led to the gin riots.  Maternal alcoholism ran rampant leading the term Mother's Ruin to be attached to Gin.  Today it seems chardonnay has supplanted that role.   So the question is this, does the the pretty girl make the drink sexy or, rather, is the cocktail so beguiling that the Martini transforms the girl into a vixen ?  I suppose any beverage in and of itself really can't exude a sex appeal, but if I could steal a bit from Hemingway-

Isn't it pretty to think so? 


Monday, August 28, 2017

The Martini and World Dominence


      If ever there existed a cocktail that could dominate the world, then that cocktail could only be the Martini. That statement may seem a bit outlandish, but like most things in life, there is always a little bit of truth mixed in with even the most untruthful of things.  I have always considered the Martini to be somewhat of a game changer, but until recently I was unaware of the connection between the Martini and the Atomic age. The Martini has been identified with numerous world figures, politicians, actors, authors and the like, but I had never really associated my favorite drink with the scientific community.   But, it seems J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Father of the Atomic Age whose unwavering leadership led the Manhattan Project, had an affinity for the Martini just as those Uranium atoms had an affinity for holding together.  His steadfast determination turned Einstein's theoretical equation, E=MC2 into a brutal reality.  His statement below sums up the feelings of those in the bunker after the first atomic detonation.

-We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that one way or another.
                                           -J Robert Oppenheimer

It has been said that he lived on Martinis and cigarettes as the toll of the project bore down upon his soul.  The Father of the Atomic Age crafted his Martini with Gin(of course), a splash of vermouth, lime, and a touch of honey.  And so it was the iconic Martini that helped fuel the genius of Oppenheimer, propelling the US and the world into the Atomic age and changing the face of the world political hierarchy.  No other cocktail can claim such a distinction.


      Kurt Vonnegut was a humanist, non religious in the traditional sense, and decidedly anti-war.  While serving during World War II, he was captured and detained as a prisoner of war.  He was held in an abattoir in Dresden, Germany and that experience provided the background and inspiration for his seminal novel, Slaughterhouse Five.  As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the travels of Billy Pilgrim through both time and space in that novel, the story line of Cat's Cradle is a bit more apropos to this blog.  The novel is the story of the narrator who is attempting to catalog the experiences of the person, and the people around him, who created the atomic bomb and what they were doing on the day of the bombing of Hiroshima.  The scientist in question was trying to play the children's string game of cat's cradle with his son, and thus the title for the novel.

-No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's….[And] No damn cat, and no damn cradle.

Vonnegut uses this simple children's game to symbolize the dichotomy of truth and lies and how one's perspective is all that separates one from the other, whether it be the differing perspectives of father and son, or the larger views of a government and its people.  So too does the harnessing of the atom's power open the door to the possibility of a nearly limitless power supply or conversely, the proverbial Pandora's box to the world's destruction.  In a lot of ways, cat's cradle is a bit like life.  The more you play the game, I find that you either repeat the same patterns or get hopelessly muddled in a string of deceptions.  

The Atomic

            In addition to this potential for limitless power or destruction, the Atomic Age was also responsible for the creation of two cocktails, the Oppenheimer Martini and the Atomic Cocktail.  A creation of the Washington Press Club, the Atomic Cocktail was crafted in celebration of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima.  The ingredients included Gin, Pernod, and vermouth and was offed up at the club for a mere 60 cents.  Those were the days!  The USA just exerted itself as a world superpower and a sense of optimism pervaded the country.  The person responsible for this had spent at least some of his time working with the scant supplies in the desert lab at Los Alamos to craft his Martini with Gin(of course), a splash of vermouth, lime, and a touch of honey.  Here's the recipe:

The Oppenheimer Martini

4 oz. Gin                                                  Stir the Gin and vermouth with ice until chilled.
Smidgen of Dry Vermouth                       Strain into a chilled Martini glass whose rim has
Lime Juice                                               been dipped in equal parts lime and honey.             Honey

Offer a toast as Oppenheimer did-
"To the confusion of our enemies!"

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Chance and Circumstance


      Following the US Presidential election of 2016, the Wall Street bulls began a stampede through the stock market at a pace sufficient to instill a feeling of hope and usher in a promise of wealth and prosperity.  One can only hope that the streak continues on, though one can never know with certainty whether the bull market will continue, or for how long.  A point of discussion brought up recently amongst some friends was whether investing in the stock market was a balanced, thoughtful endeavor, or rather, was it akin to gambling at the casino, no different than plucking a chip down on the roulette wheel in Las Vegas. Initially, I scoffed at such a comparison- for after all, this is investing, full of metrics, research, asset allocation, etc.  I considered the factors that I bring to bear upon the decision of buying and selling of securities and how regimented it all seems.  But then again, there are countless gambling stratagems as well.  In reality, the bears and bulls of the stock market are driven by human nature and boil down to the simple human emotions of fear, greed, and hope.  In that sense, it is exactly like gambling, a game of chance.


      The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a novel written by Thornton Wilder and published in 1927 opens with Brother Juniper witnessing, by chance, the collapse of this famous bridge as five travelers were making the crossing.  Chance or providence?  I think we struggle with this question on a continual basis-whether occurrences in one's life are random events or the omnipresent hand of God at work. This was the central question posed by Brother Juniper in the novel.  Was it happenstance that that ancient bridge snapped at that particular time and hurtled those 5 particular people to their death or were larger forces at work.  Poor Brother Juniper was, unfortunately, burned at the stake for posing that simple but heretical question. 

      Another theme developed in the novel  is the role of fate and love in one's life and is summed up in the very end of the book stating that surely the individual will pass on from this life, but there is a bridge from this life to that and the bridge is love.

“We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

So while the stock market swings to and fro ruled by fear, hope, and greed, it was Thornton Wilder who interjected into the mix the strongest of human emotions- love.

Junipero Gin

      -"Providing The Bridge Between Discerning Buyers And The World's Most Unique Spirits" -With this statement from the Anchor Distilling Company and a name bringing to mind Brother Juniper, how could I not review this Gin?  First impression is BOLD.  This is an unabashed juniper forward London Dry Gin done right.  The botanicals are classic and 12 in number: juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, dried lemon peel, sweet orange peel, seville orange peel, cubeb, cassia bark, cardamom, anise seed, and grains of paradise.  To the tasting, the flavor is, as I said juniper forward up front which then blends into a distinct peppery spice. Nice citrus notes seem to weave their way throughout.  Although bottled at 98.6 proof (San Francisco strength), it is very drinkable undoubtedly due to the expert melding of the botanical flavors.  I highly recommend this Gin without caveats, it makes a sublime classic Martini. 

I would have liked to have handed Brother Juniper 

a Martini poured with Junipero Gin, but at 98.6 proof, 
it would have burst into flames right along with him.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cold Memories

    A River 

       I remember the cold in my youth-the bone penetrating cold while sitting in the damp marsh beside my father waiting for the ducks to come, the dry, still cold December days hunting deer and waiting for the sun to rise over the horizon and  provide a hope of warmth.  I remember the summer camping trips to the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts fishing the Cold River and its confluence with the Deerfield River and the pool created there.  I remember swimming under the bridge where the Mohawk trail crosses the Cold River so aptly named.  As I jumped in and swam to the opposite shore, my breath taken from me, I remember the stinging, cold induced numbness grip my legs from the frigid water despite the hot summer day.  And so I returned with my sons on a camping trip to this spot for a bit of fishing and maybe to transfer a memory down the line.  And I thought it would come back and perhaps that would bring happiness, memory and fulfillment.  I remember feeling cold and yet all the physical cold felt at the time brings comfort of warm memory now. 

A Poem

      All this discussion of cold brings to mind the Pulitzer Prize winning book of poetry, Blizzard of One, by Mark Strand, who served as Poet Laureate back in 1990-1991.
A sample poem:

A Piece of the Storm

From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
From your book, saw it the moment it landed. That's all
There was to it. No more than a solemn waking
To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly,
A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that
Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm,
Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back, That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say:
"It's time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening."

I think this poem speaks to the transiency of this life, but also individuality and recurrence.  I shudder at the injustice done this poem every time I hear the phrase "snowflake generation."  Strand penned this poem in Italy while sitting by a window during a snowfall, and he became the reader looking up from his book to experience the "flowerless funeral" of the melting snowflake.  Reflecting on this poem, it is also worthwhile to consider how melting snowflakes give rise to cold rivers.

A Gin

    Cold River Gin is produced in the state of Maine which is mostly famous for lobsters and potatoes.  While a majority of Gin producers utilize a neutral grain based alcohol, it is the Maine potato (thankfully not lobster) which has been utilized in this distillation.  The Gin is triple distilled in small batches in a copper pot.  After instilling the botanicals, the spirit is cut to a proof of 94 utilizing water from the Cold River in Maine. It seems there is a Cold River in nearly every state, but only this distillery in Maine has applied the name to my favorite beverage.  The botanicals are seven in number including Juniper (the sine qua non), Coriander, Orris root, Angelica, Cardamom, Lemon, and Orange peels.  

      Cold River Gin is made in the style of a classic London Dry with a Juniper forward flavor. What separates it from the crowd is the flavor imparted by the cardamom which boosts the earthy notes.  Another distinguishing characteristic of this Gin is the taste imparted by the potato base alcohol lending a distinctive mouth feel. There is a nice lingering finish to this Gin.  At 94 proof, some may feel a bit of a burn from this Gin, but I think the folks at CRG have blended the botanicals carefully enough to ameliorate this.  The garnish I like most of all with a Cold River Gin Martini is the bleu cheese stuffed olive as it seems to stifle the heat just a bit.  Overall, this is an excellent choice for a Martini and is highly recommended.

                                 And now to sit back with my Cold River Martini 
                                 In this brief time between times during the heat of a July summer day 
                                 Thinking of Cold Rivers, snowflakes, and warm memories