It was inevitable that I was going to write about Martinis at some point. I like them an awful lot and drink them more than I probably should. Mine is a vodka Martini, brought just before the doorstep of what polite company would consider the optimum dilution and left there, staring in through the threshold. The booze baring its teeth with the fragrant oils of a lemon discard for company. In this case, the vermouth doesn’t even make it past the garden gate. In the interest of self-preservation, I don’t want to insinuate that there is some kind of global conspiracy involving bartenders and those in the cobbling and key cutting trade, but the main consequence I’ve noticed from a night on the Martinis other than the inevitable paving slab splitting hangover is misplaced keys. Lots and lots of misplaced keys and apologetic four AM phone calls to recently woken, understandably irate flatmates. It happens with such frequency that it is hard not to start to connect the dots. If, after this is published, my body is found under mysterious circumstances littered with tiny umbrellas and keyrings. It’s pretty clear that I got too close to the truth. Or I pushed my flatmate too far.
There’s often a little bit of confusion surrounding the Martini, most usually because of the new kids on the block. A class of neo-Martinis that encompass the Espresso, Pornstar and French variety (All independently delicious by the way). Strictly speaking, these are not really Martinis at all but are variations on multiple styles of drink. But, honestly, I find the minutiae of cocktail taxonomy so achingly dull any discussion of it is enough to put me off the stuff altogether. Or push me to it. Depends on how thirsty I am. For what it’s worth historically the names and recipes of most cocktails get mixed up and conflated so often that it doesn’t actually matter. I’ve found that those who think it does are usually the kind of people who peel off their eczema and eat the flakes. As a rule of thumb, I tend to think that the names of all drinks in the canon of classic cocktails are fluid, excuse the pun. Most importantly the name just signposts something fundamentally more miraculous. A potion that makes social occasions more bearable.
Another hurdle for uninitiated is the language surrounding the Martini. Dry, wet, twist, naked, shaken and stirred. While seemingly innocuous any variation on the theme can have wide-reaching consequences for the final drink. For example, while they share a surname a dirty Martini and a dry Martini are as unlike in nature and appearance as Prince William and his brother the Harry formerly know as “Prince”. Often people stumble with the confusing nomenclature and, unfortunately, fall into ordering from the parlance of popular culture. “Shaken not stirred” being the obvious diversion from ignorance. It’s ok to be ignorant, not knowing about things is how you eventually get to know about things. Professionally, I’ve always respected a guest's choice. Most of all drinking should be fun. After all, it is the guest’s money and they should be free to spend it however they please. In fact, the first drink I ever made behind the American Bar at The Savoy Hotel was a Vesper Martini, shaken not stirred. So Fleming’s creation has a special place in my heart. Despite that charming anecdote and tossing professionalism aside for a moment I’ve always been personally suspicious of people who order a shaken Martini. As it is a clear signifier that they a) lost their taste buds in a tragic sanding accident or b) are clinically deranged. I’m going to withhold the paradoxic, topsy turvy pig-language of the Martini in the hope that you go and find out yourself. Among my favourites in the entire world, and a good place to start, is the Dukes Martini from Allesandro Palazzi and his team. Who pour thunder straight from the bottle. One of the great pleasures in bartending is helping somebody find their Martini and that’s exactly what a Martini is. It is yours.
Originally published in Essential Journal