Martini Thoughts

While not a traditional martini, Tim Hairston’s
Kaleidoscope balances power and sweetness.

“I like a good martini,
One or two at the most.
After one I’m under the table,
After two, I’m under the host.”
– Dorothy Parker

I was getting older. Tequila was no longer my main choice; the college days were over. Can’t say I remember when I had my first martini, but I do remember a few nights when I had a just a few – three or four and now two does the job. A few years ago, I got the opportunity to learn more about the martini at of all places San Antonio, TX. This great stylish watering hole called Swig, a martini bar, was where I tried a few and spent the greater portion of a week, with such wonderful service from Angela and Tree.

Before the pretense and pseudo-style, the martini is an acquired taste. It is not sweet, nor it is soft. It is bold and will rock your world. It is clearly alcohol with no filter or buffer. It serves a couple of purposes and one of them being – to get you liquored up – fast! So lets set the story straight. What is a martini? Served in the infamous v-shaped glass, a true martini is comprised of gin and a bit of dry vermouth – the option is either an olive or a twist of lemon to give it some “other” flavor. Its near and dearest brother is the vodka martini, which replaces the gin with vodka and gives you the same options of an olive or twist. Most purest will be little anything that deviates from the classic martini (read gin).

The martini seems as NYC as having at least half your wardrobe in black. For me I favor the vodka martini – Kettle 1, Skyy, Stoli, or Belvedere is choice. But hey it’s New York and Cosmopolitans are everywhere and for a while it’s been the Apple Martini. Cosmos, while served in the “martini” glass contain vodka (or citrus flavored vodka), Cointreau (an orange liqueur – or Triple Sec), cranberry juice, and bit of limejuice. It is not related to the vodka martini. The Apple Martini does not quality either. This sweet and sour concoction is built by vodka, Pucker “apple liqueur” and a slice of a granny smith apple. So while I can enjoy a cosmo or “apple martini” I know that it is nowhere near what makes a real martini and really deserves another name without the “martini” attachment”. The same can be said for the chocolate martini and the like.

Perhaps it is the general drinking public, that if is that if it is served in a martini glass, then it must be or is related to the martini. This is so not true. Actually I’m sure it’s just a marketing ploy. What makes the martini so powerful, so sexy, and so imitated with sweet concoctions? It’s so very obvious. It is the glass. It’s sexy, it is like a woman in high heels – not very practical, but damn a beautiful site. One has to move smoothly with concentration in order to handle the martini glass – much like one has to with a woman. One has to sip lightly and take their time because it is obvious, the martini will leave you on the curb with your face in the gutter. If you’ve had one, you know what I mean.

A bad thing is going to a spot and they have no martini glasses. Think of those spots in the ‘hood. You ask for one and they serve you something in a plastic cup or even worst a white wine glass. It really doesn’t work. If it is not in a martini glass, then somehow it is much less than a martini. I’m sure it is based on some idea that you’re advertising that “hey I’m drinking a martini” and that not having it served in such a glass, devalues my attempt at drinking this serious drink. I’m one for substance, but I’ll admit having the surface – the martini glass – certainly adds to the substance.

So does it seem that the martini is a masculine drink? If you’ve had one, then you know that the answer is yes. The martini and the vodka martini are straight alcohol – aside from the olive or twist, it is bold and forceful. Also it is a contradiction – the martini. The potent drink, chilled, and yet served in this very sexy and non-practical glass. What does it mean? This time you tell me.

You know I make a kick ass vodka martini, cosmo, and I’ve even ventured into the “apple martini”. I’ve even stolen and have successfully replicated the Lucian Blue (think Ft. Greene last year) – brown sugar martini (perhaps I’ll do a variation an post it). But nothing can replace grabbing the glass of a real or vodka martini. If you spill it, then perhaps you’ve had too much to drink. Get some water. Or perhaps it was that bartender that poured it way to the top on a crowded bar – they should know better. In any case, the martini means something and if you like it or you don’t it does say something about you. And with any sort of drink or social outing – do it with responsibility. One of the benefits of living in NYC is that we don’t have to worry about driving home. Remember a cab can be your best friend in the early dawn.