James Bond, Samantha Jones, Ernest Hemingway, E.B. White, and tons of other celebrities/characters have made Martinis the cool thing to drink at any bar. Given it’s iconic status by the Madison Avenue elite who drank three during lunch in the 60’s and 70’s, the Martini is a cultural classic that has intertwined itself in the history of cocktails and, no joke, American politics.
A Martini comes in many forms, this article is about a Classic Martini, which calls for gin instead of vodka. You can basically customize every aspect of the drink and it all has a code word way of being ordered.
A vodka martini is for those who can’t handle gin, a dry martini comes with a drizzle of dry vermouth, it’s brother an “extra-dry” martini contains less dry vermouth if any at all. If you want more vermouth then you’ll be ordering a “wet” martini at the bar, or if you want equal parts gin/vodka and vermouth just ask for a “perfect” martini.
Then it comes in either shaken or stirred serving variations, which are pretty self-explanatory. When you want it, “straight up” or “on the rocks” it’s choosing between a tall martini glass that has been chilled. "On the rocks" means that it will be served in a tumbler over ice. Ordering your martini with a “twist” simply means with a lemon peel, if you want an olive just ask for an olive. A “dirty” martini simply involves some olive juice.
A Brief History:
Like many great cocktails, the origin of the martini cannot be specified, we have dug through the webs of the Internet and found three options. The first one is pretty cut and dry, it was the year 1863, when an Italian vermouth maker named their product Martini, in honor of its director Alessandro Martini. Given the importance of vermouth in the cocktail- this is where this theory ends.
The second option is much more popular and just cooler. Credited to bartender “Professor” Jerry Thomas, AKA the Lebron James of mixology back in the day, was working at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco following the Gold Rush. Legend has it that he “invented” the drink for a miner who promised him a gold nugget in exchange for a unique drink. Since the miner was on his way back to Martinez, California Thomas named it the Martini.
The recipe was a bit different though… It calls for a dash of bitters, two dashes of maraschino (a cherry liquor), a wine glass of vermouth (most likely sweet vermouth), a pony of Old Tom gin (a sweetened gin) and a quarter slice of lemon-is nowhere near today's gin and vermouth definition of a martini.
It was such a hit he included it in his book as the "Martinez Cocktail" in the 1887 edition of his "Bartender's Guide, How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks.” The recipe is a contradiction, however, and that specific edition was published two years after Thomas’ death.
The third and final possible origin states that during the early 20th century at New York City’s Knickerbocker Hotel an Italian bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia invented the drink long before WWI. He claims he even served it to John D. Rockefeller. We’ll leave it up to you on which tale you believe.
Following its origin, the drink declined in American popularity during prohibition. However, given that gin was one of the most illegally bootlegged spirits during those dark times, it just became a “dryer” version (AKA little to no vermouth.) During WW2, August 1944 to be exact, Ernest Hemingway was a war correspondent and alongside David Bruce of the OSS (old CIA), they led dozens of French Resistance fighters into the Paris Ritz to “liberate” it from Nazi forces.
The hotel manager enthusiastically asked, “Is there anything we can do for you?” “How about 73 dry martinis?” Hemingway replied. The drink really exploded in the 60’s and 70’s as a sign of commonwealth since it was written off in people’s tax deductibles. George McGovern in ‘72 said:
“There is something fundamentally wrong with the tax system… when it allows a corporate executive to deduct his $20 martini lunch while a working man cannot deduct the price of his bologna sandwich.”
That all ended with President Bill Clinton, after the failed attempts of Jimmy Carter in ‘76 and Regan’s minor deductions in the 80’s, Clinton finished the job with further deductions. After that, three-martini lunches made no sense and were not counted as a tax write off or business expense.
Nowadays, Martinis are a staple cocktail and you can get them at any bar, in its many forms. They’re the symbol of an independent woman who doesn’t want anything to do with you at the bar. They represent the badassery of James Bond, but they’re also quite dangerous. Don’t drink three martinis during any meal, you won’t be walking straight.
Gerald Ford had a martini was his first drink of the day when he was a member of the House. It was also Richard Nixon’s goodbye drink before he resigned to the presidency.
Double random fact: Nixon was resigned, he was not impeached.
However you take your martini- with gin, vodka, or even tequila (hello friends from the south!)- it’s a must have at some point in your life and you’re really missing out if you have never had one.
Let us know your version in the comments! Or what happened when you tried to make it with our recipe and ingredients. Best of luck! Thanks for reading, and as always…
Happy Hour City.