Martinis have now become synonymous with “cocktail.” There are many aspects of my personality that might be “girly” or [slightly] effeminate, but not in my drink of choice: a gin martini.
I love the new trend of going to trendy restaurants and being given a two page martini list. There are the children martinis, those that taste like chocolate syrup or egg nog or peppermint or some warm and fuzzy sweet drink that you gulp back not knowing how drunk you are about to be and what a horrible hangover you will have tomorrow from all the sugar and alcohol you didn’t realize was there. Then there are the almost martinis, like the pomegranate or apple or cosmopolitan martinis that complement the alcohol with a thinner sweetener. Then there are the old style martinis where the gin was so bad that you had to gag it back with a sweetener like vermouth, and so the old proportion was 1/3 vermouth and 2/3 gin (sic). As time went on, and gin got better, the proportion of vermouth has drastically dropped. The most recent incarnation is the dry martini which means little or no vermouth, whose techniques include Winston Churchill’s famous “glance across the room at the vermouth” statement, to “whisper the word ‘vermouth’ over the glass,” to swilling vermouth in the glass and then tossing it out, and my favorite, the spray dispenser that deposits a fine mist either on the glass before you pour in the gin, or on top of freshly poured out gin so that it rests on the surface, improving the nose. There is the dirty martini for those cowards afraid of tasting real gin or vodka and have to have syrupy, salty olive water put in to ruin the taste, er, make it “dirty.” (As if “dirty” meant sexually frisky: ha! Wusses, all wusses.)
Oh yes, there are those of you who like vodka martinis. Wusses. Vodka just doesn’t have the flavor that a good gin does. Ok, you have to become friends with the juniper berry. All the vodka makers have now flooded the market with infused vodkas to cover up, as it were, the fact that vodka really has very little flavor. Yes, the more expensive vodkas do have fine flavors, but they are extremely subtle and are lost the minute you put anything in it. So as far as I’m concerned, vodka, like all alcohol, is an alcohol delivery system, without the distinctive flavor of gin. Flavored vodka drinks are little more than spiked kool-aid. Sorry, it’s true.
You’re saying, alright Mr. Alky, what the hell is the best drink? Obviously, everyone has their own tastes. I love gin. It started for me when we were camping in Joshua Tree and Charlie picked some Juniper berries, scrunched them up with his fingers, and put them over our steaks that grilled in the hot desert air. That smell of juniper is one I’ll never forget. (Try it btw, putting juniper on anything. Grind it up so you can really smell it.) After that, it was Angus Whyte who first taught me to love gin and its ritual. Now, my favorite gin is Hendricks, violently shaken with a thin wedge of cucumber floating in an open martini glass. It seems that San Francisco is the most gin smart city, followed by New York and Boston. There is hope for LA, and I imagine that Portland and Seattle have a good gin following. Of the readily available bar gins, I prefer Tanqueray to Bombay, to Bombay Sapphire. Tanqueray 10 tastes like gin Kool-Aid, but isn’t bad if you want to begin experimenting with sipping gin. And since when is Tanqueray pronounced with a “G”?? I realize the “q” can be an ambiguous letter, but it is a “q” and not a “g.” Does anyone have any insight to the correct pronunciation?
Olive? Twist? Onion? An olive or twist makes it a martini, but add an onion and you have a gibson. I have read that you should NOT eat the vegetable inside your drink because it soaks up the icky chemicals from the distilling process. People say the darndest things. Maybe it’s true, maybe not.
Gin and tonic. I stopped drinking them years ago as 1) they were too acidic, and 2) quinine, in the tonic, causes tinitus (ringing in the ears) and in that I already have potential genetic hearing loss through my Dad and his Dad, as well as rock band experience, I don’t need any thing to hasten the process.
For a light, not so alky, gin-light experience, have some quality gin with sparkling water and ice. That way you can taste the gin without it being such a alcoholic taste sensation.
I am perfectly aware that most people on the planet would find the taste of a gin martini awful, medicinal, “tastes like Vitalis.” I am not encouraging the world to take up gin martinis. I just had to vent to someone.
Oh yeah, I found this article in the NY Times. I was incredulous so I scanned it. Gin has more antioxidants than any other spirit. I felt sanctified. Read it. I’ve learned all media have to be taken with a grain of salt (not dirty). So, maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.
Speaking of which, I am obsessed with martini glasses and have probably 100 of them. My favorites are the small ones from the 1930s. I don’t like the large glasses as by the time you finish your drink, the drink is warm, and warm gin is no good. It is always best to chill your glass with ice and water before you put the martini in it. In our house, I make our drinkers chug the water in the chilling glass so as to ward off a little bit of dehydration. If you don’t, the temperature of the martini plummets, as does the quality of the drink.
“Shaken” means that there are lots of ice crystals floating around, making the gin less bitter. “Stirred” is a stronger drink with less water in it, and only slightly chilled. I prefer violently shaken.
By the way, the biggest ripoff today are margaritas. You get 99% sugar/lime juice or whatever the hell flavor you ordered, with the teensiest amount of tequila. Sorry gang, you DON’T taste the tequila, so don’t waste your money on good tequila unless you are trying to impress someone or you love blowing your money. If you want to get to know tequila, sip it slowly, straight. This whole silly ritual of putting salt on your hand, biting into a wedge of lime, and shooting the tequila, might have been fine for rotgut booze, but for quality tequila, this is an insult. This technique of imbibing alcohol is only to “gag it back” and to get drunk, or be an alcohol delivery system.
If you don’t believe that it is the nature of living things that move, to get intoxicated from time to time, read INTOXICATION by Ronald K. Siegel (Dutton).