A Proper “Classic” Martini
Martinis have gotten muddled lately. Either too much gin or inappropriate flavorings. This is a proper gin martini with just a subtle dash of orange bitters.
The Martini! The illustrious Martini. It has a glamorous allure few cocktails can match. It achieves its special brand of alchemy by balancing the sharpness of juniper berries in excellent gin, with the earthy herbal qualities of good vermouth.
The ratios are very important– and much discussed. Though Steve Allen may have famously quipped, ‘Do not allow children to mix drinks, it is unseemly and they always use too much vermouth’. In truth there is some room for personal preference regarding the exact balance of gin to vermouth.
Lately the style has been to make Martinis a bit too dry in my opinion. Many great mixologists recommend swirling the vermouth in the shaker, then discarding it. I personally disagree with this method. A classic Martini has 1/2-ounce vermouth to 2 ounces of gin; a dry martini should have about 1/4-ounce vermouth.
And speaking of shakers, despite what James Bond may have said, a true Martini is never shaken. It is always stirred. A shaken Martini is properly called a Bradford. I have another great quote that I believe puts the shaken or stirred question to rest. It comes from W. Somerset Maugham. He said, ‘Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously on top of each other’. I sensuously agree!
The Mai Tai is one of the true classics of the cocktail world. Victor J. Bergeron first concocted it in 1944 behind the bar of his famed restaurant Trader Vic’s in Oakland, CA. But since that time it has become, at least in the tropical drink genre, the King-of-the-Hill, the Be-All-and-End-All, and the Cock-a-the-Walk… you get the idea.
So I figure what’s trip to Tiki-land with out a sample of this Tiki Bar Star. So I went on a quest for a great Mai Tai. I was told that the very best to be had on this part of the island were found at Don’s Mai Tai Bar, the seaside lounge of the Royal Kona Resort on Kailua Bay in “Kona town”.
I’ll be honest with you a bad Mai Tai can be one of the ugliest, crassest, most overwrought cocktails I’ve yet to gulp past my gullet. That’s because they have become victims of their own success. Lately, this mystical aggregate of quality and parity has been reduced to a bottled mix of whatnot and a catchall for vagrant grocery store juice sloshed together with a grade of rum that would gag a pirate.
Now I realize that mixology in general is not brain surgery. Heck it’s not even organic chemistry. Sure it’s best to be precise, but most cocktails are just fine as long as the mixologist pays at least a bit of attention to quality, balance and ratio.
But anyone who can mix a proper Mai Tai might just be the brain surgeon of the liquored up set. Because a good and proper Mai Tai does seem to be organic chemistry at its most organic. The ingredients work together in a way that might seem magical to the uninitiated.
Gin is the most subtle and sophisticated of all the spirits. It is also under-appreciated, or down right loathed by way too many people.
But as America begins to expand its palate, gin is making a comeback. Because more and more people like you and me are broadening our perspectives. Loving great food is often the first step.
Because as you train your palate to appreciate subtlety in foods, it only makes sense that what you have learned will show itself in other areas and with other tastes.