I like a nice cocktail. A perfectly prepared, impeccably presented, cocktail. I like the whole process of a cocktail. The amassing of the very best ingredients. The high-tech gleam of good stainless steel bar tools. The shimmering, sparkling crystal of very good barware. I like the entire ritual. Maybe the allure is that certain bit of glamor attached to the ritual. Engulfed in nostalgia. Swank. Stylish. It’s that, yes, but so much more. This is of course epitomized in the scintillating viscosity of a very good martini. Always gin, never vodka.
But I have a confession. I mix a perfectly respectable cocktail— most of the time. But the perfect martini eludes me. I have a feeling an impeccable martini can only be mixed by somebody who has the talent bred into his or her DNA.
Which means I save perfect martinis for the lobbies of very good hotels. The bars at a few select restaurants in towns that understand the phrase, “drinking for pleasure”. You can’t find it at Applebees, Red Lobster, or Outback Steakhouse. Dive bars are fun, but stick to beer. Because there is a very fine distinction between a good stiff belt and a cocktail worthy of that moment of pause. The pause that comes just before you pick up the stem, close your eyes and lift it to your lips. That brief, unconscious pause. The inhalation of the electric current that floats right above, or sits on top the surface of a perfectly mixed beauty.
If you are lucky enough to have a friend or relative with the elusive, recessive perfect martini gene then you can enjoy them at home. Just not my home. Sorry… nope. I’m far more likely to serve one of the other classic cocktails. It could likely be one of the many riffs on a Manhattan cocktail. I’ve featured several here on this blog.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying something a bit juicier than a Manhattan or any of its brethren. It’s a classic and it’s also got a NYC pedigree. It’s even easy to perfect. I’m talking about the Algonquin cocktail: two parts rye whiskey, one part dry vermouth, one part fresh pineapple juice. Shaken and strained. No garnish. GREG