Sunday, January 25, 2009

Let's Talk About Martinis

When most people think of martinis, they think of James Bond ordering a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. What most people don't realize is that a traditional martini is made with gin, not vodka and is stirred, not shaken. With that in mind, let's talk about martinis.

If a person comes into the bar and says they want a martini, I know right off the bat that they either really don't know what they want or have no idea what it is that they are ordering. Well-versed martini drinkers will tell you exactly what they want and how they want it. You wont have to ask. So when I get the customer who just asks for a martini, I have to ask them a series of questions before I can make their drink:

Gin or vodka?
Up or on the rocks?
Shaken or stirred?
Olive or twist?

If a customer orders a Gibson, that just means they want a martini with a cocktail onion instead of an olive or a twist. This was actually a question I was asked during an interview once and I passed with flying colors.

If a customer wants a "dry martini", that just means they want little or no dry vermouth. This is kind of a confusing concept because when you hear "dry", you would think that would mean "dry vermouth", but really it's the opposite. When it comes to dry vermouth, you can always add more to the drink, but once you put it in the drink, you can't take it out. So I always opt for less dry vermouth than more. I will always give a martini glass a dry vermouth wash instead of just adding the vermouth directly into the drink. That way if they want more, I can always add more without having to remake the drink.

If a customer asks for a "strong martini", I want to laugh in their face. Martinis are all alcohol: gin and dry vermouth or vodka and dry vermouth. There are no mixers added to martinis which is why asking for a "strong martini" is ridiculous. If you want it any stronger, then just ask me for a double.

From time to time, a customer may want their martini shaken. The whole idea behind a shaken martini is that the ice is "bruised". That just means the ice is broken up into little pieces of ice from the shaking motion which in turn make the drink colder and dilute the drink.

When a customer orders a "dirty martini", it just means they want olive juice/pickled brine added to their drink. I get more in detail on what olive juice is exactly in a previous blog entry titled, "Busting Bar Myths #2: Olive Juice" so be sure to check it out.

1 comment:

beefeater said...

Very interesting read! Although i have to say i am more of a Gin and stirred martini man myself. Top mixologists will go with stirred. The flavour is more balanced and less bitter than the shaken.

Does shaking get it colder? Yes, a bit. You need to work a little more at stirring longer, with the right sized and amount of ice. Or even stirring it ina tin rather than glass. Ideally, you want it cold and diluted, but not too much of either that the flavours will be masked.

Great video here: