All things Martini
My hope is that the dissemination of the provided information can help as many as possible.
Is it a martini, a cocktail or a Cosmo?
With the resurgence in popularity of the martini, the name itself has become a sort of "catch all." For example, just as all cotton swabs are not "Q-tips," and all adhesive bandages are not "Band Aids," not everything that comes in a martini glass is a martini.
According to many pundits, the only true "martini" is made with gin, an optional wash of Dry Vermouth and perhaps (if you are the daring sort), a crisp, green olive. Vodka was not introduced as an option until many years later, and no doubt gained in popularity as a drink of choice by the dashing hero James Bond. When "007" ordered, "...just a martini. Shaken, not stirred," he was speaking of his daring mix of vodka, gin and Kina Lillet (a Dry Vermouth). It stands to reason that this mixed up martini could have been called a "Half and Half," so as not confuse the average commoner.
You'll no doubt find some disagreement about the name, and some may argue that a martini made with vodka is in fact a "vodka martini." As things in the world of martinis couldn't get even more confusing, along comes a distinctly feminine version of the beautiful martini--a Cosmopolitan, Cosmo, or even a Cosmo martini. Consider that by definition, a "cocktail" is basically a mixture of some sort of spirits and fruit juice. Pour your cocktail into a chilled martini glass, and it's commonly identified as a type of Cosmo or specialty martini. Whew.
All of that being said, we've got a much simpler philosophy...we'd much rather be enjoying a delicious and lovingly crafted elixir than arguing about who is right. In our world, there is no absolute on such matters; we are much more chilled out than that. Yours truly (MartiniGuy) prefers a freezing martini glass of vodka, a swirl of Dry Vermouth, a splash of olive juice, and a bleu cheese stuffed olive. That certainly doesn't mean I don't partake of some wonderful gin--it just depends on the mood.
I think that we can all learn from the recent trend among wine drinkers to do away with the pretension and snobbery. Call it what you like...I'll often call it a martini.
Vodka and gin, the debate rages on!
There is no shortage of disagreement as to which mix of ingredients may properly wear the badge of martini. There is also no shortage of disagreement as to which is the best, vodka or gin. Though it's all a matter of preference, it is important to arrive armed with some basic information about both.
Gin was originally created around 1650 for medicinal purposes by a Dutch doctor, Franciscus de la Boe. Gin is a white spirit (that would be "clear" to you and I) that is flavored. The basis of gin flavoring is the juniper berry. Incidentally, "gin," derived from the French word for juniper, "genever." Gin distillers take neutral spirit, a mash of fermented grain to re-distill with numbers of botanicals. Gin is a spirit that needs no aging and can be enjoyed as soon as it is made.
Every distiller boasts a proprietary blend of special ingredients to deliver just the right flavor. Among the many ingredients that could be included, one might find lemon, orange peel and bitter almonds in the mix.
Vodka is a bit of a mystery...the origin of the spirit is unknown. While Russia, Poland and a few other countries have claimed the invention of vodka, no one really knows. The name "vodka" stems from the Russian word "voda"' meaning "water."
In its most basic form, vodka is a distillate that has been cut with water to an approximate 40% alcohol volume. A unique feature of vodka is that it can be crafted from many different grains such as wheat, barley, rye, rice, and even potato. Although gin is often defined by its flavoring, vodka is often defined by its lack of flavoring, or purity. The multitude of flavored vodkas have only recently come into favor and gained chic status. Although popular vodka flavorings run the gamut, you'll find vanilla, pepper, orange and lemon among the most consumed.
In our martini laboratory, we've amassed shelves full of wonderful spirits--Gins and vodkas (flavored and not). Cruise on over to our array of martini recipes and see for yourself.
Current trends in martini-land
The trend in the world of martinis seems to follow the fashion. As with anything that gains in popularity and attention, it becomes more intricate and even ornamental as many enjoy the pleasure of "improving upon" the original.
It's tough to find an even semi-hip bar or restaurant that doesn't boast its own "signature" martini menu full of sometimes exotic, sometimes delicious, sometimes inspired, sometimes boring, sometimes just plain yucky concoctions.
Regardless of the result, we give two thumbs up for the effort and interest in crafting a new martini. We understand the work involved, and we've logged many hours undertaking our own experimentation. The bottom line with the current trends is simply "anything goes," and that ain't a bad thing! Whether its hip, trendy, or traditional--enjoy a new martini, and don't take it too seriously.
Shaken or stirred?
This topic is actually based not only on personal preference, but on science. There have even been studies as to which (shaking or stirring) provides the most beneficial anti-oxidant properties from a martini. While that might be a little too much information, we would like to offer a small tidbit to bite on.
Both shaking and stirring do a couple of simple things--they cool the liquids involved, and they introduce a certain amount of water to your mix, this is a critical part of a good martini. Please make sure to always use only clean, clear ice.
Shaking gin is often said to cause "bruising" of the liquor, which intensifies the flavor. A loose example of this bruising effect could be illustrated as the difference between the flavors of chopped garlic and mashed garlic. Mashed garlic has a much more intense flavor. I've read much about bruising gin, and personally I don't think it's a major reason to choose shaking versus stirring. Incidentally, there is no bruising when it comes to vodka.
Shaking causes the ice to break up and achieve a greater presence as part of the final product. Your body heat, as you hold a shaker, will also have an effect on the ice melting a bit more rapidly in the shaker. As you shake, you are also trapping air within the liquid, thus causing a more "cloudy" appearance.
Stirring allows a much more gentle blending of ingredients in your drink, and virtually no presence of ice chips in the finished drink. The final product will also retain more clarity, but will not be quite as cold as a shaken drink.
The primary benefit of shaking over stirring is simply speed. You'll be able to cool more martinis by shaking versus stirring. In our martini laboratory, we often experiment with both methods of cooling to determine the best final result. We invite you to try both.
Learn about liquor measuring
For some, measuring with precision is critical to the perfect martini. For others, just "eyeballing" a measure is the perfect way to go. Whichever you prefer, we think its important to understand the rules before breaking them.
For anyone just starting out on the pursuit of martini mixing perfection, we suggest following any recipe to its exact measure. You'll not only build your mixology techniques, but you'll learn what makes a good drink "good," and how much is too much--or not enough. It's also worth noting that a heavy pour (adding more alcohol) doesn't necessarily create a better drink.
Most recipes you'll find are broken into ounces, parts, dashes, splashes, ponys or jiggers. You'll also find centiliters, milliliters, fingers and drops. With the right bar tools at hand, you'll be able to begin measuring and mixing like a pro. Here are some basic measures and their meanings.
Part A part simply refers to a fraction of the glass that the drink is being served in.
Dash 1/6th of a teaspoon or 1/32 of an ounce.
Splash 1/8th of an ounce or 1 teaspoon.
Drop A drop is simply a drop.
Pony 1 ounce
Shot 1 ounce
Simply put, a martini is meant to be enjoyed cold. In our opinion, the colder the better. When the humble MartiniGuy ordering, I specify that my martini be "Titanic iceberg freezing." Temperature matters.
Make sure that you are ready for mixing at a moments notice by storing your gin and vodka in the freezer. The martini glasses chilling in your freezer will appreciate the company! Your liquor will take on a syrupy consistency which is exactly what you want. You will still need to shake or stir with ice; remember that a certain amount of dilution makes a great drink. As a side note, your Vermouth should be stored in a refrigerator, not in the freezer...the Vermouth stands alone.
Martini mixing summary
There is no voodoo magic behind making the perfect martini. Its all a matter of personal taste, and if it tastes great to you (and your guests), then it is indeed perfect. Good martini mixing is the result of skill gained through observation and experimentation. We offer the following summary:
Freezing, freezing, freezing. Keep your vodka and gin in the freezer. Chill your glasses and your shaker.
Start with quality ingredients. A cheap, lower quality ingredient will leave you disappointed. Good liquor, crisp olives, quality mixers will put a smile on your face.
Use clean, fresh ice. If your tap wont yield high quality water, purchase ice, or make ice with bottled water.
Keep your bar tools clean!
Wash all fruit that you plan to use for twists. No one wants to taste pesticide residue.
Take notes. We keep a notebook handy whenever we are mixing or ordering.
Enjoying a martini involves a mood. Chill out and enjoy.
Above all else, never, ever drink and drive. When we enjoy our martinis (which we do often) we wont operate anything heavier than the television remote. No drinking and driving!
Commonly known as the "martini glass," this familiar (and beautiful) item is actually named the "Classic Cocktail" glass. The typical martini glass holds 90 milliliters of liquid and is easily recognized by its sharply sloping bowl and long stem.
A more modern version of the martini glass is the "Cosmo glass," which is essentially a stemless martini glass with slightly less slope to the bowl. We use a mix of traditional and modern glasses when entertaining and experimenting.
The martini glass is a very important piece of any barware arsenal. Part of the beauty of a great martini is in its presentation. Think of the glass as the canvas on which you'll create your masterpiece. A martini glass must be glass. Never use acrylic or plastic glasses; keep plastic for the kiddy table. A good quality glass will keep your drink nice and chilly, and impress your guests.
Ok, I should mention that if you happen to have a swimming pool and pool deck, and you don't allow glass in the pool area you have two options. Don't drink martinis by the pool, or change your rules (and don't drop your glass).
Might we suggest some of our very cool martini and Cosmo glasses?
Martini & cocktail shakers
The shaker is as essential to your bar tools as are good quality martini glasses. There are a few basics in choosing a shaker, or in our case--many shakers. Choose glass or stainless steel for the most durability and highest quality. While we do sell a few styles of plastic shakers, we've tested them extensively to ensure they wont add any undesirable flavors to a drink. We also recommend them only for very light, occasional use, or simply as a novelty decoration. When we do our martini mixing, we use an array of quality glass and stainless tools.
There are typically three types of cocktail shakers:
Cobbler A Cobbler type Martini shaker includes three pieces: a tumbler, a lid with built in strainer, and a cap for the lid. The Cobbler is a more traditional style shaker. This style is available with either glass or metal tumbler, but always a metal lid. A metal tumbler will keep your liquid cooler, but a glass tumbler looks 'oh so swanky.' The most important consideration when choosing a Cobbler style is that the lid fits tightly on the tumbler.
Boston The Boston shaker is typically associated with a commercial bar. The Boston has two tumblers, one glass and one metal. The glass tumbler will often feature a rubber rim or seal. The glass tumbler fits mouth to mouth with the metal and the whole contraption is shaken. A skilled mixer will accomplish most of the shaking and straining using only one hand. The Boston shaker is often used with a Hawthorn strainer.
Pitcher While not really a shaker, a pitcher is used in the smooth art of stirring. Martini pitchers come in both glass and metal, and in a wild array of shapes and sizes. When entertaining a larger group of guests, a pitcher is a classy way to present your martinis.
May we suggest some of our swanky martini shakers?
Ice buckets and tongs
When I think of an ice bucket, I remember family vacations as a child. Pulling up to the Holiday Inn in my parent's station wagon (adorned with faux woody panels). The first stop on the way to our hotel room was to the ice machine. Putting ice in that little plastic bucket with the wonderfully familiar green logo.
The proper ice bucket and tongs for a martini gathering serves two purpose: cleanliness and aesthetics. A good ice bucket should be double walled, include a lid, and should always be used with a nice set of tongs so as to keep your ice clean.
When mixing your martini, we suggest picking your ice from a fashionable ice bucket, and not from your freezer's plastic ice trays.
May we suggest some of our ice bucket and tong sets?
A Hawthorn is typically used with a Boston style shaker. This type of strainer is made up of a metal "paddle" with a coil of wire surrounding it. The Hawthorn is inserted in the top of the tumbler and keeps your ice inside while straining the liquid as you pour.
Many of our martini bar tool kits include Hawthorn strainers!
Shot glass and jigger
The shot glass and jigger are another critical set of tools if you want to mix the perfect martini. We are all familiar with a shot glass. The most important choice here is that your shot glass be sturdy and look great!
A jigger comes in two basic varieties: with handle and without. The choice of which you prefer is a matter of taste. The jigger is composed of two metal cups (back to back), with one cup smaller than the other. The larger cup normally holds 1.5 ounces, and the smaller holds 1 ounce.