I’m here to tell you something important, and something that you might not know if you don’t spent your evening reading books about spirits and foodie blogs. I’m bringing you some advice that you’re not going to get elsewhere. They’re not teaching this in school. This is information that your bartenders know, your foodie friends know, but you may not. And it’s this: a martini is a GIN drink.
Yes—a martini is a cocktail made of gin and vermouth, served chilled in the V-shaped stemmed glass that has come to share its name. The martini is a timeless and a sophisticated cocktail, favored by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Winston Churchill, Earnest Hemmingway, and many among others.
Now, let me ask you: Would you make a martini with rum? – NO. Would you make a martini with bourbon? – of course not. Would you make a martini with vodka? Ah–some of you perhaps are saying yes. But no—that vodka-based cocktail you’re thinking of is called a kangaroo, or maybe even vodka-tini, but certainly not a martini. (And if I say martini and apples or chocolate come to mind, that’s right out!)
Let’s consider the facts. First, the history of the drink. Origin stories for the martini vary, but what is certain is that it was invented in more than 100 years ago as the combination of gin and vermouth, and sometimes bitters. The martini survived World War I, prohibition, the great depression, and World War II before the first bonehead mixologist had the audacity to publish a cocktail guide combining vodka and vermouth and calling it a vodka-tini.
Second, consider the gustatory fact of the beautiful harmony between vermouth and gin. Vermouth (as you may or may not know) is wine fortified with brandy and infused with botanicals and aromatics. It is slightly sweet and very floral. Gin’s primary ingredient is the juniper berry, which gives gin its pine-tree smell and slightly astringent taste. But gin is more than just juniper berry–it’s a whole bouquet of botanicals that gives gin its subtlety and intrigue.
The miracle of the martini is the interplay between the gin and the vermouth. The sweetness of the vermouth neutralizes the astringency of the juniper, resulting in a drink that combines more than a dozen botanicals into a drink that’s mysterious, intriguing, and subtle–a drink where curiosity and pleasure draw you from one sip to the next.
Vodka, on the other hand, is a tasteless, odorless, and flavorless spirit. When you combine vodka and vermouth, what you get is diluted vermouth–hardly the sort of drink to send poets into ecstasies.
H.L. Mencken once described the martini as “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” But, just as a sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines, a martini is only a martini if it follows a specific format. So please, next time you’re in the cocktail bar, spare yourself the embarrassment and your taste buds the unpleasantness of vodka-diluted vermouth and instead order a true martini. What you’ll get is a drink as beautiful and sophisticated as you!