Drink of the Week: The Martini

It wouldn’t be right to kick off our new “Drink of the Week” feature with any less of a beverage than this most durable but paradoxically most intimidating of cocktails. It’s the strong but perfect before dinner drink.

A million things have been written about martinis, but the first thing you need to realize is that it’s a specific cocktail and not just any liquid poured into a martini glass. We love a good chocolate martini, because it’s chocolate, but it’s no more a martini than a chocolate bunny is a rabbit. A cosmopolitan is also not a martini; it’s a freaking cosmopolitan.

Here’s our starter recipe:

2 ounces gin or vodka
1 ounce vermouth
1-2 dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters (optional, but especially recommended with gin)
Olive(s) or twist of lemon garnish

the Martini. Pour gin/vodka and vermouth over ice into cocktail shaker, along with a dash or two of orange bitters if you’ve got them. Shake or stir very vigorously and strain into chilled martini glass or, for smaller portions, a wide-mouthed champagne glass, add olive(s) or lemon twist. Always serve up — i.e., without ice. (We know people who drink martinis on the rocks, but we’ve tried them that way and think they’re wrong. Very, very wrong.)

Now, note that this is a starter recipe. You’ve doubtless heard of the dry martini. It’s possible that the term once simply referred to dry vermouth, but in common usage this is one with very little vermouth. From the “M.A.S.H.” TV series, to “Auntie Mame,” to Luis Buñuel’s surrealist comedy classic, “The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie,” the extremely dry martini has been lionized and joked about endlessly in low, middle, and high culture. Feel free to experiment in the direction of less vermouth, reducing the amount as much as you dare.

It’s even legitimate to make your martini a la Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell, in the movie) and pour a small amount of vermouth into a glass and then simply discard it, filling it with extremely cold strained gin or vodka afterward. This can work particularly well with vodka. We’re pretty sure, however, that Luis Buñuel was kidding in his autobiography when he suggested merely having a ray of sunlight pass through a vermouth bottle on its way to a gin bottle.

Importantly, don’t be afraid to go in the opposite, not-so-dry, direction. Many would call our recipe, which is in fact similar to what you’ll find on the back of vermouth bottles, a bit overly “wet,” particularly for vodka. Nevertheless, it’s good to use a significant amount of a good brand of vermouth. (Señor Buñuel’s choice of Noilly-Pratt is our default.) The martini is, after all, a cocktail not just a gussied up shot. We’ve even been experimenting with a drink called, “the fitty-fitty” which is, as you would expect, 50 percent gin and 50 percent vermouth. Done right, it’s an extremely smooth martini and highly recommended.

Moving on, our take on the shaken vs. stirred debate is that shaking works really well for vodka martinis, which is what James Bond is mostly ordering in the movies, and we’re still making our mind up about how it works with gin. We’ve had good and less good gin martinis made both ways.

We hope to return to the shaken/stirred and dry/not dry dichotomies at some date in the not-so-immediate future as we continue to explore classic cocktails. For now, just remember that martinis are very much a case of trial and error with your taste buds, but even the errors should be fun.

  

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Here’s a new iced tea idea for your summer BBQ

This week’s Happy Hour cocktail is for all you iced tea fans out there. Spice it up a bit by adding some SKYY Infusions, like this cool recipe we got from the kind folks at SKYY Vodka.

SKYY Summer Palmer
Kathy Casey, Kathy Casey Food Studios

1.5 oz. SKYY Infusions Citrus
0.25 oz. Triple Sec
1 oz. Sweetened Iced Tea
0.5 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

Combine SKYY Infusions Citrus, triple sec, unsweetened iced tea, lemon juice and ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass with sugar rim as garnish.

If you’re hosting a barbecue, it’s always fun to offer more than just beer in a cooler. Put out a drink cart with some flavored vodkas and plenty of mixers and your guests will have a great time.

  

Beware of Russian Models!

As part of our cigar review for this week’s Happy Hour posts, we’re going to highlight some friendly advice from our cigar reviewer Bob Hritsko. He and his friends had an interesting experience recently when partying down in Miami, and the story is worth sharing again.

Like every spring for the last seven years, I make a pilgrimage to South Florida to visit my brother for a long weekend. We hit the beach, smoke too many cigars, drink way too many beers (vodkas, rums, etc.), but it serves to decompress me and rejuvenate the soul. Well, this year, I decided to invite some old friends, some that I grew up with and others who I have become good friends with in my adult years. The prep and logistics for pulling this off proved to be a little work, but it was something I truly enjoyed planning and — in the end — pulling off! There were eight of us who traveled to the Miami area, and we had a number of folks, who were already in the area, join us. Needless to say, we all reverted back to our college days and the attitude of those days, and just had a blast! As I have said before in this column, Miami is certainly a venue fitting for this type of event and it is my favorite “party” city, partially due to its relative cigar-friendly nature.

However, I must warn those of you who might consider doing this sort of thing next year, especially if you who don’t get around that much. In Miami, everything is not what it appears; I hope this is not a shocking revelation to most of you. If it is, you may want to take a spring break elsewhere. A phenomenon occurred this year that was new to me. One night, the whole group of us went out to one of the swankier bars in South Beach, a long-time favorite of mine. Not long after getting settled in, I sensed something a little unusual. A young, attractive 20-something woman smiled at me and would occasionally flash a glance my way, showing some clear interest. Twenty minutes later, the same thing happened – but a completely different girl this time. I had a few drinks in me already, (well, more than a few), but I knew that I wasn’t hallucinating. Now don’t get the wrong idea, for a 40-something guy I am no ogre (in my biased opinion). Back in the day, women who were in the same league as these two were fair game (naturally, before I got married), but all the booze in Miami was not going to get me to believe that these young ladies found my more “mature” looks that intriguing, especially with some of the younger gentlemen running around, who looked like they did nothing but hit the gym and tan on the beach all day.

Naturally, I had to share these events with the group. To my surprise, this same phenomenon was being experienced by a number of others in the group. My brother, a long-time resident of South Florida, shared his Miami wisdom: these “ladies” were likely Russian hookers looking for some “fat cats” with fat wallets to help drive some income for themselves in these tough economic times. It was now oh so clear to us, mostly guys with simple Midwestern roots. It was also a little humbling to learn the truth. But on the other hand it was also quite funny that we could be mistaken for “fat cats” loaded with money. In hindsight, there we were, in our new Tommy Bahama knock-off silk shirts, mine with a couple of seemingly expensive cigars tucked in the breast pocket, getting the VIP treatment due to the bottle service we opted for, because buying by the drink was determined to be more expensive. We did look and act like “fat cats” for one night, and we had some fun doing so.

With the vast majority us being classic family men, we would never consider buying what these girls were selling. In the end, the foolers were the ones who were fooled, although by accident. On the other hand, it made for some good conversation and laughs among the boys (which is all the fun we intended to buy on this trip anyway). So, enjoy an old-fashioned, college-like spring break next year. Dress the part, load your silk shirts with cigars, but be careful – don’t allow yourself to get fooled.

The advice is simple – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, you can always manipulate a situation in your favor, though it’s a little harder to pull off when you’re loaded on beer and vodka.

Check out the rest of Bob’s article for his review of Oliva Serie O – Maduro.

  

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