The Flat Possum Gazette  

Test Kitchen

Courtesy of the Road-Kill Press

= Martini Research =

Bill,
As you know, the Flat Possum Test Kitchen has had an on-going research and testing program on "The Martini" for some time.  Sorrifully, I must admit that that program has not always been on the front burner, and that (don't tell anyone) other goodies such as failed Pralines, Salsas and other culinary adventures have risen to the top of the pile of things to be worked on.

One of the members of the esteemed "Food Group" has suggested, and a wonderful suggestion it is, too, that the Martini Research Program (known in elite scientific circles as MRP) be re-installed in its rightful place in the overall scheme of things, and that the great body of scientific knowledge be directed toward exploration of the mysteries inherent in that clear, innocent elixir.  So be it. It has begun, as we speak. 

The FPTK has discovered that the origin of this tranqualizer is murky. The folks in Martinez, California have erected a monument to the fact that it all began there and the drink was called a "Martinez". This was supposed to slake the monumental thirsts of the gold miners back in the mid-1800's.

However, those prune-pickers on the West Coast had not figured on the Italians.  There was a bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia working at the famed Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, and he claims to have invented the Martini in 1912.  Who knows? But history shows that the Martini was well on to its proper place in the world by World War I.  The sorry-ass gin served up during Prohibition did not do anything good for the Martini. 

In 1934, during good, old King FDR's reign, Prohibition was repealed, good gin flowed in from England and the Martini was again the drink of the Prosperous. The movies during the depression helped it gain popularity, with Bette Davis, Tyrone Power, Private Eye Nick Charles (William Powell) and other luminaries swilling it down in smart-looking clubs and apartments in the Big City. 

Others, around the world, took up the Martini.  Winston Churchill, by his own account, made Martinis by pouring gin into a pitcher and then, to make it dry, glanced briefly at a bottle of Vermouth across the room. One ardent Martini fan, in his relaxed mind, called the Martini the "elixir of quietude". Robert Benchley was quoted as saying, "I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini". I am sure we all know of W.C. Field's propensity for good booze. In his later years he started the day with two double Martinis. "Angel's Milk" he called them. This was followed by crab meat and Martinis for lunch, and so on and so on.

I have it on good authority that Bill Clinton has tasted Martinis, but we do not know whether he swallowed.  Another source says that Clinton enjoys his Martinis disguised in beer glasses served with peanuts and crackers. Speaking of crackers, Jimmy Carter was an enemy of Martinis, preferring iced tea and orange juice. And you know what happened to him.

We've even dug up a bit of doggerel that is illustrative of the Martini enthusiast:

ODE TO A MARTINI DRINKER
by Sold Cober

Starkle, starkle, little twink
Who the Hell you are I think
I'm not under what they call
The alcofluence of incohol
I'm not drunk as thinkle peep,
I'm just a little slort of sheep.
Tee martoonis make a guy
Fool so feelish, don't know why
Rally don't know who's me yet
The drunker I stay the longer I get,
So just one more to fill my cup,
I've all day sober to Sunday up.

See what great research and diligent inquiry can develop?

There are also classic stories and fables concerning Martinis.  To wit:

Two men were driving through suburbia one day when they see a paid of dogs copulating on a front lawn.  One man says, "Gee, I wish I could get my wife to do it that way".  The other says, "Thats easy.  Just give her three Martinis and she'll do it any way you want."  The man says, "Well maybe I should try that". About a week later, they meet again and the man who had given the advice asks, "Well, did you try the Martinis? How did you get along?"  The man replies, "Well, I got along very well, but you were way off count - - I had to give her five Martinis just to get her out on the front lawn".

"Martinis are like womens' breasts, one is not enough, but three is too many."

Man, this is historical stuff!  The Flat Possum Test Kitchen is an exploratory machine!

Martini Research Update 5/11/99

Having consulted numerous reliable, as well as dubious, sources I find that the Martini may have been invented in California (repeat, may have been), probably San Francisco, by "Professor" Jerry Thomas, a somewhat legendary bartender, while employed at the Occidental Hotel on Montgomery Street. Supposedly it was first made for a customer who was on his way to Martinez, California, and Thomas made it in honor of his trip, and named it after his destination city.  No date can be fixed for this event, and 1860 seems to be about right, but the name changed around 1890 from Martinez to Martini. Maybe the California Prune Pickers objected to the Mexican sound of the name and changed it to one of Italian extraction to sell better.

It started out as 1 part gin to 1 part vermouth. Then, when the name changed the ratio changed to 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. The change in ratio has continued through the years, generally becoming 1 part drier each 30 years.  The standard Martini today (and this was in a source dated 1968) is about 4 1/2 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. Some numbnuts, however, prefer a ratio closer to 10 to 1.

This trend toward dryness, some "experts" believe, produces too raw a drink when simply stirred.  They say shaking quickly with ice not only blends the Martini and results in a smoother taste but also chills the drink quickly and thoroughly, without diluting the drink.

Man!  All this research is exausting!  Have you ever witnessed such diligence?

Let's look at recipes for this marvelous concoction:

DRY MARTINI  (From Time-Life "Wines and Spirits") To make 1 cocktail

1/4 ounce dry vermouth
2 1/2 ounces gin
3 to 4 ice cubes
1 strip lemon peel
A 4-ounce cocktail glass, chilled

Combine the dry vermouth, gin and ice cubes in a mixing glass.  Place a shaker on top of the glass and, grasping them firmly together with both hands, shake quickly 5 or 6 times.  Rub the cut edge of the lemon peel around the inside rim of a chilled cocktail glass.  Remove the shaker, place a strainer over the mixing glass and pour the Martini into the cocktail glass.  Add the lemon peel.

Variations to be investigated:   a pitted olive in place of the lemon peel; a pearl onion, which some purists may insist is a Gibson;  substitute Vodka for gin. I've even heard of adding a dash of Pernod, or a dash of Angostura or Orange Bitters. Then there are those that are on the fringe of everything and they have the nerve to insert absinthe, Benedictine, sprigs of mint, even Creme de Menthe to give a putrid green shade to such an innocent drink.

then there is the MARTINI ON THE ROCKS:

5 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth

Stir well with ice cubes and strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice cubes. Add a twist of lemon peel, a pickled onion or a pitted olive. Vodka or tequila may be substituted for gin, dry sherry may be substituted for vermouth.  For a drier dry martini, some bartenders use 6 or more parts gin to 1 part vermouth.

Then, carrying the "drier" idea one step further, do as Winston Churchill did: pour the gin over the ice and stir, while glancing briefly at the vermouth bottle sitting on the shelf across the room.

PERFECT MARTINI (From same source as above)   To make 1 cocktail

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 1/2 ounces gin
3 to 4 ice cubes
1 strip orange peel
A 4-ounce cocktail glass, chilled

Combine the vermouths and the gin in a mixing glass, add the ice cubes and stir (yeah, stir) with a bar spoon to blend and chill the liquors.  Place a strainer over the mixing glass and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist the orange peel over the cocktail glass to release the oil, run the cut edge of the peel around the inside rim of the glass, and drop it in. Using orange peel makes it sound awfully healthy.

And, of course, there is the SWEET MARTINI: I think only the Brits drink this stuff, and they refer to it as "gin and it" - - - "it" referring to Italian sweet vermouth.

2 ounces sweet vermouth
2 ounces gin
1 maraschino cherry
1 strip orange peel
A 4-ounce cocktail glass, chilled.

Combine the sweet vermouth and gin in the chilled cocktail glass and stir briefly. Garnish with cherry and orange peel.  I think a professional bartender in the USA would be drummed out of the Union if he served this up, especially in New York City.

Having discovered the unexplored field of "Ethnic Martinis", I find that no published research has been done on "Aggie Martinis" or "Polak Martinis". Surely, some pioneer must have done research in these two unplowed fields. The Aggies themselves, in their hallowed agricultural enthusiasm, must have left a trail of truth somewhere, concerning this innocent drink.  But, I find nothing.

I am sure I am overlooking something.  There is surely some Aggie out there, somewhere, who is knowledgeable and can enlighten us poor ignorant researchers on the topic of "Aggie Martinis", and the state of the art thereon.   Huh? Maybe we will touch a nerve.  Heh. Heh.

Research into this topic progresses.

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