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The Perfect Martini

by John Gempel

The perfect Martini is elusive. You're unlikely to find one in a bar-- most of today's bartenders are part on the Pina Colada generation and don't have the patience or expertise to do the job correctly. If you want one, you're probably going to make it yourself. So here we go.

What exactly is the perfect Martini? First and foremost, it's a cocktail made with Gin. Let's just get that out of the way right up front. I'll concede that a martini made with Vodka may be called a Vodka Martini, but never just "Martini". A Martini is made with Gin, Period. If you don't agree, read no farther.

Like no other libation, superb ingredients are the key to a good Martini. There's nothing here to mask an inferior liquor. So buy some really good Gin. The rule is, yes, you get what you pay for. Brands like Bombay, Boodles and Tanqueray are fine. Bombay Sapphire (Bombay's premium brand) is my personal favorite. And don't underestimate the importance of a good Dry Vermouth. Martini & Rossi is acceptable. Cinzano is better.

Treatises have been written about the correct ratio of Gin to Vermouth in the perfect Martini. Dryness is often the stated goal (the dryer a Martini, the greater the Gin to Vermouth ratio).

You often hear people say they simply pass the top of the Vermouth bottle over a glass filled with Gin to achieve the correct dryness. I think that's just macho posturing. Sure, a Martini should be dry, bracing and astringent. But not too dry. I suggest starting with a three-to-one Gin-to-Vermouth ratio and seeing how that works for you. Measure carefully. Even a laboratory beaker would not be out of line for this kind of delicate work.

If you'll be serving your Martini with a twist (the preferred accoutrement among the slightly-potted cognoscenti), swipe the inside of each Martini glass with it, to impart some of the lemon's essential oils to the cocktail. Otherwise, just plunk your choice of a stuffed green olive, cocktail onion or a couple drops of bitters into each glass. Pour the Gin and Vermouth into a container (a deco-ish, stainless steel shaker is ideal) which has been filled with plenty of large ice cubes. Ian Fleming would be appalled, but I really don't think it matters if you shake or stir. just do it with plenty of amused ennui like William Powell would (it might even help to grow a pencil-thin mustache). Mix briskly--you want the mixture to be very cold but not diluted. Strain into the glasses and enjoy. Sip but don't nurse. A Martini that has lost its chill has lost much of its appeal as well. And most of all, enjoy. Just holding a Martini glass, you'll find you've acquired great looks, sophistication and the ability to toss off witty bon mots like Nolan Ryan tossed off fastballs.

Martini Recipes in the Recipe Archive

More Perfect Martini Lore
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The Cocktail Times
Cocktail Time
Drinks 101.com
Multimania's cocktail collection
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