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The Elegant Martini

by Andrea Collier
martini oliveAmerica has had a love affair with the martini since we first heard James Bond say, "shaken not stirred." Although it has moved in and out of the public consciousness over the years, it's back with a vengeance.

The martini's basic ingredients are simple. Use six to eight parts of a quality vodka or gin to one part or less vermouth. You can, of course, add your own special mark to your drink with lemon peel, olives, cocktail onions and other flavorings.

Part of the martini's mystique as the world's most elegant cocktail comes in the tools of the trade. A perfect martini is either made in a glass pitcher ( if you are a stirrer), or a stainless steel or silver shaker. Aluminum shakers will give the martini a tinny taste, and purists say that plastic barware also takes its toll on the drink. "You might as well drink it out of a milk carton," one martini lover says.

Presentation is everything. Martinis are always served chilled in the tall-stemmed triangular shaped glasses that hold up to four ounces. You won't see a martini purist serve the drink in one of those fishbowl-sized glasses that hold today's versions of the margarita or daiquiri. In fact, size really does matter. Experts say that it is important to make and serve the martini in small batches.

elegant martini

Martini lovers debate shaken versus stirred, gin versus vodka. But one of the major nuances of the truly elegant martini is its "dryness," determined by the amount of vermouth (less creates a more dry one) in the recipe. Martini perfectionists go to great lengths to create a truly dry martini. One martini lover suggests pouring the vermouth over the ice, in the pitcher or shaker, coating it, then pouring the rest of the vermouth out, before adding the other ingredients. Others use tools like eyedroppers, atomizers and misters to just get a hint of vermouth, for the driest martini possible.

And where would the martini be without the requisite olive? Some rinse the olives before putting them in the glass, yet there are martini lovers who like it nice and dirty, using the juices of the olive as flavoring. Olives used to be stuffed with the basic pimento, yet the well-stocked martini bar offers olives stuffed with anchovies, onions, jalapeños and even blue cheese. Aside from the classic cocktail, the addition of flavor-enhanced vodkas and gins (citron, currant, tangerine to name a few) and other flavorings from the bar, allows for the creation of literally hundreds of versions of the martini. But there is one cardinal rule to any elegant martini. It has to be cold. So chill your glasses, chill your vodka or gin and your shaker, and serve right away.

Martini Tricks of the trade
  • Use the best possible ingredients.
  • Whether you use vodka or gin, shake it or stir it, do so gently. Vigorous movement can "bruise" the iqueur, making for a bitter drink. Skip the plastic. Use only stainless steel or silver shakers, glass pitchers and stirrers, and martini glasses.
  • Chill the liquor; chill the shaker or pitcher and the glasses. Then serve immediately.
  • Never let your martinis sit in the shaker. Melted ice compromises the taste.
  • Experiment with additional flavors. Use flavored vodka or gin, or enhance the classic martini with liqueurs such as crème de cacao.
  • Remember vermouth controls the success of the martini. The less the amount of vermouth, the drier the martini. Try an eyedropper, an atomizer or mister, or pouring the vermouth over the ice and draining it off, before mixing the drink.

Elegant Martini Recipes
The Classic
6-8 parts vodka or gin
1 part dry vermouth
crushed ice
olive, onion or lemon twist
Stir or shake the vodka or gin together with the ice and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish.

Dirty Martini
6-8 parts vodka or gin
1 part vermouth
crushed ice
splash of juice from the olive
garnish with olive
Stir or shake the vodka or gin together with the ice and pour into a chilled martini glass. Add the splash of olive juice. Garnish.

Chocolate Martini
6 parts vanilla or regular vodka
1 part dark or white crème de cacao liqueur
crushed ice
chocolate curls, or chocolate kiss candy
Garnish with maraschino cherry

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