If you’ve ordered a martini in the past, say, fifty years, it’s safe to assume that pop culture has played a large part in what you’ve ordered. Shaken like everyone’s favorite superspy Mr. Bond, or cosmopolitans like HBO’s Sex & the City girls; martinis have become far removed from their origins, and there are a lot of different choices out there.
But there are those who believe that some martini trends may have hurt more than helped, and that the classic martini is much more than it seems. So I had to find out: are the old ways still the best?
“First of all, it’s a gin cocktail, not a vodka cocktail, traditionally," explains Ingi Sigurdsson, Head Bartender at Ritz-Carlton Sarasota's Jack Dusty. "Second, you have to use a high-quality vermouth, and it’s usually two parts gin to one part vermouth… but very important about the vermouth is that it needs to be fresh vermouth. I know most of you out there have vermouth that’s been sitting in your cupboard that’s five, six years old. Do me a favor and throw it out, because it just doesn't make a good martini. It’s a wine and it’ll oxidize.”
So hold on a second, I have an old bottle of vermouth at home that’s exactly like that. What can I do to make my martinis better?
“You have a couple options: you can either keep it in the fridge, which will keep it for about two weeks," advises Sigurdsson. "You can also wine pump it if you have a wine pump, and it’ll pull the oxygen out so that way you don’t have the oxygen touching it and it won’t oxidize. People stopped using vermouths in martinis because it was a bad product, it was an old vermouth that oxidized and it starts getting bitter-flavored and it just doesn't taste good. So that’s the biggest key, is throw away that old vermouth and use a fresh vermouth.”
And lastly, I had to find out the answer to an age-old question: shaken or stirred?
“Traditionally a martini, a true martini, a gin martini, is stirred. So anytime you have vermouth, you want it to be a silky texture, silky smooth feeling on the tongue, and when you shake a martini, you actually have these really small air bubbles, and the air bubbles hit your tongue and make a weird mouth feel. Also it kind of helps to oxidize the vermouth, which isn’t a good thing as we talked about. It’s very important to stir, and if you try them out side-by-side, it’s a world of difference and it’s surprising just how much of a difference there is.”
The classic gin cocktail has gone from being the standard to a hidden gem in the world of drinks. So if you want to be a real trendsetter, break out that new vermouth and stir away until you’ve got that classic staple of American drinking.