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THE EVOLUTION OF THE MARTINI

The Martini is the King of Cocktails and like all royalty, it has lineage. The British claim the Martini was named after a late 19th century firearm of the same name, famous for its kick. The Martini and Rossi Vermouth Company takes credit for its name since vermouth is the defining ingredient in the Martini, and they did market a bottled Dry Martini around the world in the 1890s. Martini di Arma di Taggia, the principal bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel at the turn of the century, is also given credit for the Martini. Mr. Di Taggia played an important role in the evolution of the Martini when he married dry gin with dry vermouth (and orange bitters) for the first time, but there is more to the story. There was a cocktail in the 1850s called the fancy Gin cocktail that paired Old Tom Gin and orange curacao, that was the ancestor of the Martini. At the time the Fancy Gin Cocktail became popular, Martini and Rossi Vermouth was not readily available in this country, the Martini and Henry rifle was still on the drawing board and Martini di Arma di Taggia was just a small boy.

FANCY GIN COCKTAIL
3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup (simple syrup)
2 drops Bokers Bitters
1 wine glass * of gin
1 or 2 dashes of Curacao
1 small piece of lemon peel
Fill one-third full of fine ice and shake well. Strain into a glass. Moisten the edge of a fancy wine glass with lemon, toss lemon peel on top.

tIt may be a long way from the dry Martini but it is an ancestor none the less. When vermouth became widely available by the 1870s the use of curacao as a sweetener in cocktails waned and vermouth became the sweetener of choice. Vermouth was used in the cocktail in place of curacao in almost the same applications married with a base liquor, and bitters. Vermouth was a relatively new product for the United States, it wasn't even produced commercially until the late 18th century in Europe. The first shipments of vermouth to the United States arrived in the 1850s. In his 1887 Bartenders Guide, Jerry Thomas refers to vermouth several times without designating Italian or French (sweet or dry) it wasn't an omission French vermouth wasn't available in the market place at the time. French or dry vermouth didn't become widely available until the 1890s.

These two recipes an early Martini Recipe from Harry Johnson and the Martinez cocktail from O.H. Byron's 1884 cocktail book, come closer to our modern Martini simply because they marry Gin and Vermouth for the first time, even though it was sweet gin and sweet vermouth.

MARTINI COCKTAIL This is Harry Johnson's Martini Recipe from 1882 Bartenders Manual. Johnson and Jerry Thomas were the Reigning kings of the original "cocktail era" 1850 through 1900. Johnson always believed he held the upper hand, claiming to have published a bar recipe book prior to Thomas's 1862 volume. If indeed he did publish prior to the Thomas book no copy has ever turned up. Johnson did win the first bartender competition in the history of the modern profession of bartender in New Orleans in 1869, against five top contenders. Unfortunately Thomas wasn't part of the competition so the debate over who really was the greatest will never be settled. Fill a large bar glass with ice. 2 -3 dashes gum syrup (careful- not too much) 2 -3 dashes Bitters (no longer available; substitute Angostura Bitters) 1 dash of Curacao or Absinthe Half a wineglass of Old Tom Gin Half a wineglass of Vermouth Stir well with a spoon. Strain into a fancy cocktail glass; put in a cherry or medium size olive (if required) and squeeze a lemon peel on top.

MARTINEZ COCKTAIL 1 dash Bokers Bitters* (substitute Angostura Bitters ) 2 dashes Maraschino Liqueur 1 pony of Old Tom Gin (gin with syrup) 1 wine glass of Italian vermouth Shake well and strain into a large cocktail glass. Put a quarter slice of lemon in glass and serve. Gum syrup can be added for a sweeter drink. Here is an updated drier version that might be more appealing to modern tastes.

MARTINEZ COCKTAIL (update) 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters 2 Dashes Maraschino Liqueur (this is readily available, but in a pinch, Cointreau can be substituted) 1 ˝ oz. Gin 1 oz. Dry Vermouth Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lemon piece.

The "modern style" martini of London Dry gin and dry vermouth wasn't offered until the turn of the century. I call it the Knickerbocker Martini. Colonel John Jacob Astor built the Knickerbocker Hotel in 1906 and it housed one of the grandest bars in New York. The bar was also the original home of the Maxwell Parish triptych of Old King Cole that hangs above the bar at the St Regis Hotel today. The principal bartender, Martini di Arma di Taggia, made his famous "dry" martini, although his recipe of equal parts of dry gin and dry vermouth was a long way off from our Dry Martini Cocktail it was the first combination of dry vermouth and dry gin. He mixed Half Plymouth Gin and Half-Dry or French vermouth with a dash of orange bitters. Sweet Martinis were also still very popular, and eventually they evolved into the Gin & Italian or Gin & It as the drink was called during Prohibition.

Here is a recipe for a "dry" martini similar to the Knickerbocker Martini, from Louis Muckensturm's Louis" Mixed Drinks, H.M. Caldwell Co. 1906. Notice Louis's Martini calls for 2 to 1 gin to vermouth, a step forward but he has that dash of curacao to cater to the sweet tooth Americans have always had albeit a bit less today.

KNICKERBOCKER MARTINI 2 dashes of orange bitters 1 dash of curacao 1 liqueur glass of French vermouth 2 liqueur glasses of Gin Fill a mixing glass with ice; stir well and strain into a glass. Squeeze some lemon peel on top. During Prohibition, the gin tasted so bad, everything imaginable was added to it to mask the taste. During prohibition the martini waned in popularity. After Prohibition, with The Thin Man movies, Nick and Nora Charles and President Roosevelt put the martini back on the map. Good gin was back and people once more embraced the simplicity of the martini. America got wetter and the martini got drier. The Nick & Nora recipe called for 3 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth.

NICK & NORA MARTINI (The 30s and 40s) This is the classic 3 to 1 Martini that lasted from the end of prohibition to the 1950's. 1 ˝ oz. Gin ˝ oz. Dry Vermouth Garnish with an olive.

DIRTY MARTINI FDR was the first to popularize this odd drink. After working behind bars I don't think many bartenders would drink the Dirty Martini. The brine in the olive jar can get pretty funky after sitting around for a while. If you want to try this one at home get a jar of gourmet martini olives like The Tipsy Olives sold by Sable and Rosenfeld, they are packed in vermouth and spirit vinegar. Another idea is to remove half of the brine from regular store bought olives and refill the jar with dry vermouth. Dash of Dry French Vermouth 3 oz. Gin or Vodka 1/4 oz. Olive Brine Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish traditionally with a pitted cocktail olive (no pimento).
NOTE: If the drink is made on the rocks, it should be stirred in the glass. Martinis are always stirred, unless, of course, your guest would prefer it shaken.

After the Second World War in the fifties, gin was still king, but the amount of vermouth in a martini began to diminish dramatically. Maybe we needed a stronger drink to deal with the decade that gave us the Cold War, HUAC witch hunts, the transformation of the heroic OSS into the CIA, the specter of atomic warfare, and a collective loss of innocence after a half century of brutality. By 1960, the Martini was a lethal eleven parts gin to one part vermouth.

DRY MARTINI (Cold War Martini) 3 Dashes of Dry French Vermouth 2 oz. Gin Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. (50 times if using large ice cubes, 30 times if using small cubes.) Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish traditionally with a pitted cocktail olive no pimento. .

CONTINUED....

 

 

 


 

 

 

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