By Bat Rastard
(Editor’s Note: Given that I will be vacationing for the next few days, my former colleague and fellow drinking enthusiast Bat Rastard (who, despite a JD/MBA from one of the nation’s finest schools, is still a bit of a dumbass) weighs in with his thoughts on martinis, drinks unfortunately called martinis, and the folks who drink them. Take it away, Bat….)
Much like our protagonist Chilly17, I lay claim to few marketable skills should I find myself unemployed in this market (a distinct possibility); however, I can claim expertise in an area familiar to most – booze consumption (also: use of parentheses). Sure, it’s not likely to land me a job or pay any bills, but over the years I’ve developed and refined a taste for liquor, whether cheap (think Mad Dog, T-bird, etc.) or pricey (fine single malt scotch, French wine, etc.). Understand this, though – despite some vomit-inducing drinks I’ve consumed over the years (aside: stand by for Chilly’s recount of a tale involving Crazy Horse Malt Liquor, 100-proof vodka, Home Depot, a broken gas gauge in his truck, and much, much more (Ed. note: it was warm Crazy Horse, inexplicably mixed with 100-proof vodka)) one thing that drives me insane is when people call a drink a martini, based solely on the fact that they are drinking it out of a martini glass.
Call me a purist, but to me a martini has three ingredients: gin, vermouth, and one olive (more on the olive later). I’ll even allow the (arguably deplorable) substitution of vodka for the gin, mainly since people tend to at least call it a “vodka martini,” and because 007 drinks them. What drives me crazy is the trend (actually started in the 90’s, so not really a “trend” anymore) of mixing fruity and/or sugary drinks in martini glasses and calling them “appletinis,” “melon martinis,” “Mexican martinis,” “passion fruitinis,” etc. Look, don’t get me wrong – if people want to drink these concoctions more power to them, JUST DON’T CALL THEM MARTINIS, OK? Even the hijacking of the suffix -tini drives me insane. I mean, come on … just go check out the Wiki on the martini (Wiki = unbiased truth, right?): gin and vermouth.
I’ll be honest, despite my purist leanings, I’m not even that big a fan of the martini glass anyway. Sure, it’s cool to drink a martini “straight-up,” but in actuality it’s cooler to order a martini “straight-up.” I think people want to sound cool by uttering those words to a bartender; it’s like saying, “yo, bartender, I came to PLAY, BITCH.” Except that the bartender is secretly thinking how ghey you are. In fact, I think the fascination with the fruity/sugary martini has more to do with the glass than the actual drink. After all, most people I know can’t stand gin. Women in particular, for some reason, seem repelled by its very odor (“mmm, juniper berries…”). The glass, however, with its elegant inverted pyramid shape and clean, modernist lines – people want to look cool, and holding one of those glasses in your hand does the trick, whether you’re drinking gin or chocolate milk. Just watch any random episode of Sex in the City (don’t worry, you shouldn’t have to endure it for more than two minutes) – those skanks were always drinking cosmopolitans or some other pink crap out of a martini glass. Anyway, the point I am making here is that the martini glass is for shit. That’s right, I am a purist in the sense that a martini is made with gin and vermouth, but not a purist in that I’m not a fan of the whole “straight-up” concept.
Let’s evaluate this for a moment…am I expected to drink a cold beverage from this awkward, slippery glass, while walking around some crowded bar spilling a swallow with each step? That is a frickin’ waste, and if you’re as clumsy as me (even on drink #1) you’ll end up with more gin on your shirt than in your liver where it belongs, dammit. That’s why I think practically and order that shit on the rocks. It stays cold, is less spill-prone, and more portable. Sure, the ice begins to melt and water down the gin, but that is a small price to pay for a cold tasty beverage.
Now, on to the garnish, another pet peeve I have. Ever notice how bartenders increasingly spear like twelve olives on one toothpick and stick them in your drink? Hey, I like olives, especially olives soaked in gin, but remember, you are ordering a drink, not a meal. Each one of those olives in the glass means at least one swallow less booze (and some bars use those enormous olives that take up at least four swallows), so you are not getting your money’s worth out of a $10 martini with more than one olive. Is one olive even necessary? Nope, but I confess I do enjoy the olive-gin pairing, so my typical martini order sounds like this: “Beefeater martini, extra dry, on the rocks, one olive.” Bam. This guy means business, and makes it easy on the wait staff – he told us he wants a martini (Beefeater is gin, in case you are ten years old and reading this – oh, and don’t tell your mom), a splash of vermouth (see below), in a rocks glass with straight sides (yep, he’s a clutz), with one olive (who likes him some booze).
Notice I said “garnish” above, not “olive.” Some people prefer a “twist” in their beverage, while others (notoriously, my grandmother back in the 1930’s) are partial to the cocktail onion. Choice of garnish is a personal matter with no right or wrong answer. I like the way the gin-soaked olive tastes, and, in yet another non-purist quirk, occasionally enjoy a blue cheese or anchovy-stuffed olive in my martini; don’t even get me started, though, on the dirty pickle…
I would be remiss claiming to be a martini purist if I failed to address the “extra dry” martini. In today’s parlance, a “drier” martini has less vermouth and more gin. In fact, both vermouth and gin are considered “dry,” which is a scientific booze term meaning the opposite of “sweet.” So how is it that “extra dry” means just a drop of vermouth (insert your preferred method: one squirt from a pump bottle, drops from an eyedropper, and my favorite, “just wave the bottle of vermouth at the glass”)? Who the fuck knows, it just does. It still amazes me that (a) the martini is a mixture of hard alcohol and white wine, and (b) is nevertheless still considered a premium beverage. By that logic, our mixture of malt liquor and vodka referred to above should run $10 a glass in fancy hotel bars (actual cost: about $7.99 per gallon, in 1994 dollars).
Anyway, I will get off my soapbox now, but before I do, I encourage everyone out there to give gin a chance, and to shun all nefarious and misleading uses of the good “martini” name.