The Martini – From Stirred to Shaken, and Everything in Between

Editor’s Note : We’re very glad to welcome a new guest writer, and the very first professional we’ve had on board, Mr. Pratik Katre. I was lucky to work with him during my time at the Taj, and I can vouch for the fact that he’s a super chill guy, who really knows his stuff.

Without further ado, let us set the scene. Take it away, Pratik sir. 🙂

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1860’s, Chicago. Imagine the hustle and bustle of a quaint American city transforming into a metropolitan giant. The massive industries, the boom of wealth, and the zeal to explore and invent.

The time between 1860 and 1890 came to be known to be the Golden Age of cocktails – and for a good reason. This period marked the era when all the classic cocktails were either created, or recorded. People had been mixing alcohol for years before, but never with this kind of thought behind it.

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The results were astounding. And still massively popular more than a hundred years later. The Martini, the Daiquiri, the Manhattan – you name it. They all came out during this beautiful age of experimentation and exploration.

The first bartenders guide was penned in 1862 by Jerry Thomas, who is considered the father of American mixology. “It really just marks this start of this incredibly creative period in making great cocktails…”

We picked up this excerpt about the “Golden Age”, here. It’s an article worth reading.

Our object of consideration today is the Martini, which was possibly adapted from the original “Martinez”, as it was known then in 1884. It called for gin, red vermouth (an aromatised wine, read more about it in our article here), and concentrated bitters, served with a lemon peel.

On the left, the Martinez (still available in certain select places), versus the modern Sweet Martini.

One prevalent theory points to the town of Martinez, California, where historians and town inhabitants alike claim the drink was invented during the mid-1800s Gold Rush. Apparently, a gold miner who had recently struck it rich decided to celebrate his good fortune at a local bar.

He requested Champagne, which they didn’t have, so the bartender insisted on concocting another beverage made from ingredients he had on hand: gin, vermouth, bitters, maraschino liqueur, and a slice of lemon. Thus, “The Martinez Special” was born.

Another excerpt from a brilliant article, which you can find here.

For reasons that shall forever remain unknown, this drink was rechristened as the Martini in the year 1884. This name was vexing to the visiting Europeans of the age, as they were accustomed to the more traditional aperitif, Martini & Rosso, created in 1863.

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Perhaps these bottles look familar? They’re all vermouth. From left to right, they go from the least sweet (extra dry), to sweetest. A dry Martini will generally use the “Bianco” shown above, while a sweet one will be flavoured and coloured with a splash of sweet, red vermouth.

In the 1890’s, the recipe was tweaked yet a little more, with the substitution of orange bitters for the more Angostura-esque concentrated bitters…

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Think of bitters as the “spice rack” of the cocktail world. A range of diverse flavours, and all you need is a drop or two to completely transform a drink from something “meh, good” to something legendary. Case in point.

…and the lemon peel was discarded for the more visually appealing Maraschino cherry.

A sweet Martini is generally accompanied by a cherry, whereas the signature Dry or Extra Dry comes with olives. Some people like their Martinis “dirty”, which means the drink is mixed with some of the brine in which the olives were pickled. It gives a really nice salty-sour tinge to it.

By the early 1900s, it was world famous, and it got the name “Dry Martini”, courtesy of Mr. Frank Newman, Head Barman at the Grand Hotel in Paris. He published the same in the second edition of his book, American Bar, in 1904.

This cocktail is, perhaps, most famously known by its on screen persona, more than its actual consumption on the menu. Almost everyone has come to know of the famous words, “Shaken not Stirred” but few know the real deal behind it.

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Who was your favourite Bond? Let us know in the comments!

In the year 1962, the audiences were enthralled by the suave, then young, Mr. Sean Connery, in his famous portrayal of the well-known MI6 operative, James Bond. His charm, sense of style, and dialogues created a frenzy in cinema goers of that era.

During the film, he orders for a medium dry martini, shaken, but not stirred, which set the trend for shaking the drink, rather than it’s more staid, languid way of coming to life.

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Ah, monsieur Connery.

A lesser known fact is that the Bond “Martini” is actually first mentioned in the 1952 novel, Casino Royale, when Bond meets CIA agent Felix Leiter. In the books, he orders for a Dry Martini, but asks for it to be prepared as follows: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it well until its ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.”

The latter was actually used in the movie Casino Royale. Incidentally, the addition of vodka and Kina Lillet, a now reformulated quinine based aperitif, is a result of the author’s own loyalty to the drink, which he christened as Vesper, after the elusive Vesper Lynd.

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The interesting concept here is the science behind the shaking. The world is divided between the science and the gimmicks behind this, but what one can conclude is basic physics. It should be noted that the novels are set around the mid 1900’s to late 1900’s, an era ravaged by the Prohibition Act.

This might have seriously degraded the quality of gin available then. Stirring was the most beautiful way of mixing the two liquids, but hardly the apt method in times when the gin was counterfeit! Hence, Mr. Fleming’s way out was by shaking the two liquids together, masking the substandard quality of the gin, and ensuring a properly chilled, legend-worthy drink.

With the advent of time, many researched this concept, some said shaking mixes up molecules, while others cried that such vigorous shaking would ruin the delicacy of the drink. Many variations of the drink have sprung up, some of which try very hard to be Martinis, but will just never get there.

I’m speaking of course, about the new trend of adding the suffix ‘-tini’ to almost anything. (pictured above are the Appletini, the Peartini, and Berrytini).

That’s not to say they aren’t delicious – but in my opinion, while innovations like this have their place, they end up diluting the essence of the true Martini.

That being said, let us hope the spark of innovation never leaves us, because we have still barely scratched the surface of mixology and all its secrets.

And let us not forget to appreciate the beauty and class of the original Dry Martini, and once in a while savour it, stirred, not shaken!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. yashchandhok says:

    A very interesting read❤

    Like

    1. Thanks, Yash! Let us know what you want us to write about next.
      We take these suggestions quite seriously. 😎

      – Mohan V

      Like

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