What is a Martini?

After my recent post on Eggnog Martini (Egg Nog Martini??? Really?) in which I generally described my amusement, if not disdain, of various cocktails described as “Martinis”… or more typically, ‘somthing‘tini a person very close to me asked “OK, what makes a Martini a Martini”.

To answer that I’ll ask, “What makes a chocolate chip cookie a chocolate chip cookie”?  Bear with me here and all will be clear.

There are a lot of ‘-tinis’ out there that are, or have been, popular, even trendy;  Appletini, Chocotini, Cranberrytini, Peachtini, Watermellontini, Peppermintini, Bacontini, etc.  These cocktails may indeed  be delicious, fun, and frivolous.  The common element in these cocktails is that they are served in a martini stem and usually made with vodka.

But a martini stem does not a Martini make.   Similarly a small baked bit of batter alone does not a Chocolate Chip Cookie make.

A Martini has a definite recipe.  It is composed of Gin, Vermouth, and a garnish.  Vodka is an acceptable, if not traditional, substitute for Gin.  The garnish may be an olive or twist.  And it’s traditionally served in a martini stem, but that does not make it a Martini.

A Chocolate Chip Cookie has a definite recipe with very few variations.  It is a cookie made with Chocolate Chips.   And maybe some walnuts and / or marshmallows.  It is not a biscotti, or bagel, or muffin.  It is a cookie.  And it must have Chocolate Chips.

A Martini does not have apple, chocolate, peach, peppermint, or Eggnog.  A Chocolate Chip Cookie does not have raisins, lemon peel, oatmeal, cranberries, or peanuts.

Oatmeal raisin cookies are delicious and a personal favorite.  The look very similar to Chocolate Chip cookies, but they are not a “Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip cookie”.   And an Appletini maybe fun and tasty, but it is not a Martini.

So what makes a Martini a Martini?  Gin, Vermouth (proportions to personal taste) and a garnish; olive or twist.  Preferably served chilled in a chilled martini stem.

Shaken, Stirred, or Smashed???

Not long ago while on travel I stopped in at a fine restaurant for a ‘nite cap’ on my way ‘home’, i.e., the current hotel.  I ordered my usual dry Sapphire martini.

The bartender took a stem from the freezer and placed in on the bar.  Next he took a metal shaker, put ice in it, and then poured in the gin.  Finally instead of putting the top on the shaker he took out a long stirring spoon.  At this point I thought he was going to stir the drink.  Not a problem, I always let the local barkeep make the Martini at his discretion.  At least the first one.  😉

To my amusement and surprise he proceed to pound the ice with the spoon.  Sort of like a muddler with mint for a Mojito, but with much more enthusiasm.

When he served the martini I jokingly asked if that was considered “Shaken or Stirred”.  He smiled and responded with “Well, more like smashed or crushed”.  He went on to explain that this establishment liked to serve their Martinis with a thin layer of crushed ice on the surface of the drink and this was the best way to achieve that effect.  I think he referred to it as the ‘ice rink’ style.

Personally I don’t mind a few ice chips floating in the martini.  Not sure about a full layer of chips though.   And I think you could easily do that with vigorously shaking the Martini as well.  Having said that, the Martini was excellent.

The Perfect Martini Process, V1.0

Since this blog has existed I’ve advocated and supported the concept that your Perfect Martini is just that, yours.  My Perfect Martini is mine.  And the two may not be identical.   What is important is that we find that which works for each of us.

Having said that, I thought it time to share what I believe works best for me.  Interestingly over the course of the last year researching for this blog and writing about Martinis and Martini preparation my taste has ‘evolved’.  My preference has moved a bit drier and I’m garnishing with a twist much more often.  Lime if available.

Anyway, here is my process.  Note that I say ‘process’, not recipe.  The recipe is pretty simple:  3 ounces of chilled Bombay Sapphire Gin, a capful of Vermouth, and a twist.  But it is the process of putting that together that really makes the Perfect Martini.

The process starts with advanced preparation.  Put the bottle of Gin and your Martini stem in the freezer and the vermouth in the refrigerator.   IF you use a massive shaker, that should go in the freezer too.  This should be done well before you need to prepare the Martini.  (I just leave my gin in the freezer and vermouth in the fridge permanently.)

Then make the twist.  I always prepare the twist before the martini so that the martini doesn’t wait, and get warm, if I make the twist at the end of the process.  No, the twist will not wilt or dry out in the 90 seconds you make the Martini…. it will be just fine waiting for its grand entry at the end of the process.   This goes for olives, if you prefer them…. spear them before the martini.

Finally we start making the Martini proper.  Fill the shaker with about a cup of cold ice.   (See Cold Ice Please! for comments and description of “Cold Ice”).  Take the cap off the Vermouth bottle, fill it with Vermouth and put that in the shaker with the cold ice.  Swirl or shake the Vermouth and ice briefly and then drain the Vermouth.  Keep the ice, of course.

Next put 3 ounces of Bombay Sapphire Gin into the shaker.  (That’s 6 tablespoons or a 3/8 cup if you don’t have a jigger.)  Shake the shaker vigorously for about 10 seconds.   10 seconds is all you need to chill the liquid, any more and your just working your biceps, triceps, and delts.

Now, quickly remove the Martini stem from the freezer and pour the Martini from the shaker into the Stem.  Take the twist and lightly run the rind around the edge of the stem, squeeze a bit of the oils into the liquid, and drop it gently into the Martini.

Finally take the Martini out to the porch, sit comfortable, look at the sunset over the beach, and enjoy the Perfect Martini.

 

Martini Making Pet Peeves

Do you have a pet peeve regarding Martini Making?  I do, several.

Having now carefully observed many bartenders making my Martinis and, on occasion, taking notes I have come up with a few pet peeves on bartender’s Martini making processes.  Now, I’m not going to claim that any of these little nits actually make a difference in the taste of the Martini, but they sure do affect the enjoyment of the Martini.

My first, and by far the biggest, pet peeve is leaving my finished martini on the bar or prep station instead of giving it to me.  I can see that the Martini is done and yet there it sits over by the bartender instead of in front of me.  It’s getting warm and my tip is getting lower by the second.

I don’t care if your boss has a question.  Or the phone rings.  Or the bar-back needs guidance.  Or, god forbid, your spouse / GF/BF calls.  I’m the customer and my Martini should be delivered immediately upon completion.

The second pet peeve is similar to the first but not as egregious.  And that is the barkeep taking FOREVER to make the martini.  First walking to one end of the bar to get a martini stem before putting it down on the prep station.  Then looking around and getting  some ice to put in the stem.  Perhaps going to get some water to put on the ice in the stem.  Then walking to the far end of the bar to get the gin and bringing to the prep station.   Looking around for a jigger before walking over to the tool chest and finding it.  Finally mixing the Martini and then looking around for the garnish.  Oh, right, there isn’t one, so then we start the process of looking for a lemon to make the twist…..

Speaking of the garnish; pet peeve number three.  Get the garnish ready FIRST.  Put the olives on the toothpick or strip the twist off the lemon first.  You’ve properly shaken the gin and vermouth and poured into the chilled stem.  It’s all now perfectly mixed and nicely chilled.  But if you start working on your garnish now the Martini is just warming up.

Next Pet Peeve: Inadequately stirred Martinis.  As you know I prefer my Martini shaken, but I don’t ask for it shaken.  If the house policy is stirring, then I’m fine with that.  BUT, stir it enough to properly chill the Martini.  A quick 10 second stir is NOT enough.  It needs a good 60 seconds of stirring.  If you can’t take the time to properly prepare a stirred and chilled Martini then shake it.

Rarest Pet Peeve:  Not knowing how to make a Martini.  Enough said!

Final Pet Peeves.  This is for all the other little “tip killing” annoyances:
•Not knowing what Gins you stock.  Really?  There usually aren’t that many.  Or are Gin drinkers really that rare?
•Not knowing that you’re out of one of the Gins.  I’ll cut you a little slack here if you’ve just come on duty.
•Dirty stem.  Didn’t you look at the stem when you picked it up?  Didn’t you see the lipstick or left over chocolate on it?  Or did you just not care?
•Cracked stem.  Again, didn’t you look at the stem when you picked it up?
•Soapy stem.  Hey, I’m really glad you washed the stem, but next time please rinse it completely.

The Perfect Martini: Shaken or Stirred?

Shaken or Stirred?    Which is “Perfect”?

One of the eternal Martini questions!  Right up there with Dickens …. Olive or Twist?

I have written extensively in the past about Shaken vs. Stirred Martinis and thought a reminder might be appropriate for some of the newer readers, in case you missed it before.

There are four claimed differences between shaken and stirred martinis; temperature, dilution, “bruising”, and taste.  I’ve written extensively in the past on each of these and if you’re interested you can jump to the details via the links at the bottom of this article.

The bottom line is this:  The Shaken Martini will colder, more diluted, emulsified , and taste exactly the same.  Conversely the Stirred Martini will be less cold (hopefully not ‘warmer’), stronger, silky smooth, and taste exactly the same.

Notice that I’ve changed ‘bruising’ to ’emulsification’.  The term ‘bruising’ is really a misnomer and anyone using it should be ostracized immediately.  But shaking the drink does adds a zillion (roughly) little bubbles, also known to as emulsification.  This gives the drink a slightly cloudy appearance and changes the way it feels in your mouth.

So which is “Perfect”?   Read my Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Conclusion for all the intimate details and opinions.  (Disclaimer:  Its a tie.)

You can also jump to an overview of each of four elements at:
Temperature             Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature
Dilution                       Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Dilution
Bruising                      Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Bruising
Taste                           Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste

 

If you enjoy my articles, please subscribe to my blog for the latest additions and updates.  There’s a box over to your left with the catchy title “Subscribe to Blog”.    And please recommend this to your friends.

You can also check out our ‘sister’ twitter site @Shkn_Nt_Strrd

Alcohol Diet!

Alcohol diet?  Is that a real thing?  Well, no, not really.  But it offers a starting point to think about our diet, and Martini, choices.

If you’re like most of us you’re probably ‘counting’ calories in one form or another.  Not necessarily keeping a daily diary of everything you eat, but most of us are aware that it takes 24 minutes of brisk walking to burn off the calories in one can of coke.   And an hour and 10 minutes to burn off the calories in one slice of pizza and a can of coke.

Each of us has our own idea of weight, exercise, and food balance. And we all make choices.  That’s true in our choices for adult beverages.

The standard 1.5 oz serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories before you add any mixers.  Bombay Sapphire is 97 proof and has 114 calories.   So a dry martini would have approximately 100 calories, depending on Gin, number of olives (5 calories each, if that’s your choice), and whether its ‘wet’ or ‘dry’.

Comparing to other cocktails:  Gin & Tonic 187, Mai Tai 306, Pina Colada 320, Margarita 327, Rum & Coke 361, Mudslide 820

And how many calories in desert?  Chocolate Cake without frosting: about 352 , 1/2 cup Ice Cream 137 , 1/2 cup Chocolate Mousse 454 , and Creme Brulee 210.

So if you’re counting calories which would you pick?  Cake or Martini?  My choice is clear; I haven’t had dessert in a long long time.

 

The calorie numbers above are taken from various internet sources and are representative and for comparison purposes & humor.

ALWAYS Drink responsibly.
We do NOT endorse excessive alcohol consumption.
Know the law, know your limits: drink to the lesser of the two.

Thermal Flow Thoughts – Keeping the Martini Cold!

We mentioned thermal flow several times as part of discussions on keeping a drink cold.  So I started wondering exactly what are the typical thermal paths for a Martini?

First lets understand that cold doesn’t exist, there is only the absence of heat.  Heat flows from warm to cold… or from cold to colder.  So to make a Martini cold you pull heat out of the fluid by using something colder; using cold ice when we shake (or stir) the Martini.   We sometimes think its the other way around, so some of my comments below may seem backward.

So heat flows to warm your Martini, or other cocktail, in the following ways:
From the air, through the glass bowl, and into the liquid.
From the counter, table, or bar top into the stem and then up into the liquid.
When being held, through the fingers or hand into the glass and then into the drink.   (Note that heat flow is inversely proportional to length, i.e., heat flows less, or slower, through a longer path.  A tall stem will conduct less heat up through the glass into the Martini that a short squat, bulbous stem.)

So where does most of this drink warming heat come from?  Without doing a complete thermodynamic model (I’ve thought about it), it seems pretty clear that it is from the surrounding air.

The thermal path up through the table is limited by a long thin stem.  Heat from the hand is temporary, assuming your not holding the stem constantly.  (See: “What’s the best way to hold the Martini?” for previous comments on how to hold your Martini.)  Which leaves the air which is constantly in contact with the bowl of the Martini, as the significant culprit warming your martini.

So what’s the best solution?  Other than moving to the Arctic or Antarctic, drinking in the freezer!  Kidding aside, I’m stumped on this one.  Surely drinking in an air conditioned bar will keep your drink colder than outside in the sun.   But having a nice Martini on a deck over looking the beach is just marvelous.

Here are a couple suggestions to consider:
Hold the stem as little as possible and by the rim or stem of the glass,
Use a coaster; its a thermal insulator and will minimize heat flow up through the stem,
Keep the drink in the shade if you’re outside.  No need adding the sun’s warmth to the liquid,
Use a Martini ‘coozie’???

OMG, did I really say that?  Sacrilegious!  I’ll suffer penance with a cold Martini….

Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Conclusion.

Over the past several weeks I’ve waxed poetic on the differences between Shaken Martinis and Stirred Martinis.    We’ve talked about Temperature, Dilution, Bruising, and Taste.  So what is the combined consensus conclusion?

Lets review the score:
Temperature – Draw                                                   Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Temperature
Dilution – Stirring                                                         Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Dilution
Bruising – Draw                                                            Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Bruising
Taste – Draw                                                                 Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste

Overall Advantage:  Your call.

Here’s the bottom line.   I like my martinis cold.  I like them with Bombay Sapphire.  You may like yours at a milder temperature with Hendrick’s or Nolet’s or any other fine Gin.  The taste difference between my Cold Bombay Sapphire and your ‘cool’ Nolet’s far eclipses any differences of taste that may, or may not, occur from Shaking or Stirring.

I can hear the screams among you…. “A cope out”,  “I need an answer”,  “I can’t stand the ambiguity”,  “Tell me what to think”, …

Really?    I have said from the beginning that your “Perfect Martini” may not be the same as my “Perfect Martini”.   It’s sort of like that metaphysical philosophical Tao ‘find your own beach’ thing that someone does on TV.  😀

I hope to educate, elaborate,  and engross; to amuse and delight; and, hopefully, perhaps start a discussion or even a bit of controversy.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

 

And please, if you like what you read, subscribe to this blog.

 

Best Gins for a Martini? Here’s one Opinion

Are you wondering what Gin(s) make the best Martinis?  I came across this article while perusing my twitter feed (@Shkn_Nt_Strrd) and found it interesting.  I hope you do too.

best-gins-to-use-in-a-martini

I particularly like Gin #1 as a suggestion for a novice Gin drinker or possibly to convert a ‘vodkaphile’?

I’ve often mentioned that my favorite Gin is Bombay Sapphire and I’m glad to find it in this collection.  Some of these sound very interesting; I will keep my eyes open for them and, hopefully, give them a try.

Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste

We’ve finally come to the final, and probably most important, contentious, and difficult edition of Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Taste.  Does Shaking change the taste of the Martini?

I’ve been scratching my head trying to develop an effective and simple taste test for Shaken vs. Stirred: Taste while eliminating the differences due to temperature, dilution, and ‘bruising’.  Recall that for this article we consider bruising to be the emulsification of the Martini from shaking.  See Shaken vs. Stirred Revisited: Bruising for details.

Here’s what I’ve done.  I’ve prepared two dry Martinis (i.e., Gin) using 1 1/4 oz. of my favorite Gin.  Each was mixed with 20 ice cubes, one shaken for 10 seconds and one stirred for 45 seconds.   Then put in identical glasses and placed in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  By doing this I’ve removed the variable of temperature.  I mixed the gin for different times in the hope of removing the variable of dilution.  (I didn’t quite succeed, the shaken Martini contained a bit more drink, so it was a bit more diluted.)  Finally by allowing the two glasses to sit I’ve allowed the emulsification to dissipate thereby removing the variable of ‘bruising’.

So which ‘won’??    Hold that thought for now…. Lets start with a couple of facts.  First, taste is a combination of sensor receptors on the tongue (taste receptors, or buds) and in the nasal cavity (olfactory epithelium).   There are also secondary conditions that affect taste; e.g., temperature, texture, and ‘heat’ / spiciness.

Second, taste is a function of “chemistry”.  By that I mean that the body (tongue, palate, mouth, and nose) detects various molecules, ions, chemicals, and compounds and sends signals to the brain which interprets the information as ‘taste’.

Therefore to declare that Shaking a martini changes the taste we must infer that Shaking changes the martini’s chemistry.  Is that possible?  Well, it appears that may be the case.  I did an extensive bit of research (thank you Google) and found the following.

The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario conducted a study to determine if the preparation of a martini has an influence on its antioxidant capacity. They found that the shaken gin martinis were able to break down hydrogen peroxide and leave only 0.072% of the peroxide behind, versus the stirred gin martini, which left behind 0.157% of the peroxide.*

I should also note that the above is the only “citeable” bit of evidence I found anywhere.  Everything else was subjective.  Which brings up the question; is a difference of 0.085% (0.157 – 0.072) peroxide detectable?

Of all the posts, blogs, editorials, and opinions I have read, none provided any solid evidence of the taste changes – in Gin.  A  few reported subtle changes in cheap Vodka martinis – something about cheap vodka being made from potatoes which leave extra oils in the liquor.

The few ‘side by side’ reports I found noted how one method made the Martini colder or weaker or cloudier.  But not a difference in taste.

Which leads us back my experiment: so which tastes better?  To be absolutely honest, I couldn’t taste any difference.  I went back and forth repeatedly, even rinsing my mouth between tastes.  The stirred martini was just a tad stronger, but it didn’t taste different.  That is surely due to the slightly greater dilution of the shaken Martini.  I will certainly try this again adjusting the mixing times and possibly adding straight gin as a third option.  I’ll keep you informed.

Advantage?
Draw.  I could not taste a difference.  Nor can I find documented evidence of a taste difference in Gin anywhere in the googlesphere.  Please send me any links to such articles if you can find them.
*  Hirst, M.; Trevithick, J. R. (18 December 1999). “Shaken, not stirred: bio-analytical study of the antioxidant activities of martinis”. British Medical Journal 319 (7225): 1600–2. doi:10.1136/bmj.319.7225.1600. PMC 28303. PMID 10600955. Retrieved 2006-04-12.