Here’s how you make a fucking goddamn martini

Okay, quick break from personal insight and crappy fan-writing. This is real-talk time, and I’m going to get pretty blunt.

What the fuck is wrong with bartenders in this godsforsaken town? There was a point when Sydney bars were at the top of their game, when you could trust your bartender, and belly up, order a drink, and know what you were going to get. In those days, admittedly, you were liable to get a good old-fashioned side-eye if you ordered your drink wrong, but let me tell you…

They could make a fucking proper dry martini, no sweat. They’d judge you for ordering with a twist, and maybe that’s fair, but you’d get the drink made well, and made right.

Now, it’s a fucking crapshoot. You got babies behind the bar, who may have cool tatts and fucking beard to brag about, but ask him to mix a martini and it’s like watching a two-year-old playing with blocks. I mean, I’m more than willing to take bar staff to task – I’ve done it before, and I will certainly do it again – but sometimes a man just wants a drink, not a night teaching people who should know better how to make one THE classic cocktails.

But take your eyes off these children for a fucking second and they’ll be filling your glass with a rotten mess of vermouth, with gin as something like a mere fucking afterthought. And if you don’t notice the calamity in motion, let me tell you, that first sip of chilled disappointment can ruin your whole damned night. It’s an insipid slap to the face that only gets worse as the drink warms, and because it’s fucking terrible to begin with, it WILL warm, but out of some sense of misplaced fucking… I don’t know, obligation or some fucking thing, you do down that last, tongue-warpingly bad mouthful.

Now, you can at least work out the quality of the wider bar staff in these instances – I had a night of good drinking comped at a local bar because I had to suffer the poorly drained leavings of a neophyte mixologist, so more power to them. And the head guy behind the bar did have some quiet words with the guy responsible, so maybe he learned something?

I don’t fucking know, of course, because a lot of bars these days have a terrible problem retaining staff, so you go through the same horrible process on an all too regular basis. That guy could be making perfect bloody martinis now, but he’s making them somewhere else, and that’s no fucking good to me.

I know from where the mistake stems, and to be perfectly honest it does not augur well for the youth. A martini, aside from the garnish, is two ingredients – gin and vermouth. A classic martini is made to a 5:1 gin/vermouth ratio, and if you like that, well… Well, you’re gonna have to be a close damn friend for me to make one that wet. A dry martini, on the other hand, has a mere whisper of vermouth; enough to cut the gin and add a hint of complexity, but without losing any of your gin’s deeper flavours. Without flooding the tongue with cloying vermouth, the garnish also comes through with more punch.

It is said of Winston Churchill – a man who knew his liquor, and then some – that the perfect martini was made by chilling your gin, and then turning, and saluting, in the direction of France. Benjamin Franklin ‘Hawkeye’ Pierce, of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, said of his martinis that he liked them so dry that all he did was wave a picture of the man who invented vermouth over the glass.

Dry. As. FUCK.

But you see, the good vermouth is DRY vermouth. Noilly Prat if you can, but a good cocktail maker can make even the saddest of ingredients sing. But it’s that label – these kids with the ink still wet on their RSA see ‘dry’ and figure, “Well, I guess that’s how you make a dry martini!”

I’ve had bartenders, who I have very nicely asked to make my second drink drier, add MORE of the stuff to my next drink. Suffice to say they do not get a tip. This kind of shitfuckery happens with enough regularity that I weep.

So what’s the right way? Well, that’s up for constant debate; but I’ll tell you how I make them, and I’ll tell you that I’ve had no complaints. In fact, I’ve made this FOR bartenders in the past, at bars, and they’re on board.

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And because I am incapable of talking about anything WITHOUT mentioning Star Trek, this PERFECT FUCKING DRINK was made for me in a restaurant on the future site of Starfleet Academy. No. Shit.

The PERFECT dry martini

It starts with your glass. The trick is that you want to fill it – so a smaller glass will take less liquor; a larger, more. Know your glassware, and know what to pour into it. My own glasses will take two-and-half, even three shots of gin. Work that out, and pour a good gin – I’ll leave that up to you, but I’m fond of Four Pillars at the moment – into your shaker, which should already be full of ice.

Shaking? Yes, I am fucking shaking my gin. Does it ‘bruise’ the liquor? Well, smarter people than I can’t even agree on what bruising means, so who the fuck cares. Does it dilute the liquor? Yes, a little bit, but I’m drinking a fucking martini and will drink more fucking martinis, so that’s actually a plus. Is it gentle? No, it’s violent and looks cool and most importantly it chills the drink in a way that stirring can never hope to, and the colder your martini can be, the better. And anyway, shaking’s really only verboten when you’re using it on mixed drinks.

I’m just shaking gin.

The vermouth, you see, is already in the glass, poured over ice. Ideally, you keep your martini glasses in the freezer, good and chilled, but that’s not always practical. So top your glasses up with ice, and then pour in vermouth. This chills the glass nicely while you’re shaking your gin; once shaken, turn back to your glass, and the nearest sink, and with a firm shake of the wrist, flick the contents out into your sink. Or at someone you hate, I don’t care.

What’s left is the perfect amount of vermouth for your glass, just lining the interior. Cocktails are all about proper proportion, and I’ve found this technique to be foolproof, as everything scales perfectly.

Set the glass down – maybe a little smugly – and pour in your super-cold gin. I like to pour it in a spiral pattern around the glass, from the rim to the inside, just to help mix the ingredients.

If you’ve gotten the glass properly chilled, and the gin really cold, the outside of the glass should frost. Your guests should ooh and aah, and if they don’t, practice until they do.

The garnish is to taste. A twist of lemon is lovely and refreshing, and at a bar, incidentally, often your safest bet, because you never know what kind of crappy olives you’re going to get served. Cut off your strip of rind, neaten with a sharp knife, carve off any flesh remaining, then aim it, skin side down, at the surface of the drink; twist sharply, and you eject a fine spray of aromatic oil into the glass. Twist tightly, drop it into the glass, and serve with a confident flourish.

If you want olives, go for Sicilian olives. Good pimento-stuffed olives look good, but a couple of large, buttery, Sicilian olives are a fucking treat while you’re sipping on your cocktail. For a bit of added punch, I like to dip a teaspoon into the olive brine (NEVER use olives in oil), and then slide the belly of the spoon around the rim of the glass, imparting a bit of pure flavour for that first sip that will raise a smile.

You can, of course, opt for a cocktail onion, in which case you’ve made a Gibson, a lovely variant on the classic. The same trick works with the onion brine, too, by the way, and if you want to add some exotic punch, use chilli-infused onions.

That’s one of mine – I call it a William Gibson.

Umeboshi

I shit you NOT.

If I’m feeling truly exotic, Umeboshi Plums – well, plum, cause those fucking things are SERIOUS – make a martini truly remarkable. The sour, salty-sweet flavours are a little over-powering, and they dominate the drink a little too much to my mind, but they’ve always been a hit.

But it’s that golden ratio of the merest wisp of vermouth, to the right amount of gin for the glass, that makes your mouth and heart sing for drunken joy. Because you never drink just one martini – the only thing better than the perfect dry martini is a second dry martini…

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