Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Happy Hour: a Martini or a Martinez ... or a Golf Cocktail?

At risk of repeating ourselves, and as we have recently noted (and not that it takes any saying so from us) the Martini is the preeminent classic cocktail.

It's certainly one of the most storied drinks, and a drink whose origins are shrouded in mystery. Let's explore that a little bit. First, the classic recipe, with some commentary:

Okay, so there was this place called "Martinez, California" -- other versions say the bartender was a guy named Martinez. Sometimes, the bar patron is a guy named Martinez. Who knows -- it wasn't exactly well documented.
But, the idea is that a Martini is gin (or, nowadays, vodka) with dry vermouth, right? And, the drier, the better, right? What do you make of this, then:

This is a recipe from an old Mohawk liquor recipe booklet of uncertain origins, but probably circa the 1930s. It bears noting that "Italian" vermouth is the same as sweet vermouth (dry vermouth is "French"). So, not only do the proportions of this recipe (2:1) make for a wet drink, it's made with sweet vermouth. Not your daddy's Martini, is it? And the bitters are an ingredient from left field.
What this is, actually, is kind of a Martini recipe with vestiges of its ancient evolution from a drink called a Martinez. The Martinez actually has the proportions of the sweet vermouth and gin reversed; the vermouth was the dominant ingredient, and the gin is the minority contributor. Also, a Martinez has bitters (just like this Martini) and also adds a "dash" of maraschino liqueur (which this Martini recipe has lost).
A Martinez is actually a good drink -- but keep the gin as the dominant ingredient -- there's a reason why the vermouth-based idea never caught on: it sucks.
But, from the same booklet, check out this drink:
Now, except for the bitters, this is a "wet" Martini (meaning that it's a 2:1 ratio of the gin and vermouth -- not at all aridly dry, as fashions have come to demand).
Frankly, we don't know what ever happened to the Golf cocktail, or if it was ever very popular. Why not give it a try next time you order a Martini?

Of course, one of the amazing things about a Martini is the utter clarity of the drink, frigid and cold, with the oils of the olive shimmering on the surface. Simply gorgeous. A Martinez, with the sweet vermouth, looses that simplicity and starkness. But, with it's reddish color -- maybe kind of like the clay in Martinez, California? -- it has its own elegance.


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