Shaken or Stirred? A Short History to Celebrate National Martini Day


A Del Frisco's bartender makes an "in and out" martini in the video above

“One martini is all right. Two is too many, and three is not enough.” — James Thurber

What a great month is June for serious drinkers. Just last week we celebrated National Bourbon Day, and now we come upon a day dedicated to a white spirit concoction — a creation journalist H. L. Mencken called "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.”

The martini has been in the cocktail lexicon since the late 1800s, though the exact origin is still debated. The precursor may have been a drink called the Martinez, served at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco in the 1860s, which was a wine glass full of dry vermouth and a shot of gin. In the 1888 Bartenders Manual, a recipe was published that called for “half a wine glass of Old Tom Gin, half a wine glass of vermouth.” And then there was the Italian vermouth maker — whose product is currently sold here as Martini & Rossi — who in 1863 began marketing their product under the brand name Martini.

During Prohibition, gin was relatively easy to produce (in a bathtub, quite often) and so was fortified wine, so the martini flourished as a speakeasy specialty. By the 1940s, the proportion of vermouth had shrunk to a ratio of around four to one — probably as a result of cleaner, better tasting gin produced legally after Repeal.

Whatever the proportions, the spirits were poured over ice and stirred together, then strained into a glass, the shape of which has inherited the martini name. Then came perhaps the drink’s most famous proponent, James Bond, whose author had him throw tradition to the wind (and created a new one) by ordering a martini “shaken, not stirred.”

Also thanks in part to Bond, the martini became drier and drier — a term that in this case refers to the amount of fortified wine added to the mix. (Somewhat confusingly, the “drier” the martini, the less dry vermouth added.) By the 1950s and ‘60s — the Mad Men heyday of the three-martini lunch — vermouths on the U.S. market has suffered in quality, and many people would drink chilled gin nearly straight.

The martini fell out of favor until a resurgence in the 1990s, which brought back cocktails served in the martini glass, if not actual martinis themselves. Bars began serving variations on the drink, many made with vodka — the most popular U.S. spirit at the time — in combinations with sweet or fruity additives. The “choco-tini,” “apple-tini” and other similar creations filled menus of clubs and bars.

While some may enjoy those drinks, it’s the traditional gin-and-vermouth (and olive) combination that best suits today’s classic cocktail renaissance. Where did the olives come in? Again, no one knows, but the addition of the salty garnish does add extra flavor, and was likely developed back when liquor was much less refined and its flavor had to be covered up. If you love that olive taste, ask for a “dirty martini,” made with an extra splash of olive brine. Order a skewer of cocktail onions with your gin-and-vermouth instead and you have a Gibson. A twist of lemon is also a common garnish, especially if you substitute vodka for gin — a “vodka martini.”

Shaken or stirred? Some think that shaking “bruises” the spirits, breaking down the flavors of the vermouth too much, and insist that stirring is the way to go. However, some relish the cloudy result of vigorous shaking, where bits of ice actually become suspended in the drink, making a bracing, refreshing sip.

What's your favorite way to make the iconic drink?

Bootom photo via Flickr user rob_moody


Tags: Photos & Videos
Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Behind the Bar: Trevor Schneider, US Reyka Vodka Ambassador

Behind the Bar: Trevor Schneider, US Reyka Vodka Ambassador

This installment of Behind the Bar is focused on Trevor Schneider, the US brand ambassador for the Icelandic Reyka Vodka....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Apr 19, 2017
Drinking Wine is the Best Mental Exercise, According to Science

Drinking Wine is the Best Mental Exercise, According to Science

Can drinking wine actually be beneficial to your health? A professor of neuroscience at Yale may have found an answer....read more ›

by Alexander Frane Apr 12, 2017
Thu
Apr 27
Sat
May 13
Sat
May 13
Sports Authority Field at Mile High 
SPONSORED
Get Sophisticated Munchies at TAG on 420

Get Sophisticated Munchies at TAG on 420

TAG will take your favorite food cravings and make 'em, TAG-style!...read more ›

by Carrie Dow Apr 11, 2017
This Summer, You Can Drink Your Rose Out Of a Forty

This Summer, You Can Drink Your Rose Out Of a Forty

A company called Forty Ounce Wines is now selling this warm-weather wine in forties, giving drinkers a whole new way to drink 'rose all day.'...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Apr 10, 2017
The First Annual Red Rocks BBQ & Brewfest is Coming to Denver, April 22

The First Annual Red Rocks BBQ & Brewfest is Coming to Denver, April 22

With a plethora of beer festivals in Colorado, organizers need to find a niche in order to have any chance of ...read more ›

by Nathan Solheim Apr 10, 2017
Follow in Anthony Bourdain's Footsteps with 'Explore Parts Unknown'

Follow in Anthony Bourdain's Footsteps with 'Explore Parts Unknown'

Ever feel inspired by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's world travels? Wish you could trace his steps and go o...read more ›

by Alexander Frane Apr 10, 2017
Help the The House that Beer Built by Drinking Beer

Help the The House that Beer Built by Drinking Beer

Enjoy tasty beers while helping the community....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Apr 10, 2017
Coffee Joins the Denver Passport Program

Coffee Joins the Denver Passport Program

The Fika Coffee Passport is available now....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Apr 10, 2017
Roca Patron Tequila Dinner at Del Frisco's

Roca Patron Tequila Dinner at Del Frisco's

The deliciousness starts at 6:30 PM....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Apr 10, 2017
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close