The Martini (American Dry)

The Martini

The Martini

The Martini (American Dry)

3 oz Leopold’s Gin
0.5 oz Noilly Prat Vermouth
1 dash Orange Bitters or Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and place in the freezer for 10+ minutes.
Place an empty coupe glass in the freezer as well.
Remove mixing glass, add large ice and stir gently.
Remove coupe from freezer, strain drink into it.
Garnish with an olive or…
Twist a broad piece of lemon peel over the glass to release the oils, rub over the rim, then drop into glass.


* * *

The Cocktail crawled out of the primordial punch bowl on all fours. When it eventually stood up and walked erect, it became the Martini. Even if you know nothing about mixed drinks, you still undoubtedly know something about the Martini: gin (or vodka, but not here) and vermouth — there is no question that this is a drink that reigns over all others.  Of course, it’s easy for me to simply say that the Martini is the ultimate cocktail, and it’s easy for you to take that at face value. The question for both of us to ask, of course, is: Why? For the answer to this, I turn to my wife and an excerpt from her forth-coming book, Gin: A Global History:

In Martini, Straight Up, Rutgers Classics professor Lowell Edmunds cogently observes that the Martini sends a series of specific messages. His codification is as follows: It is a distinctly American drink, urban and urbane, denoting high-status. It is a man’s drink and the drink of adults not children. It is inherently optimistic and belongs to the past. It is also rife with ambiguities. The Martini is both civilized and uncivilized. It unifies and separates; it is classic and individual; it is sensitive and tough. Given Mr. Edmunds’ astute observations, it is no wonder that Nikita Krushchev called the Martini ‘America’s most lethal weapon’.

In marketing, many believe that the most successful messaging is that which simultaneously sells two opposites: the affordable luxury car or the exclusive must-have. That seems to be the power of the Martini. Like its greatest proponent, James Bond, it’s both savage and refined. And, it’ll get you bombed — what’s not to love about that? Whereas other drinks like the Sour or the various tropical punches seek to provide a medley of flavors, the Martini — like the Cocktail before it — provides a thin platform upon which its spirit (gin) shines. Like the perfect steak, the Martini needs only minimal dressing before its presentation to polite society.

Now, why is our version called “American Dry”? More than any other drink, the Martini has inspired countless variations and differing opinions. Shaken or stirred. Gin or vodka. Vermouth or no vermouth. Technically, a Dry Martini is made with London Dry gin and Dry Vermouth (hence the clever name). We don’t have London Dry gin; instead, Leopold’s falls into a category that some call New American Dry. Likewise, the reformulated Noilly Prat is no longer as dry as it once was, changing our Martini in the process. Since we are classic in structure but not in materials, I thought “American Dry” a proper moniker to capture both the drink’s heritage as well as its modern spin. The bitters, while new to some, are an old move.

Stories of the Martini’s origin could fill volumes, so you’ll forgive me if I skip them here and simply state that the Martini “is”. It’s tasty, it’s powerful, and it’s classy. But, most of all, it is the definition of the modern American drink. Our first drink here at 12 Bottle Bar was the Cocktail; now, the Martini marks the end of phase one. All the bottles have been identified, and we have a handful of drinks to highlight each one. Indeed, the Martini marks not only a culmination but also a renaissance. Without it, modern drink culture would not exist, and we will use it as our springboard for the next phase of the 12 Bottle Bar experiment.

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9 responses to “The Martini (American Dry)

  1. “Squeeze a large lemon slice over the glass to release the oils, rub over the rim, then drop into glass.”

    Egads! I do not think that is what you meant, or perhaps you are operating under the assumption that everyone who reads this knows that you mean a slice of lemon *peel*

    Squeezing a large lemon slice would release a lot more than just oils, and would create a wholly different drink.

    I know it is common practice to garnish the drink with the lemon rind, but I can’t say that I agree with it. The burst of essential oils that come from the twist are sufficient to season the Martini. I contend that depositing the lemon in the drink destroys its delicacy, and makes it too assertively lemony.

    But I’m fussier than most. Seriously though, I love this blog.

    • Daniel, thanks for the catch! I need people like you around to keep me honest. I like the lemon, but I think you’ll find I’m a citrus fan (if my choice of Leopold’s didn’t give that away already). The error has been fixed.

      I really appreciate the counterpoint. Keep ’em coming!

      BTW, would you (or anyone you recommend) have any interest in contributing pieces on NYC bars, along the lines of what Lars did for New Orleans?

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  5. I was under the impression, from Robert Hess among others, that Orange Bitters were traditional in an old-school Martini, rather than Angustora. I feel like Angustora have the potential to take over a martini. Thoughts?

    • Matt — at the time we posted that drink, Orange Bitters were not among our twelve bottles. We replaced Peychaud’s with them a few months ago. That said, yes, orange are one of the earliest ways (and according to many, only way) to go. A scant bit of Angostura is quite nice too (my dash may be a bit much in hindsight).

      BTW, look at the color of my martini — that alone would be enough to send some people running. The Angostura got adopted from the Vesper, one of the finest martinis ever created. Rather than vermouth, it calls for Kina Lillet, which is no longer made. The Kina meant quinine, so to make up that missing note, many bartenders add a dash of Angostura. I found that this only adds the woody notes of quinine and that Angostura plus a pinch of citric acid really brings the drink to life.

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