Monday, April 5, 2010

What Is A Martini?

Whenever questions about 'what is bourbon?' arise, it's helpful that bourbon whiskey is defined by Federal law. There might be disagreements about application and interpretation, but at least there's a reference point.

The martini gets no such help. Consequently, people feel free to call anything served in the iconic martini glass a martini, regardless of the ingredients.

I would like to propose the following rules.

A martini is a drink containing gin or vodka, and dry vermouth. I think I'm being very liberal in allowing vodka, but it stops there.

I know people today want to be creative with their cocktails and like to invent variations on their favorite cocktail recipes. Although the martini has only two ingredients, it permits a wide range of variation. The permissible variations are:
  • You may use any gin or any vodka, including flavored vodka.
  • You may use both gin and vodka.
  • You may use any dry vermouth.
  • You may use any ratio of gin/vodka to vermouth. 
  • You may garnish with olives or onions, stuffed or not, or no garnish.
  • You may add a small amount of olive brine.
I'm also a bit of a rebel in not requiring that the ingredients be stirred with ice and strained into a glass. Not only do I permit shaking, I prefer it, though I know I'm in the minority on that one.

You are welcome to make and enjoy any drink you like, you may even serve it in a martini glass, you may even (and I'm being hugely generous on this one) call it a something-tini, just not a martini.

Thank you for your cooperation.

9 comments:

Wade said...

Since Chuck & I both agree on the definition of a Martini, it is now US law.

Next, let's tackle the margarita. A margarita must consist only of Tequila (preferable 100% agave), some type of Orange liquor, real citrus juice of limes and possible orange/lemon, and if needed simple syrup. If it has mangos or any other different fruit, it is not a margarita.

Chuck Cowdery said...

I can support that.

frederic said...

Where is the orange bitters and lemon twist option?

Chuck Cowdery said...

The lemon twist is harmless enough but I'm not entirely comfortable with the orange bitters, which I like well enough in many other drinks.

sam k said...

We are in total agreement with one slight exemption: a true martini must contain gin. any martini containing vodka as the principal spirit must be called a "vodka martini."

Your liberal bent is accepted at its core, but needs to be somewhat constrained by my interpretation...at least on my turf!

Chuck Cowdery said...

I accept your amendment.

Rob K said...

I will point out that the glass is a cocktail glass, not a martini glass. Using the wrong name for the glassware has I think encouraged the misuse of the drink name.

Chuck Cowdery said...

You are correct and I perpetuated the mistake because I don't believe most people know that.

dakini_painter said...

Certainly the martini as a cocktail has evolved quite a bit from its origins.

I don't claim to me an expert in this matter, but some web sleuthing show these sites with some history of the drink:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martini_(cocktail)
http://www.martiniart.com/historyofthemartini.aspx

Here Ted Haigh, Dr Cocktail, a well know historian of cocktails discusses the origin. And it's quite interesting.

http://cocktailconfidential.latimesmagazine.com/2010/02/qa-with-dr-cocktail-origin-of-the-martini.html