The Bartender Imbibes: Appendix A – That Classic Martini

5 pm. Happy Hour. You are sitting a foot and a half across the bar, when the bartender asks; “What can I get for you?” Your friends are all drinking martinis and you want to join the ruckus, but have never ordered one. A light sweat begins to build and you nervously say, “I’ll have a martini.” Two simple ingredients, which for some reason can be manipulated a thousand different ways. Long stemmed vessels holding your choice of vodka or gin that immediately amps you up a class level no matter what establishment you are in. But how should one order a martini? And what is the correct verbiage for ordering YOUR perfect martini?

The year was 2003, and it was the second week of my bartending endeavor, working in a high volume college bar that catered to the university masses. This bar had exactly ONE martini glass in their establishment to show you how rarely we ventured outside the twelve ounce plastic cup. I was sitting behind the bar, trying to study for an exam before the evening rush began. Being situated downtown, we did have an occasional businessman or two stop in for a drink post work here and there. This particular day a gentleman walks in wearing a three piece suit and sits down at the bar.

What kind of jackass orders a martini and doesn’t even know what is in it?!

I let him know the specials and he begins to scoff at the thought of $1 32 oz. beers. “I’ll have a dirty martini, straight up” he says.  Being green in my bartending career, the order seemed to me like a foreign language. “Sorry sir, but what is exactly in that?” came from my mouth.  “You seriously do not know kid?” (in the most sarcastic tone I have ever heard) came from his lips.  “No, I said.  It’s my first month of bartending; I am willing to try and make it for you.”  “Well kid…I don’t really know, I just order them.” And to this day I will always remember the voice of the often homeless gentleman sitting at the other end of the bar say, “What kind of jackass orders a martini and doesn’t even know what is in it?!” The following martini recipe by which you will be captivated does not come from a sophisticated gentleman or master mixologist. It was from a gentleman who I always saw wear the same exact Nebraska Football tee shirt and played Sweet Caroline on the jukebox at least twice a day.

The Classic Martini

Step 1: Take a chilled martini glass. Or if you do not have one chilled, place ice and soda water into a martini glass to do a “quick chill” and let it sit in the glass while you create the drink. Up means strained into a martini glass and on the rocks means strained over ice in a rocks glass.

Step 2: Take Dry Vermouth and place a half ounce in the glass, let it sit for a second and then dump it out into the sink. This part will vary depending on your preference. Dry means a little vermouth and extra dry means no vermouth at all. I suggest Vya Dry Vermouth for a smoother flavor.

Step 3: Place five ounces of vodka into a shaker tin and add ice. Now poses the inevitable question, shaken or stirred. Stirred protects the integrity of the liquor while shaken tends to “bruise” the liquor and increase the flavor profile. In my opinion James Bond was correct in his order in that when ordering a vodka or gin martini, shaken is always the way to go.  At this point you can also add olive juice if you would like it dirty; ¼ ounce for slightly dirty, ½ ounce for dirty and ¾ ounce for extra dirty.  For those of you who like it “filthy” go up to a whole ounce. Belvedere Intense Unfiltered Vodka is a favorite of mine right now; for the Gin lovers try No. 209.

Step 4: Shake Vigorously, I usually count to ten. Any time and shaking beyond ten seconds and you will begin to water down the liquor instead of just chilling it down.

Step 5: Strain in the chilled martini glass. There should be enough room in the glass to not spill over as you carry the martini.

Step 6: Garnish.This can go many types of ways. The classic garnish is always two olives, especially for any martini ordered with a degree of dirty. The lemon twist is also a way to go if you are not an olive fan and the light citrus notes bring out the botanicals in the liquor. For those who love the different styles of olives, believe it when I say a blue cheese stuffed olives is The King of the olive. Although it also the most tedious job a bartender has to do, by hand stuffing, just remember to respect these little salty creamy delicacies.

Step 7: Enjoy!

So there you have the road map to creating the perfect classic martini, and from the origin it shows that you do not need formal training in bartending to create the most commonly ordered cocktail.  Most of my training came from on-the-job learning and experimenting.  Showing you, that even a homeless guy on the street, can help you make those Good Times Never Seemed So Good!

Paul Espinosa


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