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There is No Martini Glass

May 29, 2009

I will try to make this as short and painless as possible.  But this is another pet peeve of mine, and I need to get it off my chest.

Thank you in advance for your patience.

That glass.  You know, the one that Martinis come in?  That stemmed glass with the funnel shaped bowl.  It’s called a Cocktail Glass.


Yes.  Martinis are served in them.  But so are an endless list of cocktails that include Daiquiris, Manhattans and Sidecars (some of my favorites).

I think much of the problem will be solved if everyone just stopped saying “martini” and said “cocktail” instead.  You say, “I’d like a pomegranate cocktail,” and I have no problem with that.  Ok, maybe just a small problem.  But if you say, “I’d like a pomegranate martini,” now we’ve got a big problem.

Why?  Because a Martini is a thing.  And pomegranate has nothing to do with it.

A Martini is a beautifully clear, chillingly cold, crisp, dry and snappy expression of ice, gin, dry vermouth and possibly orange bitters.  It’s not sweet.  It’s not fruity.  It’s certainly not brightly colored.  It is stark.  And I think it is what makes the drink elegant.  It is simple with a complexity that comes from within.  Plus when you make it correctly, it has a wonderful silky mouthfeel.

People will bicker about ratios to make the perfect Martini.  I generally take mine about 8:1 with 2 oz of Tanqueray gin, ½ T of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth (the formulation of the past several years, and not the newer fuller-flavored version), drop of Fee’s orange bitters.  All of this goes in the mixing glass filled with large ice cubes, is mixed until well chilled, and then strained into a chilled glass.

If you wanted to get super fussy about it, one could argue that the proportions of the drink depend specifically on the brand of gin, the brand of vermouth and the brand of bitters you use.  Each of the three principal components has a myriad of flavor elements inside of it.  And it would be foolhardy to suggest that one recipe would be perfect for bringing all possible combinations into harmony.

We don’t need to go there, but if you have a particular combination you like, let’s hear about it.

As far as garnish goes, I do not put any junk in my drink or on the rim.  But I will sometimes squeeze a little lemon zest over the top.

On the flip side, drinks with chocolate syrup, Pop-Rocks, Tang, grape soda, or other sweet sticky things, are decidedly not Martinis – even if they come in cocktail glasses.

They are cocktails.  And calling them martinis just creates a whole list of additional problems.  Most notably bars and restaurants will have martini menus.  One local restaurant was lauded for having a 27-variety martini menu.  The next logical step is the opening of martini bars.  I find the whole thing completely incomprehensible.

What really gets under my skin is that by calling every cocktail that comes in a cocktail glass a “martini” it diminishes the profile of the true classic Martini.  One could also imagine someone saying, “I love martinis.  I drink them every day.  But I can’t stand gin.”

It’s just another example of what happens when language gets compromised.  And why it is important to call things what they are.

But it’s not too late.  We can save the Martini from the imposters that threaten to overwhelm it.  Just stop calling cocktails martinis.  K?  Please.  For me?  At least think about it.

Thank you.  I feel a bit better now.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2009 9:22 am

    Ah, one of my favorite drinks, the lemon drop, comes in those cute cocktail glasses. However, after years of wanting anything in a cocktail glass (cause they are so darned cute) I have learned I should just stop since I end up spilling half of the darned thing.

  2. mama ass permalink
    May 29, 2009 9:53 am

    Well, this post was definitely enlightening. I had to make a “girlie” drink last week and realized I hadn’t mixed a drink for over a dozen years. I used antique dessert glasses that sort of look like cocktail glasses. Now I will never refer to a cocktail glass as a martini glass. Thanks for the insight, FLB!

  3. May 29, 2009 11:16 am

    Well said!!! The sooner bar tenders wise up and stop trying to call everything a martini, the better.

    My favorite martini starts with Bombay Saffire, includes Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth and is “dirty” with olive. I like the 10:1 ratio of gin to vermouth, but have no problem with a bit more vermouth. Mine must be neat, stirred with ice and then strained. A friend recommended stirring for about the length of time it takes to hum “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and I agree that this blends things perfectly.

    On occasion I like a lemon twist in place of the olive, but not often.

  4. May 29, 2009 11:27 am

    I drink my martinis dirty. I argue that this still makes them a martini.

  5. May 29, 2009 1:45 pm

    Wouldn’t that be an olive cocktail then ;)?

  6. Raf permalink
    May 29, 2009 1:52 pm

    If memory serves Mr. Fussy approves of vodka martinis, which means he’s not as fussy as one might think.

    I don’t like the cocktail glass in general because I find them way too likely to slosh. Especially after a chocolate martini or two. The champagne coupe is a nice substitute.

    For the record, I like mine extra wet (like a 3:1 ratio of gin to vermouth), orange bitters and a twist.

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