HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


Martinis? Is it just me...

or does anyone else get annoyed when the strangest concoctions are called martinis. Most recent case in point is in the following article: http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaur...

Author describes a drink called the Spicy Pear martini (Sailor Jerry's spice rum, Mathilde pear liqueur, and organic white grape juice, $10). Good or not, I don't know; but a martini it ain't.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Patricia,

    This is an old and well worn area of discussion and irritation amongst many cocktailians. I, personally would prefer that these end up with the appellation "cocktail" rather than "-tini" but it fits in with so many naming trends. It's become a buzzword, like it or not. I take more offense at a cocktail glass being renamed martini glass.

    Though i would prefer otherwise, as long as they don't go trying to say that anything but Gin (okay... or vodka) and vermouth (with or without bitters) is an actual "Martini", then I don't have all that much of a problem with the names appletini, Spicy Pear Martini, or whatevah-tini, despite the only relationship being the glass. In fact, if the vodka version became ubiquitously the Vodka Martini leaving the singular word "Martini" to describe a gin-based drink... ;-)

    A boy can dream...

    1. I definitely isn't just you.

      What I find interesting is that the creators of most of these drinks don't even bother to give them a real name, instead relying on the completely uninspired combination of flavor+flavor+ingredient+(mar)tini. Which is appropriate as most of these drinks are completely uninspired and won't stand the test of time, and it's as if their creators know this and don't bother (or they just don't care).

      1. I agree with you. A martini really has to be dry, not sweet. Even if your formula is 2:1 gin or vodka to vermouth (which would not qualify as a "dry" martini), it would still be a fairly dry drink. But start adding chocolate, mango, peach, and pear, and it's closer to a lemon drop than a martini. Spice rum? Gettoudddahear!!!

        1 Reply
        1. re: AlbertaHound

          A martini doesn't necessarily have to be dry. It's my understanding that the first martinis were made with sweet (red) vermouth, and you can still find recipes for the "perfect martini" using equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

          But it does have to be based on gin. A cocktail made with vodka is no more a martini than one made with spiced rum and peach schnapps. I blame James Bond for starting this whole business of calling things "martinis" when they really aren't.

        2. As much as it bothers me to hear everything called a martini or even worse -tini it probably has to do more with the fact they are serving it in a martini glass than anything else.

          A lot of restaurants don't want to stock any more glasses then they have to, so even though Libbey makes a passable cocktail coupe, most people won't stock it.

          Not to mention that consumers tend to like their cocktail served in an oversized glass so they get the perception of value.

          1. it's TiniGate - why not? we add that suffix to any other scandal.

            back when I drank martini's, just having a bottle of vermouth standing next to the gin was enough mixer.

            3 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              That may be how Winston Churchill preferred his martinis (he preferred to glance at the vermouth bottle from across a crowded room), but I say that you aren't ordering a martini either. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a cocktail is "an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice", or, in the case of martinis, vermouth. Since an extra-dry martini has just the one ingredient, gin, it is no longer a cocktail. Order it as a straight up gin with an olive or twist, as you desire. A savvy bartender will appreciate your candor.

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                yes you're right, to cut through all the Cocktail-Nation nonsense I'd just say "Gin, Up, Twist, please" and leave any misinterpretation out of the equation.

                1. re: hill food

                  And put it near (but not touching) the bottle of dry vermouth.

            2. I tend to agree though I don't lose much sleep over it. To me, it's for people who think Martini's are cool but can't handle them. So the bartenders of the world have dumbed them down to accomodate.

              I do have to admit, during strawberry season I'll use fresh ones instead of olives and it's really really good.


              1. spiced rum, liqueur and grape juice...can you taste anything in that drink but sugar???

                2 Replies
                1. re: Papa Kip Chee

                  Nope, and that's the way people like it. But it beats the hell out of the one I saw a couple nights ago of Captain Morgan, Chambord, OJ, and cranberry.

                2. Language evolves. Terrific used to mean terror inducing. eke used to mean adding on to, not scraping by (hence "an eke name" which became "nickname" - an additional name) I could go on, i'm sure you all have examples you can add of words which once meant one thing, but now mean another. But the reason language, and english especially, is so powerful is that it can evolve.

                  "martini" is just at the point of change, so it screams at us in a way "terrific" no longer does.

                  (And let's face the martini has evolved too.. it used to be a much sweeter drink originally - with lots of sweet vermouth, and some sort of syrup or liquer. If one is going to be a purist, why not wind it all the way back? )

                  As such it doesn't bother me all that much (i'm way more wigged out by people who use "less" when they mean "fewer" - but i know i'm gonna lose that battle too)

                  28 Replies
                  1. re: thew

                    ..."it used to be a much sweeter drink originally - with lots of sweet vermouth, and some sort of syrup or liquer"....

                    In my little world a martini was and is made solely with gin and a hint of dry vermouth. That's the Classic Martini.

                    Here's a quote :
                    "The original martini recipe called for one-half dry gin and one-half dry vermouth., This proportion began to change in the early 1940s to two or three parts dry gin to one part dry vermouth, Today popular proportions for an Extra Dry Martini range from a 5-to-1 to an 8-to-1 ratio. The greater the proportion of gin to vermouth the ‘drier’ the Martini."

                    I'm in your camp regarding the less & fewer use, though!

                    1. re: Gio

                      I'm of the school that says the way your order it is the way you should get it with no argument from the server. Would it be more convenient if there was one way and it was just your way? Sure. But damn, the world would be pretty boring too!

                      Cheers all around!

                      1. re: Scortch

                        I make them 6:1 at home. When I'm at a bar, I just order it. I leave it up to the bartender to do their best. I also will only order it if I trust the tender.
                        BTW, the martini I had after my steak for V-day was first rate. Bombay Sapphire gin with the right amount of vermouth. Not a hint of alcohol taste to it. I could've drank about a thousand of them.


                      2. re: Gio

                        That history is bogus: the shift toward drier Martinis began much earlier. The proportion of what we now call the Nick and Nora Charles Martini, with its vivid 1930s associations, is 2:1, and came into currency at the end of Prohibition, when gin quality spiked upward. American taste in Martinis has been getting gradually, steadily drier ever since. Likewise, the notion that 5:1 or 8:1 is the current vogue is off: it's more like 15:1 or 20:1.

                        I wince at sugary flavored-vodka concoctions being called "Martinis", too. I don't even like the triangular glass being called a "martini glass": it's a cocktail glass. But the usage has grown beyond the small world of educated cocktail drinkers. It's powerful marketing, giving rookie drinkers the frisson of sophistication (the cool-looking glass) while allowing them to drink new-clothes versions of the candy-flavored Schnapps and other juvenile shooters they favored in high school and college.

                        My ambivalence is highlighted by the fact that, like it or hate it, the popularity of the Cosmopolitan has improved the technical chops of many bartenders, and served as a useful gateway for drinkers into a world of more sophisticated cocktails. Some small proportion of Cosmo drinkers eventually graduate to more interesting, less sweet drinks. That's great news: the more demanding cocktail drinkers there are out there, the more likely your local bartender will figure out how to properly make those drinks. Short term annoyance, long term payoff (I hope).

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          LOL MC.... tell me how you really feel. As an aside, shouldn't bartenders have their chops already honed before they get the job? I didn't think they learn on the job.

                          1. re: Gio

                            you'd be surprised.

                            A lot of these drinks seem more like shots in a glass with a stem, not a "martini"

                            1. re: Gio

                              All due respect, Gio, to think that anyone can get a full suite of bartending skillsets pre-job is expecting a little much. They certainly aren't going to get the proper chops from most of the "schools" out there (see the latest on Jeffrey Morgenthaler's blog...) and unless they are very rich, I wouldn't expect them to be able to experiment too diversely at home.

                              Question to the bartending pros out there: How did you gain the experience that made you a decent bartender?

                              And I'll defend my Boston-homeboy MC Slim on his hopeful attitude. At least its not as bad as grilling being called "barbecue" - at least the -tini cocktails have a qualifier. Even though I'm originally from the South, I wouldn't mind the even term "grilled-BBQ", but I ain't even got that! As for the topic at hand, a rose --or a well-made cocktail-- by any other name...

                              1. re: Scortch

                                Thanks Scortch! I had no idea, thinking that bartenders learned their skill at school as chefs do.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  There was an article which interviewed a few of the very best bartenders in Boston. None of them went to "Bartending School". Not a one.

                                  It takes an interest in the craft, and good people skills; not a class on how to count with a quick pour.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    There are bartending schools out there, but by and large they're a scam. Every place I've worked prefers people who *haven't* been to bartending school, since the people who have gone have to be un-taught the things that the bartending school did differently than the bar where they now work.

                                    Scortch, in the long run it's fairly economical to build up a home bar. The easiest way to do it is start just with the ingredients of one or two cocktails that you like, then when you have money to invest in it find another cocktail and buy those ingredients. Before long you have a pretty terrific bottle collection, especially if you can divert money that would be going to going out to the bar into the home bar.

                                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                      JK, Oh, I agree that you can build up a respectable bar that way (I'm a-tryin', I'm a-tryin'!) . However, it is not possible for all out there to do so. And that said, the skills of a home enthusiast, beyond the familiarity with ingredients and some basic techniques, are a vast difference from the skill sets needed for a working bartender. So yes, building your own bar at home and getting to know it well would be probably one of the best precursors to being a good solid cocktailian bartender (rather than a beer-tender). Still, I'd wager that on-the-job is the best school out there.

                                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                        It also helps if you go through customs a lot and can hit the duty free shops.


                                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                          Death and Company in New York's website has a fantastic, and realistic, section on setting up a home bar from what to know and what to have and a few basics on what you should know how to make.

                                          http://www.deathandcompany.com/lounge/ look for "cocktails at home."

                                          It's also an incredible bar, so check it out if you're in the city.

                                      2. re: Scortch

                                        Scortch: my god grilling called BBQ makes me gnash my teeth and sends my dentists kids through another semester of college. They're both very good but very different things

                                        based on your other comments, it's really too bad you probably never were able to imbibe at Persian aub Zam Zam in SF while Bruno still owned it (may he RIP) his father opened it in the 40's and they never changed a thing. He used cheap-ass gin, didn't just shake or stir, but rather abused it. 4 oz. $2.50, change came in half dollars he picked up in Reno where he spent his days off. "I'm semi-retired and I don't have to put up with this shit" was his refrain when he was displeased (which was easy to accomplish) only time I ever saw hhim mix a vodka martini was for some kid who just got dumped by his girlfriend "Absolut? worst damn vodka I ever tasted"

                                        don't get me started on Bruno stories...

                                        loved that place and a darn good juke box (think 30's jazz) you were only allowed to play certain hours in the afternoon.

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          I miss Bruno. He used to go on about how the hippies ruined everything, mind you this is about 4 blocks from Haight and Ashbury... :)

                                          1. re: lanersg

                                            lanersg: I said don't get me started...

                                            my favorite quote was once Spring of maybe '91 or '92 and the 50th anniversary was coming up in a few months. It was a Saturday afternoon and one of his regulars asked "hey Bruno, are you doing anything special for the bar's 50th?"

                                            he paused, thought and said "nah we're closed that night"

                                        2. re: Scortch

                                          I got thrown into my first bartending job from a server position when the real bartender didn't show up. I was appalling at first, knew exactly nothing about anything. I think my first Martini was warm and 1:1. I eventually mastered the five drinks anyone seemed to order in that place: Martini, Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Ward Eight (don't ask me why, I don't know), and highballs. Plus pulling drafts for my penniless friends, the only people that actually drank in the restaurant's little bar (everything else went into the dining room). Nobody ever ordered wine (a good thing, given the screw-top gallons of plonk on offer), vodka, not even Margaritas. Crappy little family place in Nowheresville, the least demanding environment imaginable to first man a stick.

                                          I got better at a high-volume upper-mid steakhouse later on: did a few months as a bar back, learned fifty more drinks, then graduated to the bar -- slow nights at first, eventually learning how to keep up with a frantic bar and dining room. Mercifully no blender, but no requirement to learn about wines or serious old-school cocktails, either: a shame.

                                          I haven't cracked a shaker professionally in many years, and even if my old skills were fresh, I wouldn't be fit to fasten the sandal-straps of the crews at places like No. 9 Park, Eastern Standard, Green Street, and the B-Side. But I have plenty of empathy for the folks on the other side, even at places where the level of craft is low. No bartender could possibly be worse than I was at my first gig.

                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                            Well, I never met a bartender I didn't love and after a few last minute instructions I eventually got the drink I asked for......learning curves notwithstanding.

                                            1. re: Gio

                                              Gio- you are very lucky.

                                              Very. Very lucky.

                                      3. re: MC Slim JB

                                        It is also unfortunate that the cosmopolitan has devolved ito such dreck. In its original iteration, it's a drink that even a real cocktail drinkeer can enjoy. I sometimes get complaints from women who are accustomed to the saccharine tast of usual bar cosmo's, as mine isn't sweet enough to suit them. My cosmo is 1/2 c vodka, 1tbsp countreau, 1tbsp Rose's lime juice a dash of orange bitters and 2 jiggers of cranberry juice. shake ver ice and serve up. I garnish with a lime twist and a dried cranberry. But I disagree with your observation that the Cosmo has improved the chops of many bartenders, having tasted what my wife fgets served when she orders on for a change. most make your fillings ache, or look like cherry cough syrup. They havent figured out that the drink isn't supposed to be a tall cranberry cooler, served in a martini glass to look cool..

                                        1. re: chazzerking

                                          4 ounces of vodka, 1/2 ounce each of Cointreau and Rose's Lime, and 3 ounces (assuming your jigger is the pretty standard 1-1/2 ounces) of cranberry? The reason yours aren't sweet enough is because that's not a Cosmo anymore. It's closer to a Cape Codder with double vodka. That small of an amount of Cointreau and Rose's are going to get lost under the cranberry and all that vodka; in a normal cocktail the amount would translate to barely a dash. And save the Rose's for your Gimlets where they belong. It shouldn't be in a Cosmo to begin with, you're better off with fresh lime juice.

                                          A Cosmopolitan's proportions should be closer to that of a Margarita: 1-1/2 ounces citron vodka, 1 ounce of Cointreau, 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, and about 1/2 ounce of cranberry, just enough to give it a little pink blush.

                                          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                            Substitute "a Cosmo's proportions should be" with "my Cosmo's proportions are", and you're on firmer ground. The notion that any one Chowhound holds the canon on any cocktail is a stretch.

                                            A well-made Cosmo is still a worthy drink, despite its cliche status. If you think pinkness is unmanly, a Jack Rose might change your mind.

                                            My own version of the Cosmo achieves that faint blush a little differently, but still has what I think is a nice balance, avoiding the common error of oversweetness: 2 oz vodka, 1 oz orange liqueur (I prefer Marie Brizzard Triple Sec to Cointreau these days, though Cointreau is my second choice), 1 oz pure cranberry juice (I don't like the HFCS sweetener used in cranberry juice cocktail), 1/2 oz fresh lime juice (I agree that this make a huge difference vs. Rose's), and 1/2 to 1 oz of simple syrup, depending on the drinker's sweet tooth. I garnish with a lime twist or a wide oval shaving of lime peel, and generally eschew a sugared rim.

                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                              i use those proportions but up the lime to an ounce

                                            2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                              JC; You are correct. when I posted my recipe, I was mentally reconstructing a measure-by-eye recipe. I actually made one and my guessti-measurements wer pretty far off. 1/2 oz of cranberry juice is a whole lot closer. the rest were pretty close, except the Roses is more like a teaspoon. I will squeeze a little fresh lime juice from the lime I peel my twist from. otherwise, I was exactly right!!

                                      4. re: thew

                                        How do you discern from evolving and dumbing down??


                                        1. re: thew

                                          Just say to "Mr. Apple-tini" "That looks like a terrific, incredible martini!"and then laugh to yourself behind your hand, because you know what you really meant.

                                          1. re: WCchopper

                                            terrific and incredible in the sense of terror inspiring and unbelievable I assume?

                                        2. The less vermouth you use, the fewer headaches you'll experience over time.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: MichaelG

                                            And I suppose that if you use Vodka instead of Gin that decreases even more??

                                              1. re: fafner

                                                If you mean am I being a bit sarcastic and snarky, yeah, I'm playing on the whole vodka "purity"/no hangover thing.

                                                I've found the only way to guarantee no hangover is to not drink...

                                                oh well....

                                                1. re: Scortch

                                                  no, not you -- MichaelG. I could tell you were snarky. ;-)

                                                  1. re: fafner

                                                    Sort of. I like mine 4:1, but having said that, I think that if you avoided the vermouth altogether, your hangovers would be less intense. fafner, note the less-fewer comments above for more context....

                                            1. Oh, come on. There's a long tradition of martinis out there. This post is probably a product of the Rosy Martinis I shook up this evening (Rose's lime juice and gin), but I hear that Papa Hemmingway was fond of Limey Cuban Martinis (white rum, lime juice, simple sugar). And I hear that rye is making a comeback; surely somebody can think up a catchy name for a martini with whiskey and sweet vermouth (maybe garnished with a cherry?). Mmmmm, martinis. My favorite.

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                Sorry, alanbarnes, but you're defending an upstart notion of what constitutes a Martini. Strong, shook over ice, and strained into a cocktail glass gets you in the neighborhood, but there's a world of interesting old-school cocktails out there that have nothing to do with the M-word.

                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  i think he was being sarcastic, or just trolling. He was describing Gimlets, Daquiris and Mamhattans.

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    Um, you may want to see my 2/21/08 post above. Since then another thread that raised similar issues was started (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/486914). Too lazy to rant, too impulsive to keep my mouth (keyboard?) shut--this mediocre attempt at humor was the result.

                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                      Actually, I thought it was a notch better than mediocre attempt at humor.(limey cuban martinis was particularly inventive) I should of said nothing and waited to see how many people responded as MC did.
                                                      IMHO, the whole topic is tiresome. There are 2 camps (and with a few minor exceptions, we all know what they are), and everybody is in either one or the other. The short time I've been a hound there has been so much interesting discussion, recipes, etc., but way too much time and energy spent on this topic, and the subtopic; Martini glass vs. Cocktail glass. BTW, why is there no outrage over the Double Old Fashioned glass. It should get the same treatment as the Martini, err cocktail glass. But, I digress...

                                                      1. re: TroyTempest

                                                        actually, you dont digress.. that is the very point. we have accepted without quibble, the semantic shift in the meaning of old-fashioned, but for some reason the shift in meaning with martini is controversial.. even though the staunch defenders of tradition are defending a revisionist version of the martini in the first place.

                                                        It's like the french - the academie can tell the parisians not to play their cd's but instead their disque audiodigitale, or not to go on le weekend, but the language will do what the people on the street want it to, not some defenders of glory days that never really existed in the first place

                                                        1. re: thew

                                                          One advantage the French have being so centralized and with the Academie is that there actually is a final arbiter of this stuff.

                                                          Explain to me what is wrong with the double old fashioned glass? Thanks.

                                                          1. re: sailormouth

                                                            nothing at all. It's a fine glass, probably my favorite, and I have no problem with it or the name. It seems that some folks take umbrage (in an almost religious zeal) with calling a cocktail glass (the kind most martinis are served in) a Martini glass, when they see no problem with calling the DOF glass a DOF glass.
                                                            I was trying (emphasis on trying) to be humorous while pointing out the double standard.
                                                            I agree with the OP, I just think it's too late to do anything about it, if anybody cares.

                                                2. Sheesh.

                                                  Totally agree with the OP. I managed to not post on this one for so long, but seeing the complete and total hash people make of the names of cocktails in general these days just is getting my goat.

                                                  Martini's are the worst, but nothing is safe anymore. Gimlets, Daquiris, Any mishmash of random ingredients can have any name any uninformed manjack off the street cares to call it. Of course, this is only a small subset of a larger problem, that "everyone has the right to their "opinion"", regardless of how ill-informed, uneducated, or idiotic it is. Well the truth is that they don't, not if they want to associate with me, they don't.

                                                  /vent off.

                                                  1. This must refer solely to the vessel, it is NOT a martini.