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Dumb martini question

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Considering a martini is basically just very cold gin with a hint of vermouth and some olives, why must it be shaken / stirred with ice? Why not add a drop or two of vermouth into a glass, pour the gin directly into the glass from a bottle stored in the freezer, add a couple olives and call it a day?

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  1. What you are suggesting is just chilled gin in a vermouth washed glass. It isn't a martini or even for a gin fanatic, very palatable. Gin straight from the freezer has very little flavor to it. Cold lessens perceived flavors and no spirit should be kept in the freezer, except maybe a vodka to do shots in Russian/European style with a meal, and I would argue the point on that as well. part of the reason that came about was to lessen the flavor of mediocre vodka. Something all to prevalent during the time of the USSR.

    First a martini has more than a hint of vermouth. It has somewhere between 1 part gin : 1 part dry vermouth in an original 1900's version (sweet vermouth in the most authentic and original version from the mid-1800's) to 14 parts gin: 1 part dry vermouth in an incredibly dry 1950's/60's version, with the average being about 3-5 gin: 1 dry vermouth. Also a few drops of bitters, preferably orange bitters are called for in an authentic martini.

    All cocktails benefit from being watered down this is the main reason to shake or stir with ice, besides chilling it. This watering down of the drink lets more flavor come through, opens up the botanical essences of the bitters and the gin, and keeps you from having a numbed tongue from drinking straight spirits.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JMF

      JMF nailed it

      1. re: mcmachete

        Yup! the "ice melt" is crucial.

    2. And don't forget, some people do actually enjoy a martini on the rocks. I make them that way at home, because it's fast, less fussy, stays cold and you don't have to deal with the tippy glass, etc.

      1. It's very weird. You would think that such a simple cocktail would be easy to master. But it's not. Making a good dry martini takes experience.

        Here is what I like.

        around 4oz of Beefeaters gin.
        1oz of dry vermouth
        put in shaker.
        swirl it, don't shake it.
        Swirl it for almost a minute. This does two things; it gets the cocktail very cold and it dilutes the water and mixes the ingredients properly.
        Add martini olives.

        I don't like just a "hint" of vermouth like alot of people prefer. With the ratio I've mentioned above, I turn out some darn good martini's that have my friends asking for more.

        The real trick though is the mixing time. It has to be long enough to really get everything blended well and chilled. This is crucial.

        7 Replies
        1. re: theginguy

          I agree about how critical a thorough stirring is. Also shaking, while chilling a martini well, leaves them cloudy with shards of cracked ice which when they melt in the glass leave the drink a mix of ice water and martini. A well stirred martini, and all clear drinks, end up with a clear, and super smooth, satiny, almost oily texture to them.

          I was consulting to a restaurant not long ago and was teaching them about the basics of mixology. Their bartenders were drink slingers with only basic training. We sat down and made martinis in a dozen ways with varying amounts of vermouth and stirring or shaking. It was agreed that a martini that had more vermouth, 3-4 gin to 1dry vermouth, 1-2 dashes of bitters, and stirred for at least 30 seconds and preferably more, was the most enjoyable.

          Not only that, but when 3-4 martinis were made in a pitcher at one time, they tasted better than a martini made for one, to the exact same recipe. Small pitchers of martinis just tasted better and had a better mouth feel. Also a smaller pour, into a smaller glass was liked better than a larger one, mostly because the drink got warm by the time you finished the larger one, but the smaller one stayed cold all the way through. Everyone liked being able to pour themselves a extra dividend from a small pitcher and have 2-3 small martinis, rather than one larger one. They even commented on how the character of the drink changed between the first and the last, as a little more ice melted and watered down the drink a bit more, bringing out some botanicals and hiding others.

          1. re: JMF

            Someone give that man a cookie.

            It's nice how lucid you are when you write about mixology. And then you go that extra step and slip in the bit about the bitters, which for me makes all the difference to the best martinis, a dash or two in a pitcher is just the way to go.

            I was just talking to someone the other night about how I distinguish between the "best martini ordered out" and the "best martini ever" because the very best ones are always part of a pitcher, and restaurants and bars don't make pitchers.

            1. re: fussycouple

              Wow I'm thirsty now!

              One question - what type of bitters?

              1. re: MGZ

                Well, Regans orange, fee's orange, Hermes orange, Bitter Truth orange, or else any other like Angostura, Peychauds, etc. go with what you like or is available. i like to mix it up a bit both with the bitters, the vermouth, and the gin.

              2. re: fussycouple

                Lucid? Me? Haven't been called that much!

                What type of cookie?

              3. re: JMF

                The cloudiness isn't ice. It's air. That's why they clear from the bottom up. If you shake one drink and stir another both to the same temperature, and then let them sit until the air bubbles clear out of the shaken drink, they technically should be identical drinks at that point. Shaken drinks tend to get chilled more, and therefore will have more water added through melting ice. Without that melted ice, a martini is not a pleasant drink.

                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                  I agree it's air, but also with shards of ice mixed in with it as well.