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Dec 25, 2008 09:25 PM

Need martini/cocktail help please?

Hosting a cocktail type party tomorrow even though I stink at the drink making...I want to have the right ingredients on hand...what type of olives do I buy for martini's? I have Stoli in the freezer, do I need to buy vermouth? Can you advise what would be a good basic bar set up? I can't go nuts on the spending, please.
I have wine and beer here as well. Thanks!

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  1. Technically you are supposed to use green olives with pits, but most bars like to use queen size manzanillas. Even if you don't use it, I think you should have vermouth on hand or you can't call it a martini.

    3 Replies
    1. re: coll

      helpinghand, any of the very large olives you find in a supermarket will do. I even use stuffed olives from a local Italian deli in my martinis.

      Yes, you need white vermouth for your martinis, even if just to pass it over the glass. Wine Warehouse has better prices than the large liquor store in New Rochelle. If the restaurant supply store is open today, get some of their mixes. Rose's lime juice is especially useful. Chef central is decently priced and well stocked for glasses and the rest.

      Unfortunately, economy and a good cocktail party don't go hand in hand, in my experience.

      Here are a couple of links on the basics of a good bar set up.

      At minimum, have the ingredients on hand for Manhattans and martinis, they are both very, very easy to make.

      1. re: dolores


        helpinghand, all of my recommendations for sources are in Westchester, NY.

      2. Take your Stoli out of the freezer. An integral part of a Martini is the added water from ice melting as you stir the drink. Without it, you're just doing shots in a martini glass. Make sure you stir the drink long enough; 20 to 30 seconds is the norm, long enough to have the glass start to frost over. If someone takes theirs on the rocks, strain off the ice used for stirring and pour the drink over fresh ice. You can make them a pitcher at a time so you aren't just sitting there stirring martinis all night. And please add vermouth, even if it's just a wee splash to a huge pitcher. Without the vermouth, you're just having vodka straight up or on the rocks. Get a small bottle; vermouth is wine based and does oxidize and go stale over time. Once it's open, it keeps in the fridge for about six months.

        As for olives, there isn't much for hard and fast rules except that they're green. If you want to be fancy you can get a bunch of different stuffed ones, or even stuff them yourself. Olives stuffed with blue cheese are pretty popular. If you think it sounds like a good idea, take the time to stuff them yourself (extract the pimiento from a regular canned olive with a toothpick and stuff in the blue cheese), as the pre-made ones aren't worth it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

          I shake my martinis, long enough so that my hand starts to feel frozen (that's how I was told many years ago). Then when you pour it, there's a tiny sheet of ice on top. That's when it's just right.

          1. re: coll

            Shaken vs stirred is one of those never-ending debates about martinis. Personally I generally like a nice clear drink, so I don't shake unless I'm working with citrus, eggs, or dairy--all of which require a bit of extra friction to emulsify with the other ingredients. Shaking produces lots of little bubbles and so when you pour out a shaken drink it can remain cloudy for some time--not as pretty in the glass, and presentation is certainly a big component of making great drinks.

            I am also personally not a fan of olives in my martinis; while I love a nice snack with my drink, I don't think the olive provides much else in terms of value. A bit of salt, perhaps, but that's usually undetectable. Better, for my money, is a lemon twist, which not only looks nice and bright in the drink but also elevates it with a bit of a bright citrus note. A win-win in terms of both presentation and flavor/aroma, and I can eat olives on the side, as an accompaniment to my drink.

            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              One time I was out somewhere and they didn't have olives, so we put pickle relish in. It wasn't bad until you got down to the bottom!

        2. You may want to get a bottle of gin to make a Martini. I suggest Plymouth which is the original Martini recipe. Also Noilly Pratt dry vermouth.

          1. You can't stink at making basic cocktails. Their beauty is in their simplicity. All you need equipment-wise is a jigger, a shaker, a strainer, cocktail glasses, and plenty of ice. A little bit of attention on your part and you'll be mixing 'em like a pro.

            As JK Grence said, get the vodka out of the freezer. And add a bottle of gin. You can spend as much as you like, but Gordon's will do the trick. It won't impress anybody, but it makes a decent martini.

            And you definitely need vermouth. If you can locate Vya dry vermouth (made by Quady Winery in California), it's head and shoulders above anything else available. It's tasty enough to sip by itself, and is well-suited to a fairly "wet" martini; I like mine at 3 or 4 parts liquor to 1 part vermouth. If all you can find is Noilly Prat, keep 'em dry - 6:1 or more.

            So now you're set for martinis. If you pick up a bottle of Rose's lime juice, you can make gimlets, too; just mix Rose's and either gin or vodka. 3:2 makes a pretty sweet drink; I personally wouldn't go drier than 4:1. A slice of key lime is a nice garnish, but not required.

            If you want to offer Manhattans, you'll need a bottle of whiskey, some sweet vermouth, and some maraschino cherries. For the whiskey, Jim Beam is reasonably priced and entirely serviceable. Good vermouth (Vya again, or Punt e Mes, or my favorite, Carpano Antico) will make a difference, but Noilly Prat will do for the marauding hordes.

            IMHO, a selection of martinis, gimlets, and Manhattans is a sufficient range of cocktails to offer. Have some tonic water, club soda, and limes for those who want highballs. With the beer and wine and a few non-alcoholic alternatives, you're all set.

            Of course you can add other things based on your tastes and those of your friends. Maybe Bloody Mary mix, some scotch, and/or a bottle of tequila. But for well under $50 you can stock a basic bar that will cover your needs.

            2 Replies
            1. re: alanbarnes

              "You can't stink at making basic cocktails."

              Sure you can. For an example, simply visit your nearest airport and ask for a martini. What you'll receive will most likely taste like a combination of rubbing alcohol and lighter fluid. Cheap vodka (perhaps stored in the freezer), no vermouth (or if you're lucky, a few drops from a bottle that's been sitting around for the last five years), a three-second shake with not enough ice (and maybe freezer-burned ice if you're really unlucky), and an old olive sitting at the bottom of the glass. Which might work if you're rushing off to catch a plane and need a sleep aid, but it's not my idea of a great cocktail experience...

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                It's easy to make a bad cocktail - just use bad ingredients. What makes your example so abominable is the quality of the liquor, olives, and ice. But I read the OP's "I stink at the drink making" comment as referring to technique, not ingredients. And as far as technique goes, anybody who can dress themselves without assistance can make a martini.

                With the basic recipes we've been talking about here, good ingredients and a modicum of care will produce good cocktails. I mean, we're not talking about whipping up an Alamagoozlum or layering a Pousse-Cafe. Measure the ingredients, pour them over plenty of ice, stir well, strain into a chilled glass, and voila!

            2. For a basic bar setup I'd recommend a middle of the road vodka, gin and bourbon as well as white and red vermouths. That will take care of the martini, gin/vodka tonics and Manhattens. I make quite a few martini's and my small bottle of vermouth has lasted over a year. I personally like garlic stuffed green olives, but that's just because I like garlic. You might consider keeping some scotch, but if you're trying to keep this within budget I would think that's one liquor that you can omit.