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Nov 27, 2009 11:56 AM

? about "bar served" Martinis

Years ago, I was told, that to get a good pour when ordering a martini in a bar or restaurant, I should ask for it up, and with no fruit. The reasoning of the person advising me thus, was that ice and those bitter, humongous olives served with the conventional pour took up volumn in the glass and thus resulted in less drink for the dollar.

So, for years now, when dining or drinking out in the neighborhood, That's the way I've been ordering. And, just recently a bartender asked me why I stipulated the drink this way. My quick (and probably weak) response was "I want to savor the taste of the mix."

Have I been following a false assumption for these past years?

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  1. your response is completely legitimate-- any place that puts ice in your martini (without being asked to do so) should be avoided, unless you like watery martinis. ice is more acceptable in a manhattan where it helps to waterize the rye and vermouth.

    1 Reply
    1. re: barleywino

      Well it's half legitimate anyway. I strongly doubt that the per volume price of olives is substantially cheaper than that of even premium gin.

    2. One option is to ask for a lemon twist instead of an olive. Both are standard garnishes.

      Serving it on the rocks seems like an excuse not to stir/not to clean the mixing glass (unless it was requested that way). Insert "shake/shaker" for "stir/mixing glass" as well, I guess.

      1. Your answer "I want to savor the taste of the mix" is why you should order a cocktail. If you were just saying that as an excuse, it seems weird. A proper martini is always served up, in a small portion (max 4 oz.), in a small glass, so that you can sip the entire cocktail before it gets warm. It should be a stirred, not shaken cocktail, so it stays clear and silky on the tongue, it should be made with gin, dry vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters, and served with a lemon twist that is wiped around the rim of the glass. If you want a drink to get drunk on and want bang for the buck, order a shot.

        17 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          Good points, JMF. Thanks for your reply.

          I do love small Spanish olives. Would take them anytime in a martini, up. But haven't seen this choice in years. Seems like all the pubs I frequent use the 1/4 pound olives. And want to give you three to a sword!

          1. re: JMF

            If you put orange bitters in my martini, I'd send it back. I want my gin martini to be just that, gin, vermouth, olives. Thank you very much. If I ask for it dirty, then a small splash of olive juice.

            A martini is a classic for a reason.

            1. re: tzurriz

              Orange bitters and a lemon twist are part of the classic martini recipe. Lack of bitters, and olives, are a very new, relatively speaking, change in the martini recipe. Nowadays if you go to a top cocktail bar you will be served a traditional martini with bitters and a twist.

              1. re: tzurriz

                Perhaps this is a good reason to not order a drink that has so many variables, unless you're going to describe exactly how it should be made or know how the bar makes it or are flexible.

                I'd think the olive order would deter the bitters bottle, though.

                As for myself, I think a proper Martini is made the way I like it. I prefer them shaken with a lot of vermouth (maybe 2:1 or 3:1 at the least), with a big bright green fresh olive from the cheese counter. And I realize that this is not the standard preparation. Why shaken? I like watching the tiny ice slivers in the drink, which melt and keep the drink cold. I like the brutal initial coldness (if you sip it right away and use very cold ice). I like the way the texture of the first few sips changes as the ice melts. I like that my dad liked them that way. But I'm not particular enough to try to get it this way at a bar.

                1. re: EvergreenDan

                  I wouldn't say that an olive would deter the bitters bottle. The lemon twist is there to bring out the citrus components already in the drink, for practically all gins and vermouth have some combination of citrus (lemon, orange, and sometimes grapefruit ) peel in the botanicals.

                  And shaking does not get a drink colder in the end, just gets it there quicker than stirring (20-30 seconds of shaking vs. 90-120 seconds of stirring).


                  1. re: yarm

                    But theoritically shaking would keep the drink colder because the broken bits of ice remain in the drink, right?

                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      Not true, due to a variety of factors, a drink hits a minimum temperature, then stays at that level. So a drink that is properly shaken or stirred comes down to the same temp. and serving in a chilled glass keeps it that way. Shaking vs stirring is mostly about texture and the visual component. A shaken drink is cloudy and may have fine ice crystals in it. A stirred drink has a more sexy, silky, elegant tongue feel. Make the same cocktail shaken vs stirred and check the two out side by side, they will have differences in flavor and texture. traditionally a cocktail made with clear ingredients is stirred, one that has any translucent ingredients like juices, or any opaque ingredients is shaken.

                      If you read Jeffrey Morgenthaler's or Darcy O'Neil's blogs, among others, you can find some serious research on shaking vs stirring, temperatures, dilution rates, ice quality, etc.

                    2. re: yarm

                      Orange bitters AND an olive and no twist? Does not seem to go in my "mind's tongue", but to each their own.

                      I agree that from a physics point of view, prolonged stirring can achieve the same final temperature. From a practical point of view, I'm skeptical that most home or pro bartenders will take 2 minutes. Using cold ice makes a big difference -- for good or bad depending upon your preference.

                      1. re: EvergreenDan

                        15-20 seconds of shaking is equal to 30 seconds of stirring. Good home and pro bartenders do take the time to make a well shaken or stirred cocktail. Or anyway the ones I know who really care about the craft of cocktail making. Maybe I'm lucky that I'm part of the professional mixology/premium cocktail industry, but everyone I know cares about their cocktails and how they are made.

                        1. re: JMF


                          Cliff notes: Comparing a 10 second shake to a 40 second stir, the shaken cocktail was 5 degrees colder. That said, they preferred the stirred, feeling that shaken was too cold.

                          Just tried it at home; 20 second shake was colder than a 30 second stir.

                          1. re: EvergreenDan

                            I love hard proof, but what starting and ending temps did you record? what were the shaker and stirring glass temps?

                            1. re: JMF

                              Well, I'll leave the hard proof the the article because a) I didn't feel like wasting gin, so I used water and b) I didn't have a digital thermometer -- I tasted them to tell the difference.

                              I filled a large pitcher with tap water and stirred it. I filled the glass and tin with this water and stirred them to bring them to a consistent temp. I poured it out and put 3 oz of water into the glass, adding 8 full-sized (unbroken) ice cubes right from my 9*F freezer. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a room-temp cocktail glass. I then warmed the materials to about room temp with tap water and refilled from the pitcher and stirred to bring them back to a consistent temp. I then put the same materials into the glass and stirred vigorously (but not so much as to break the ice) with a cocktail spoon, for 30 seconds and strained into a second glass. I then tasted both. The shaken water would have warmed up a bit, but was still noticeably colder.

                              The shaken drink was pretty darn close to 32 degrees because there were still a fair number if ice shards. With Gin, the difference between the two techniques might be larger because the freezing point of a Martini is much lower than 32 degrees and the shaken drink reached (pretty much) thermal equilibrium.

                              Of course, this is all just for fun. I don't really think the 5 degrees makes too much difference, and the initial temperature of the ice and the quantity of the ice probably makes a lot more difference.

                          2. re: JMF

                            Am I bruising the gin (in a gin & juice over ice) if I mix by alternately pouring the drink between two cups a few times? Is this method only suitable for vodka and tequila?

                          3. re: EvergreenDan

                            I had a bartender go so far as to take the time to stir one and make me one shaken for comparison and contrast purposes. There was definitely a difference with the shaken one tasting sharper (perhaps the mysterious "bruising the gin/vermouth " concept) as well as more cloudy.

                            The bars around here that want to cocktails well all use jiggers and stir instead of shake when appropriate. Perhaps not most bars, but most bars I choose to return to.

                            1. re: yarm

                              That's because we live in the world of cocktail fanatics and only go to the bars that serve the best made cocktails.

                              1. re: JMF

                                Not sure bitters have any place in today's cocktails, but please feel free to. Contact info should be on Facebook. I need to pull the trigger on my next series of bitters recipes that I've been mentally infusing.

                  2. As far as amount of liquor, I don't think it matters if you get the olives or not. Get them if you like them, don't if you don't like them.
                    Usually the bartender pours the Gin and Vermouth and ice (i never see bitters used unless requested) in a Boston shaker and shakes or stirs then pours it into the cocktail glass, then adds the olive. I don't think they give you less liquor if you're getting olives.

                    1. Any proper bartender is using a jigger, or a pour count, at the very least, to make consistent drinks. Choice of garnish is irrelevant.