Long before mixology, mustache wax, and smartphones took over the hip bar landscape, I geeked out on the classic martini. Not so much a James Bond fan as I was a gin freak, the simplicity and ode to the spirit is what drew me in. Reading the recipe, it seems simple enough:
- 2.5oz London Dry Gin (or any high-quality gin)
- 3/4oz Dry Vermouth
- Dash of orange bitters (optional)
- Lemon peel to garnish (or olives, your call)
But my version sucked, and the art of making the perfect one left me befuddled. Was I just a horrible bartender? Probably. While in Vegas, I went on a cocktail-fueled vision quest to find out what I was doing wrong, ordering a “martini, up” at every bar I saw until I found the perfect one. Ten martinis, two sore feet, and one hangover later, I came across an ace rendition of the drink at a small bar inside the Mirage Hotel. It was a bright blend of juniper-forward gin, a sloppy kiss of dry vermouth, and a zing of some citrus peel instead of an olive. It had something mine always lacked, balance.
I ordered a second one and watched every detail how it was made. Then it donned on me: crafting the proper martini is all about proper temperature control of your glass and ingredients. I had always kept my gin in the freezer (bad college habit), used a cocktail shaker (bad James Bond habit), and poured my drink into a room-temp glass. Doing it my way would cause a shudder on the first drink, followed by fear and loathing on subsequent sips. What was so different with his technique?
Starting the ritual, he filled the stemmed martini glassware with ice water and let it fog with condensate while measuring out the ingredients. His gin, room temp; vermouth, fridge temp. He added the ingredients to a mixing glass with a couple scoops of ice, and stirred with a long, thin cocktail spoon for about thirty seconds. He dumped the ice water, then strained the drink into my glass, plopping a citrus wedge in for garnish.
When I got home, I thawed my gin, bought a mixing glass, and never looked back. Thanks, Vegas.