Ballantine Beer Leaderboard
THE DRINK NATION IS A FREE RESOURCE FOR FINDING EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT DRINKING IN YOUR LOCATION
2 Gingers Header

Shaken or Stirred? A Short History to Celebrate National Martini Day


A Del Frisco's bartender makes an "in and out" martini in the video above

“One martini is all right. Two is too many, and three is not enough.” — James Thurber

What a great month is June for serious drinkers. Just last week we celebrated National Bourbon Day, and now we come upon a day dedicated to a white spirit concoction — a creation journalist H. L. Mencken called "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.”

The martini has been in the cocktail lexicon since the late 1800s, though the exact origin is still debated. The precursor may have been a drink called the Martinez, served at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco in the 1860s, which was a wine glass full of dry vermouth and a shot of gin. In the 1888 Bartenders Manual, a recipe was published that called for “half a wine glass of Old Tom Gin, half a wine glass of vermouth.” And then there was the Italian vermouth maker — whose product is currently sold here as Martini & Rossi — who in 1863 began marketing their product under the brand name Martini.

During Prohibition, gin was relatively easy to produce (in a bathtub, quite often) and so was fortified wine, so the martini flourished as a speakeasy specialty. By the 1940s, the proportion of vermouth had shrunk to a ratio of around four to one — probably as a result of cleaner, better tasting gin produced legally after Repeal.

Whatever the proportions, the spirits were poured over ice and stirred together, then strained into a glass, the shape of which has inherited the martini name. Then came perhaps the drink’s most famous proponent, James Bond, whose author had him throw tradition to the wind (and created a new one) by ordering a martini “shaken, not stirred.”

Also thanks in part to Bond, the martini became drier and drier — a term that in this case refers to the amount of fortified wine added to the mix. (Somewhat confusingly, the “drier” the martini, the less dry vermouth added.) By the 1950s and ‘60s — the Mad Men heyday of the three-martini lunch — vermouths on the U.S. market has suffered in quality, and many people would drink chilled gin nearly straight.

The martini fell out of favor until a resurgence in the 1990s, which brought back cocktails served in the martini glass, if not actual martinis themselves. Bars began serving variations on the drink, many made with vodka — the most popular U.S. spirit at the time — in combinations with sweet or fruity additives. The “choco-tini,” “apple-tini” and other similar creations filled menus of clubs and bars.

While some may enjoy those drinks, it’s the traditional gin-and-vermouth (and olive) combination that best suits today’s classic cocktail renaissance. Where did the olives come in? Again, no one knows, but the addition of the salty garnish does add extra flavor, and was likely developed back when liquor was much less refined and its flavor had to be covered up. If you love that olive taste, ask for a “dirty martini,” made with an extra splash of olive brine. Order a skewer of cocktail onions with your gin-and-vermouth instead and you have a Gibson. A twist of lemon is also a common garnish, especially if you substitute vodka for gin — a “vodka martini.”

Shaken or stirred? Some think that shaking “bruises” the spirits, breaking down the flavors of the vermouth too much, and insist that stirring is the way to go. However, some relish the cloudy result of vigorous shaking, where bits of ice actually become suspended in the drink, making a bracing, refreshing sip.

What's your favorite way to make the iconic drink?

Bootom photo via Flickr user rob_moody

Recent Articles
Beer Review: Valar Morghulis, the Latest 'Game of Thrones' Inspired Release from Brewery Ommegang
BARTRENDr App Causes Quite a Stir with Marketing Campaign
Exploring The Bitter World Of Aperitifs and Digestifs
2 Gingers Below Features
From Around The Web

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
5 Spooky Cocktails for Your Halloween Party

5 Spooky Cocktails for Your Halloween Party

These devilish drinks are to die for. ...read more ›

by Jennifer Waldera Oct 17, 2014
Exploring The Bitter World Of Aperitifs and Digestifs

Exploring The Bitter World Of Aperitifs and Digestifs

The bitter world of aperitifs and digestifs is one rich with history, but one without much tradition in the U.S....read more ›

by Seanan Forbes Oct 14, 2014
Beer Review: Ballantine India Pale Ale

Beer Review: Ballantine India Pale Ale

Arguably the first truly American expression of the India Pale Ale style, Ballantine's legendary IPA is back for the first time in decades ...read more ›

by Collin Keefe Oct 13, 2014
SPONSORED
Perennial Funding - rectangle
Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Top 20 Drinking Quotes of All Time

Writers and musicians have a long, storied history with alcohol, and that intimacy with the bottle shows through in the memorable lines these artists ...read more ›

by Jenny An Sep 3, 2013
Beer Review: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project's Surette

Beer Review: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project's Surette

If you're looking for a mouth-puckering brew, Surette won't disappoint. ...read more ›

by Nathan Solheim Oct 13, 2014
7 Tips for a Safer Girls' Night Out

7 Tips for a Safer Girls' Night Out

Going out in the city should be fun for everyone. Here's a few tips to keep you and your friends safe and having fun this fall....read more ›

by Jessica Klein Oct 13, 2014
Colorado Roadtrip: Where to Drink in Salida

Colorado Roadtrip: Where to Drink in Salida

Here are some places where you can "DrinkSalida"...read more ›

by Carrie Dow Oct 13, 2014
Recap of the 2014 Great American Beer Fest (Photos)

Recap of the 2014 Great American Beer Fest (Photos)

Couldn't make it to Denver for this year's Great American Beer Festival? Click through our slideshow to make it feel like you were there....read more ›

by Carrie Dow Oct 9, 2014
Going to Nevada? Check Out the Budweiser of Brothels

Going to Nevada? Check Out the Budweiser of Brothels

Of course Anheuser-Busch sponsors a room at a legal brothel....read more ›

by Ryan Hudak Oct 7, 2014
What an ORDEAL! A Recap of the Oskar Blues Bus Tour 2014

What an ORDEAL! A Recap of the Oskar Blues Bus Tour 2014

For the fourth year in a row, Oskar Blues Brewery put together a special tasting tour in Longmont for GABF visitors. ...read more ›

by Carrie Dow Oct 7, 2014
SPONSORED
Read The Drink Nation Anywhere You Are
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close