Friday, September 14, 2012

Classic cocktail: The martini

I confess, I am not a big martini drinker. However my fiance, Alex, is a huge fan and I find myself strangely jealous of him whenever he orders one. It sounds so...sophisticated. Plus, I'm always ogling the olives! I wondered if maybe I just hadn't tasted one that was juuuuuust right.

So I was more than happy to learn the martini-making basics in a 'Mixology 101' class I recently took, put on by the Barbary Coast Conservancy of the American Cocktail. It was taught by the legendary—at least in SF—bartender H. Joseph Ehrmann (he goes bluntly by just H.), who runs the much-acclaimed saloon Elixir in the Mission. And he knows how to make a mean martini.

Of course, there's some discrepancy as to where the martini originated - many towns want to lay claim to it. Some say it evolved from a cocktail called the Martinez served at the Occidental Hotel in SF in the early 1860s. Others say it was concocted by a bartender in Martinez, CA around the same time. And still others believe it was created at the Knickerbocker Hotel in NYC.

Regardless, H. tells us, there's a core formula everyone should base their martini-making (and shaking or stirring) on:

2 oz 'principle spirit' (this is the vodka or gin - I used St. George Terroir Gin, which Alex tells me is more on the floral side)
1 oz 'modifying spirit' (this is the vermouth - I used good ol' Martini & Rossi extra dry)
2 dashes of orange bitters (I used Fee Brothers)

Don't feel bound by this formula, though - if you don't love vermouth, use less. If you like the bitters' flavor, add more. Put all the ingredients in your mixing glass, add ice to the top and either stir or shake it, depending on your preference. Finally, strain and garnish with either a lemon twist (peel off the fruit over the glass so the citrus spritzes in) or some olives (I wouldn't use the bitters if you like it dirty aka adding olive juice - but that's just me.) Sophistication is served!


  1. Sounds like the great debate over who founded the Cobb Salad...another one of my faves. And the dirtier the martini the better for moi...but you already knew that. xxoo