From Nick and Nora Charles to James Bond, from gin to vodka: unintentionally, Hollywood elevated the simple martini to the ubiquitous phenomenon it is today. And unfortunately, for my clarity of mind, you can number me among its admiring fans. A libation that has inspired a thousand artists: John Register’s 1994 painting, simply titled Martini, my very favourite. Enjoy it wet or dry (think alcoholic or seriously alcoholic), clean or dirty, shaken or stirred – which-ever-way, it will make you feel like a star: even if it does impair your thespian capabilities. Anyway, enough history, time for a martini or two: my way.
For me it’s always been about the ingredients; and if you don’t already know there aren’t many in a martini, so they should be the finest, deliver the best flavour, and/or have a personal reason for being. So which of the above criteria delivers the magic in my glass.
Let’s start with vodka: don’t know where it all started, but for me it began with my grandfather, Deida: he was a lieutenant in the Tsar’s army in the Russian Revolution.
Although not commercially available until the late 40s, whether living in Hong Kong or, later, Australia, his vodka of choice was Stolichnaya. Good enough for me. There may be better vodkas if you drink it neat, but my version is a mixed drink, not a shot.
Next, the only other ingredient, dry vermouth: here I have no history, other than Noilly Prat has been my favourite vermouth for as long as I can remember. It’s one-third again the price of locally made product, but tastes twice as good (excluding the hand-made boutique brands like Castagna that deserve to be enjoyed chilled and without accompaniment). I’ve seen people mixing these, more Italian style, boutique vermouths in martinis, but for me they lack the hard edge of a traditional martini. Noilly is wonderfully savoury and subtle at the same time, and if I’m not mixing it in a martini, I’m just as happy to pour it over two large ice-cubes and drink it on its own.
First thing to say is I like it wet and dirty (yes I know what you’re thinking): 1 part Stoli, 1 part Noilly. This is actually the way it was originally made in the late 1800s.
Place 3 or 4 large ice-cubes in a cocktail shaker (I use large ice-cubes so they chill the martini without having time to melt and dilute the alcohol); Choose your volume and pour ingredients in and shake till chilled, then, pour the pale-gold liquid into traditional martini glasses.
The final touch is up to you because my husband and I beg-to-differ. I add two pimento, stuffed olives with a small amount of the brine to my martini, my husband only one.
If you’re just making one or two and the whole cocktail shaker experience seems too much trouble, I can say, if you just pour equal amounts of Stoli and Noilly straight into your glass, stir gently, and add your olive/s, you won’t really be able to tell the difference: just make sure you keep your Stoli in the freezer, and your Noilly refrigerated.
So now the only question that remains, is, whether to stop at one or two. Three is a no-brainer: literally.