1. Vodka martini

12 Jul

Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, we are all haunted by a truly awful sense of impermanence. I have always had a particularly keen sense of this at New York cocktail parties, and perhaps that is why I drink the martinis almost as fast as I can snatch them from the tray.

— Tennessee Williams, “The Timeless World of a Play”, in Where I Live: Selected Essays (New York: New Directions, 1978), pp. 49-54 [pp. 51-2]

Many purchases, of course, may be but educated expressions of adjustment to a faster pace and a higher standard of living. Perhaps some of us use our “education” to help us to exhibit to others how “cultured” we are. This may even affect what we drink—up the social ladder from wine and beer . . . to blended whisky and ginger ale . . . to Scotch on the rocks, gin ‘n tonic, or a vodka martini (very dry, please).

— Steuart Henderson Britt, The Spenders (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960), pp. 96-7.

Pure. Simple. Life-giving.

Lucius Beebe’s Stork Club Bar Book (New York: Little & Ives, 1946) must be one of the first recipe collections to give the official stamp of approval to the vodka martini, which back then had only just begun its career and looked an unlikely usurper of the crown worn by the classic martini lists. Beebe in fact list two versions of the vodka martini, in addition to its prototype, the Kangaroo Kicker. Vodka martini #1 contains 3 oz. vodka and 1 oz. dry vermouth and #2, recommended by Joe Acre, the bar captain, who claimed the drink was a favourite of Dashiell Hammett, calls for just 1/3 oz French vermouth and 2/3 vodka. The Kangaroo Kicker is composed of 2 oz. vodka and 3/4 oz. dry vermouth, served with a lemon twist. To my mind, or my palate, that’s just too much vermouth: the vodka cannot support it, and the cocktail winds up tasting simply of vermouth. A vodka martini has to be much dryer than even a classic dry (gin) martini.

I suppose if you wanted to be historically accurate and recreate an original vodka martini, you should use Smirnoff, since that’s pretty much all that was available in the US in the 1940s. But these days there are many superior vodkas, a number of which are made by independent distillers. I always proselytize for Tito’s Handmade Vodka, from Austin, Texas.

3 oz. Tito’s vodka

1/4 tsp Martini extra dry vermouth (at most 1 or 2 teaspoons)

Olive for garnish

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