16. Martinez

6 Aug

Va. (Puzzled) Cockstail? What has a cockstail to do with a class supper, anyhow?

Louis. (Sighing and covering his mouth) Oh, Miss Rural, push the “s” on a bit. I didn’t say cockstail, I said cocktails.

Va. Well, where’s the difference? Isn’t it only a matter of rhetoric whether you put the “s” on the first syllable or on the last?

Louis. Oh, “s” on the nothing. Cocktails are the finest things to open a supper with that ever were invented by a ba—ur—angel. Aid digestion and establish peace and good will; and this is eminently an occasion where peace and good will should be es—

Va. Establish nothing. I’d rather have the occasion for the kitchen than the occasion for the cocktails. Well, what are they?

Louis. How concocted? Well, it’s a little dash of—but first, it depends on the kind of cocktail you intend to make. If Martinez, you use as its base old Tom gin; if Vermouth, use Vermouth; if Manhattan, use old rye whiskey as its base. In making a straight, old-fashioned cocktail, I like Old Scotch best.

Va. (Still puzzled) You are talking Greek to me. Martiny, Vermont, Manhattan and Straits—what do you mean? And then the other words I can’t catch.

— VD Hyde-Vogl, Echoes and Prophecies: Dramatic Sparks Struck from the Anvil of the Times by the  Hammer of the Spirit (Westwood, MA: Ariel Press, 1909), p. 20.

Here it is: the first draft of the martini. Except for the name, and the basic combination of gin and vermouth, it is almost unrecognizable, bearing the same resemblance to its latter-day dry descendant as Alan Scott’s Green Lantern does to Hal Jordan’s: original, but not necessarily the best. With the vermouth, and sweet vermouth at that, preponderating over the Old Tom gin, the Martinez is darker, spicier, fussier and more syrupy than the elegantly simple modern martini: it’s out of the trees, walking upright, but some way short of dancing the Charleston.

I followed Jerry Thomas’ 1887 recipe:

Take 1 dash of bitters.

2 dashes Maraschino.

1 pony of Old Tom gin.

1 wine-glass of Vermouth.

2 small lumps of ice.

Shake up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail glass. Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve. If the guest prefers it very sweet add two dashes of gum syrup.

— Bartender’s Guide (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1887), p. 25.

There were people for whom the basic formula of the Martinez wasn’t sweet enough?

Harry Johnson’s slightly later prescription insists on the gum syrup, but equalizes the proportions of gin and vermouth, moving the development of the drink in the right direction (Bartender’s Manual or How To Mix Drinks of the Present (New York, Harry Johnson, 1888), p. 38). By the beginning of the twentieth century, certainly, dry or “French” vermouth had replaced the sweeter “Italian” variety in what was now being called the “martini”. Not everyone was a convert to the new style, though, as these remarks demonstrate (the author was evidently unacquainted with the already-obsolete Martinez prototype and seems to think the martini itself is only an intermediate stage rather the snow-capped summit of human accomplishment):

The Martini cocktail evidently was the result of an abortive attempt to render the flavor of gin palatable to those to whom it is naturally repugnant, the delicate flavor of the French Vermouth being inadequate to perform the task imposed upon it. An attempt to remedy this defect was made by introducing an equal proportion of Italian Vermouth, thus giving rise to the Bronx cocktail; but, generally speaking, French and Italian Vermouths constitute an inadvisable mixture, unless a highly aromatic bitters is used as a genial arbitrator in the contest between the two opposing ingredients. The combination of Italian Vermouth with gin is always a happy one, the flavor of the former easily taking first place in the mixture, but a liberal use of Angostura, as in the popular Barry cocktail, is inevitable. The addition of five drops of crème de menthe and a piece of twisted lemon peel makes this drink as delicious as any that can be offered to the most exacting epicure. […]

— AE Wuppermann, “Mixed Drinks and their Ingredients”, in Beverages de Luxe, ed. by George R. Washburne and Stanley Bronnner, 2nd edn (Louisville, KY: Wine and Spririt Bulletin, 1914 -1911]), no page numbers.

The “Barry”, then, is a now-forgotten member of the extended Martinez family, an evolutionary dead-end: basically Harry Jackson’s martini finished with a few drops of crème de menthe. It sounds revolting:

— J.A. Grohusko, Jack’s Manual on the Vintage and Production, Care and Handling of Wines, Liquors, etc.: A Handbook of Information for Home, Club, or Hotel (New York: McClunn, 1910), p. 27.


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