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The Martini: Ditch the Stopwatch and Keep it Cool

I dug Jon Bonné's supremely geeky article on the martini in the Chron yesterday. But "supremely geeky" may not even do the high-waisted, suspendered and bespectacled article justice. I mean, the martini—the drink of such caliphs of cool as James Bond and Frank Sinatra—is approached in the article like this: "The bar top was crowded with gin and vermouth, a thermometer, a stopwatch, a cooler of chilled glasses." I'm sorry, but I just can't see my boys Frankie and Dino timing their stirs.

At risk of offending Bonné and his team of experts: you've got it all wrong. Believe me, I got major respect for your attempt to bring quasi-scientific rigor to the act of mixing what is simultaneously the world's simplest and most complex drink. But your conclusions bear out my objections—there's no cut-and-dried way to making a great martini. It's all about what you got on hand and what your mood is. Instead, relax and enjoy. Here are my tips for making a great martini:

  • Put on some music. Cool jazz works well: '50's Miles or maybe some Chet or some Dexter.
  • Get yourself some good gin—not hard to find, as there are many to choose from. Lately, I've fallen back in love with Tanqueray, though I'm diggin' the new cold-distilled Oxley gin too. Hendrick's is fantastic, as well, but my desert island gin is still Plymouth, Navy-strength.
  • You need vermouth: Noilly Pratt is cool, man, but Dolin is the thing.
  • For the proportion: I go 2-1, but whatever floats your boat.
  • Ice. A warm martini is not what you're looking for. Cubes from your freezer are fine. Not as cold or as fat as Bonné's Kold-Draft cubes (which he didn't say whether they cracked in half or not, but I suspect not which is why the long 40-second stir time was necessary). I crack my home cubes in half for better dilution. Stir time?  (Notice, I don't even mention the shake.) I'm way too cool to time it, daddio. Instead do it by feel. No one would ever accuse Sinatra of having a limp wrist, but for the stir you've got to be relaxed and let your wrist roll like a ball bearing in a socket. Don't need no stopwatch. You'll know when to pull out. When the sound of the ice changes from stacatto to legato. Sax players, you get me?
  • Dirty martinis are like cops—a buzz kill. All you need is a drop of orange bitters and a twist. Or an olive. Or, better yet, an olive and a twist. It's all good.

Make sure your glass is chilled and small. Bonné was right about one thing: Those 8-ounce martini glasses are too much!

Smooth sailing, brothers and sisters.