I think it’s only appropriate that the first cocktail posting be about that King of Cocktails, The Martini. Gin, vermouth, and garnish. So simple and yet so elusive.
Of course the correct proportions is highly debated, but I’ve found a large part of the difficulty lies in the ever-unstated fourth ingredient: water. How much the ice melts into the cocktail really makes a difference. On consecutive days I’ve made a martini to the same measured proportions and had one be delicate and complex, the other harsh. With so few ingredients the water plays a big role, and I hadn’t paid attention to it until then.
Shaking generally adds more water to the cocktail than stirring, due to the vigor with which the cocktail rubs against the ice. There is, however, some debate as to whether shaking “bruises” the gin, giving it a sharper taste. I haven’t noticed a difference myself, but some people swear by it. The classic rule of thumb is to stir a gin martini and shake a vodka martini.
What I’ve come to do–and this is blasphemy to a meticulous martini preparer–is let the drink sit on the ice. If I’m shaking, I shake vigorously, let it sit for 30 sec, then shake again and pour. When stirring, I either stir more or just wait with the drink on the rocks. I’ve found that the increased amount of water smooths out the taste, especially in a vodka martini where you occasionally get that rubbing alcohol flavor. It’s a slightly less potent cocktail but it’s far more pleasant. You almost forget you’re drinking straight alcohol.
3 oz Gin (Hendrick’s, Plymouth, Bombay are good)
1/2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth
Olive, twist, or cocktail onion garnish
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker, shake or stir, let ice melt into drink, pour and enjoy!