Sheepshead: Summer 2021 Edition

Page 88

Stir Joseph Lezza James Bond ruined the martini. That is an unequivocal fact. And, he did so with three words: “Shaken, not stirred.” That iconic line has led to the bastardization of what was once a dignified drink. Now, with very few exceptions, and I emphasize very, a martini should absolutely always be stirred. Sure, it might not be as showy as a bartender twirling a shaker around on the tip of his finger like a Harlem Globetrotter before chucking it over his shoulder from behind and catching it with the other hand. But, when did slinging drinks become such a production? I’ve always found that the more theatrical a bartender is, the less practiced they are in the actual art of mixology. The golden rule when mixing a cocktail is as follows: only drinks that contain citrus or egg must be shaken. See, if you were mixing a screwdriver, the act of shaking allows for the vodka to penetrate the citrus, allowing the sufficient intermingling of the two ingredients. A martini, however, contains only spirits and, thus, should be stirred so as not to allow the ice in the shaker to soften the drink by diluting it. Not only does shaking diminish the taste of the drink, but it also harms the texture. A martini should be smooth and velvety; that’s why it’s served up in its own distinguishable glass, so that the body of the beverage can be displayed and admired. By stirring the martini you’re not only facilitating the coalesence of the spirits, you’re also carefully preserving its authenticity. By tossing the mixture in with a bunch of ice and violently shaking it, you’re sinfully aerating the drink, and the end result is fizzy, frothy, unpalatable swill. Now, if you’re a martini drinker that’s worth your salt, you will already know that the proper martini is made with gin and not vodka. Gin, with its fragrant aroma, is the perfect complement to the vermouth. However, if one insists on ordering a vodka martini, they’d be wise to instruct the bartender to use as little vermouth as possible; preferably none, in fact. You see, vodka is a rather toneless spirit and, because of this, too much vermouth will wind up overpowering the drink, leaving you with a slightly saccharine cocktail devoid of the delicious bite that the sophisticated connoisseur demands. With every rule, though, comes the inevitable exception. Though time has led to an endless list of variations on the drink involving dessert liqueurs and all manner of tropical fruits, I won’t dare to delve into that list of liquid travesties. No, the only deviation any developed palate should even consider is, of course, the Vesper. Not the Vesper martini, mind you. Just, the Vesper. This particular concoction, coincidentally named after a Bond girl, combines both vodka and gin along with a splash of Kina Lillet, a French aperitif wine. Since the Lillet is a blend that, in and of itself, contains wine, citrus liqueurs and sugar, you could argue that the inclusion of citrus would beg that this drink be shaken and not stirred. And, in this situation, it would technically be allowable. This now brings us to the topic of garnishes. Something that has gotten quite out of hand, if I may say. From blue cheese and pimento-stuffed olives to thyme and sage leaves, the garnish station in most of today’s lounges has begun to resemble the salad bar at a Ruby Tuesday. In reality, there are only three suitable options: a single cocktail onion (for the Gibson), a lemon twist, or the traditional green olive. When it comes to the


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