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Shaken, not stirred.

The simple yet complex classic martini

by Laurie L. Ross

A martini is the swankiest of cocktails with a long history of being celebrated onscreen. It’s simple and elegant but far more complex than than its two ingredients hint at.

From Casablanca to Mad Men, a martini consistently represents suave sophistication. James Bond may be the most famous martini drinker of all. Many admire Bond for what he has that most of us don’t, but there’s one aspect of the Bond persona that anyone can steal: his signature drink. Half the appeal of ordering a martini lies in the fact that it’s 007’s “shaken, not stirred” drink of choice. Bond movies are drenched in alcohol and over the years whatever the debonair ladies’ man drinks translates to what’s ordered in the bars.

Many think that anything in a long-stemmed V-shaped glass is a martini, but purists insist that a martini is concocted with gin or vodka and a splash of dry vermouth. Besides a garnish of a lemon twist or olive, that’s it and nothing more. Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar, of which several are conveniently scattered around Spokane, boast 36 different martinis on their menu. But don’t stray to the whimsical world of caramel appletinis and orange creamsicles. In Twigs’ defense, the fruity martinis are popular even if they don’t taste like alcohol. Try the Twig’s “Well Mannered Dirty Martini” and you’ll discover their barkeepers also know the classics.

Ordering a martini seems like it should be pretty straightforward, but there are still choices to be made. Like getting coffee at Starbucks, the nuances are plentiful and affect the outcome. Bond made an art form out of confidently ordering a libation, making no apologizes for drinking on the job. When you think about it, Bond is kind of a jerk, but regardless of if you consider him a role model or not, his swagger is intoxicating and he knows his way around a bar.

Here are a few tips that will have you ordering with the confidence of the celebrated spy.

GIN OR VODKA: Gin is the classic choice and adds a distinct flavor due its botanicals that can vary across brands. If that botanical taste doesn’t suit you a common substitute is vodka. Try both to discover which your palate prefers.

DRY, WET OR PERFECT: These three distinctions refer to how much and what type of vermouth you want in your martini. Vermouth is actually a type of wine that’s flavored with botanicals, and can make a martini “dry” or “sweet.” A modern martini usually calls for a splash of dry vermouth. A common confusion when ordering your martini “dry” it sounds like you’re wanting more dry vermouth. It actually means you want less. Ordering your martini “dry” refers to wanting just a drizzle of vermouth, and ordering it “extra-dry” means just a drop or two.  A “wet” martini is the exact opposite — it means you want more dry vermouth. A “perfect” martini is made with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth.

SHAKEN OR STIRRED: Think Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Yes, there’s undeniable style to having your drink “shaken.” The cocktail is shaken with ice and then strained into the glass. “Stirred” still means it goes in a shaker but briefly stirred, which creates a smoother version with less likelihood of ice shards.

STRAIGHT UP OR ON THE ROCKS: “Up” means that your drink will be served in a traditional chilled martini glass. “”On the Rocks” means that it will be served in a tumbler over ice.

DIRTY OR WELL MANNERED: “Dirty” refers to a little splash of olive juice in the martini and “Well Mannered” means the olives are bleu cheese stuffed.

GIBSON & VESPER: A “Gibson” has pearled onion instead of a classic garnish of a lemon twist or olive. A “Vesper” is for those really wanting to be Bond. This double-the-alcohol drink debuted in Casino Royale. It’s made with gin, vodka and Kina Lillet, which is a type of bitter wine aperitif. As a side note, Vesper was the name of a double-agent that Bond had a tryst with, and after her untimely death he never had the cocktail again.

A good place to start is with a gin martini, 3:1, stirred, straight up with a lemon twist. Clover, located in the Gonzaga U-District and Bon Bon in the Garland District are recommended local places to discover the classic cocktail culture. Finally, if you like the idea of ordering a martini but honestly don’t love the taste, try a Sapphire Martini. This is made with a lighter more floral gin that’s less “punchy.” Ordering this “starter” martini can have you fake it while you acquire a taste for the real thing.

Laurie L. Ross is a freelance writer and the author of the popular blog


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