Falling In Love With the Vodka Martini
Whether you love spy movies or you have only ever watched one James Bond movie in your entire life, the iconic phrase “Vodka martini, shaken, not stirred” is one that has gone down in history as one of the famous alcohol-related phrases of all time. While some purists shake their head over a martini using anything except gin and vermouth, a vodka martini is a drink that happens to be in a class of its own. This mid-century cocktail has a history that involves wars and movie spies, and today it is still enjoyed in every bar from New York to Los Angeles.
Although in some ways the vodka martini is fairly recent invention, its actual lineage and history go back much further. For example, one could say that the deepest origins of the vodka martini lie with simple martinis, mixed drinks that were found in bartenders’ books as early as the 1880s. Of course, this original martini was made from whiskey and vermouth, and the vodka martini shook things up by replacing the whiskey with vodka.
There has always been a fairly sharp divide between the parts of the world that preferred whiskey and vodka, but at a basic level, these two spirits are fairly similar. They are both alcohols derived from grains, though in the case of whiskey, the result is aged while in the case of vodka the result is filtered. Throw in the confusion that a standard modern martini is made with gin and vermouth, and it is easy to see why purists might balk! However, of all the cocktails with vodka, this is one of the simplest and tastiest to learn. After all, it is not like the apple martini, which changes the recipe even further.
Vodka would likely have never made a big dent in the American market if it were not for the Second World War, which brought vodka home to the United States. In 1950, only 40 thousand crates of vodka were sold in the US. Five years later, 4 million crates were sold, and that was about the time the vodka martini made its debut.
There is some debate whether a vodka martini should be shaken or stirred. The answer is slightly complicated and requires a bit of attention to what your guests are really ordering. A martini, made with gin and vermouth, should never be shaken. In fact, shaking the gin and the vermouth together creates a rather uninteresting, flat drink.
However, a vodka martini should absolutely be shaken. This is meant to replicate the fact that vodka in its homeland is often served at close to freezing temperatures. With the exception of chilling vodka for drinks, the only drinks that should be shaken instead of stirred are the ones that involve citrus or fruit liqueurs, as this mixes the tastes nicely. Just remember that James Bond ordered a vodka martini, not a standard martini!
* 3 ounces vodka
* 1 teaspoon vermouth
* Martini glass
Fill your shaker halfway to the top with cracked ice.
Pour both the vodka and the vermouth into the shaker, closing the shaker.
Shake the shaker for a slow count to 10, enough to chill the vodka and thoroughly mix in the vermouth, chilling the vodka thoroughly.
Strain the mixture into a martini glass.
Garnish with an olive.
As an alternative to the process above, you may be interested in a variation that treats the vermouth a little differently. Using the same amount, toss the vermouth into the martini glass, not into the shaker. Rotate the glass to coat the interior with vermouth before draining the rest. After that, shake the vodka in the shaker, then pour it into the coated glass. This provides an equally delicious variant on the standard recipe, and is well worth a try when you are learning to mix this iconic drink.
While the olive is the traditional choice of garnish for your vodka martini, there are other options to try as well. Some people go for double trouble and spear two olives into the drink, while others prefer the crispness of a bit of white onion. Still others like the drink completely imbued with the olive’s earthy saltiness and add a dash of olive juice to the mix.
If you are interested in a bit of citrus brightness to your vodka martini, set off this very strong drink with a twist of lemon or a dash of orange bitters.
One famous variation on the vodka martini is simply called the dirty martini. To the mix above, add 1 ounce of caperberry juice, paying close attention to ensure that you do not choose caper juice instead. Caperberries look like tiny green olives and they have stems attached. Mix the ingredients as you would normally. Then, instead of garnishing the result with an olive, garnish it with a caperberry instead. This version has a significantly more salty, earthier flavor.
The vodka martini has earned its place on the silver screen, as well as in every bartender’s repertoire. When you are looking at how to make cocktails, this is a great choice for any home mixologist as the ingredients are fairly easy to obtain and keep on hand. When you are looking for a sophisticated cocktail for your party, learn to make martinis! Choose a variation that you adore and make it your signature drink.
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