It's all about the gin, the vermouth, the garnish, the size of the glass, even the temperature of the ice. The folks who know are here in Seattle. Four cocktail luminaries on the dais at the Mayflower Park Hotel: from New York, authors Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown (Shaken, Not Stirred), local guru Robert Hess (drinkboy.com), and celebrity bartender Ryan Magarian. Two dozen people in the audience for a seminar on martinis.
Surprise number one: the first martini was half gin, half sweet vermouth, with a dash of orange bitters. Botanical elements of vermouth deemed crucial. (In fact, Julia Child drank "reverse martinis," 5 parts white vermouth to 1 part gin. "The perfect drink for swordfish," says Jared.) Order a martini today and all you're likely to get is a giant glass of cold gin (or vodka).
Those sexy, oversize martini glasses? Bah. A cocktail should be of modest size. "It's a 5-minute thing. Drink it while it's still laughing at you," says Anistatia.
There's no consensus among the experts on the "shaken or stirred" question, except that melting ice adds water--a good thing. They also agree that the martini is first and foremost a cocktail, a culinary creation worthy of prime ingredients. "Use fresh vermouth!" says Anistatia. "Measure your ingredients, use fresh ice, pay attention to garnishes," says Robert. "Drink one glass of water per cocktail," says Ryan.
Inevitably, the question turns to "best" spirits. "Do blind tastings," recommends Ryan. For gin martinis, they agree on Plymouth (for its floral edge), though Tanqueray (very dry with notes of lime) is ideal for gin & tonic. Vodka: Ketel One, but Anistatia and Jared have their own award-winning brand, Heavy Water, that's about to go into expanded production. .
"Seattle is a great cocktail town," says Jared. "We say so in our book," says Anistatia. "So's Portland," says Robert.
Related calendar items:
* On May 13th the Museum of the American Cocktail celebrates the 200th anniversary of the first mention of a "cocktail." Kirkland bartender Brandon Williams is among the contestants for best new concoction. Commander's Palace, Las Vegas.
* On June 29th Oliver's, the Mayflower Park's bar and 7-time winner of "Seattle's Best Classic Martini," celebrates its 30th anniversary. Cheers!