I blame James Bond.
Not him specifically.
He’s fictional. You can’t blame or praise people that aren’t real.
Perhaps we can point our finger at some non-fictional executives at Eon Productions and Smirnoff Vodka, for partnering together and forever complicating America’s favorite cocktail.
The true origin is unknown, but if we look at things chronologically, I think we begin to connect the dots.
In 1884 a cocktail appeared in O.H. Byron’s book “The Modern Bartender”. The recipe was as follows:
- 30ml Old Tom Gin
- 30ml Sweet Vermouth
- 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
- 2 dashes of Curacao
Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
This drink was called “The Martinez”. There isn’t much known about O.H. Byron himself, but it is thought that the Martinez cocktail originated in Martinez, California in the 1870’s.
There seems to be a pretty direct line between the Martinez and the drink which followed it: The Martini.
Both are gin cocktails. Both contain vermouth. Some modern martini’s also include orange in the form of bitters, rather than the similarly flavored curacao liqueur.
Perhaps the only historical detail that may or may not muddy the waters, is the fact that a brand of vermouth began marketing under the name of “Martini, Sola & Cia.” in 1863. By 1879 the Sola family sold out of the company, and the name was changed to “Martini & Rossi”.
Thus, there is a distinct possibility that the Martini cocktail was not an evolution of the Martinez, but instead was in reference the brand of vermouth being ordered for any particular cocktail.
“I’d like a Gin & Martini, please”.
Maybe it was a mix of the two stories? I don’t know how long it took for Martini & Rossi to move across the new world to California, but surely twenty-one years was enough time between Martini & Rossi’s formation, and O.H. Byron’s publication for all of these origins to mix into the cocktail we know today.
Or at least the one we used to know before James Bond fucked things up. Ass.
You see, Vodka wasn’t drank widely in the U.S. prior to WWII. As David Wondrich put it over on Esquire:
suddenly Uncle Sam found himself in need of truly gargantuan amounts of alcohol, and not because soldiers like a nip now and then: It seems you can use the stuff to make explosives. (Is there anything alcohol can’t do?) So, most of the whiskey that previously sat for a spell in new charred-oak barrels went instead into torpedoes and two-thousand-pound bombs. Fair enough.
When the bombs stopped going off and everybody left standing was back in civvies and harboring something of a thirst, a wee problem was discovered. The distilleries had lots of raw whiskey on hand, but they didn’t have a hell of a lot of the aged stuff. Solution: Mix ’em. That is, use the aged to flavor the raw, the raw to stretch out the aged. (The same thing had happened after Prohibition.) And if the result didn’t have a lot of body or flavor, well, it was better than jungle juice, and it sure went down easy.
In our post war days, vodka started to become more tolerable to western taste buds and Smirnoff wasted no time in promoting it’s product in the west.
In 1963, Smirnoff paid Eon Productions to promote their vodka in the Bond flick, “Dr. No”. It worked far too well for Smirnoff.
“Vodka Martini. Shaken, not stirred.”
It’s the drink order heard round the world, and sure as shit, vodka sales went through the roof.
- In 1950, forty thousand cases of vodka were sold.
- In 1955, four million.
- In 1967, vodka outsold gin.
- In 1976, it outsold whiskey.
I know I’m being biased here, and that I might be offending some vodka+tonic drinkers out there, but I think it’s a damn shame that vodka is the #1 selling spirit in the United States, outselling american whiskey three fold.
I think that should change and we should get back to our roots to rediscover flavor again. Flavor that doesn’t come in the form of Appletinis.
Tonight, do yourself a favor, and drink a good old fashioned:
GIN MARTINI (you can just say ‘Martini’)
- 2.5 oz Dry Gin
- .5 oz Dry Vermouth
Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain in chilled martini cocktail glass. Squeeze oil from lemon peel onto the drink, or garnish with olive.
… does milk count as food?