I know, where do I get off writing anything about Martinis? For the longest time I didn't even like gin, and wouldn't touch a proper gin Martini. Fortunately, we all grow, our palates become more sophisticated, and now I love Martinis. And of course, like any other Martini drinker, I have strong, hardheaded opinions about them.

How bout the perfect Martini, à la Chuck? (No, not the "Perfect Martini", which would include equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth.) Everybody says theirs is perfect, and there are probably a million of 'em. This one really is perfect. (You may roll your eyeballs and giggle now.)

All in my own humble opinion, of course, after trying it myriad different ways and proportions, and spending a few years working up to drinking that much gin in a single cocktail. (Oh, and Martinis are made with gin, in my book. A very dry vodka martini with little or no vermouth isn't going to taste like much of anything!)

There are several components -- a good gin, at least some vermouth, and a sufficient amount of dilution. I've seen someone describe his "perfect Martini" made with gin he keeps in the freezer, so you don't have to dilute it with ice. Gadzooks! That'd make a very harsh drink, I should think. Proper cocktails always have water in them that results from dilution during the shaking or stirring (which also serves to chill the cocktail as well). Water takes the harsh edge off the alcohol, opens of the flavors of the base spirit and helps bind everything together; it's really essential to a properly made cocktail.

Use good gin, not bottom-shelf stuff. Beefeater is a good everyday dry gin, and if you're interested in top-shelf brands, usually containing more botanicals in the mix of flavoring components, try Plymouth, Tanqueray No. 10, Bombay Sapphire, Citadelle, or even some of the more exotic gins like Hendrick's (which includes rose and cucumber in its blend of botanicals). Some folks criticize these as being "soft" gins, and they aren't as in-your-face with the juniper as others are. Tanqueray is very popular, and apparently Boodles is for the hardcores -- "like taking a bite out of a pine cone."

Vermouth -- Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth. Accept no substitutes.

The proportion I've arrived at that I seem to like the best is 7:1, on recommendation of Dr. Cocktail (who knows everything, pretty much). The technique came from watching Dale DeGroff make a Martini when he was in town last year, and it was the finest one I had ever tasted. He uses a little less gin and measures by eye; you can also learn to measure your preferred amount by eye as well, with enough practice. Or use a graduated pharmacist's shotglass or even measuring spoons, if you're not in a hurry. (The double garnish is a Dale touch as well.)

The Martini
(Chuck's favorite version)

2-1/2 ounces fine gin.
2 teaspoons dry vermouth.
1 dash orange bitters.

Fill a mixing glass 3/4 full of cracked ice.
Add the ingredients, then stir for at least 20 seconds.
Strain into your finest Martini glass, chilled (we
bought some Riedels for sublime Martini moments),
then garnish with two olives speared on a cocktail
pick, plus a lemon twist. Savor, and raise
your glass to Nick and Nora Charles.

For further reading and some terrific ideas for taste-testing different gin-vermouth proportions in a Martini to help you find our own "perfect" Martini, read Robert "DrinkBoy" Hess' most excellent essay on the subject.


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Chuck Taggart   email chef (at) gumbopages (dot) com