My pater sent me this article many months ago, but he lives in the Wild West, you know, and the ponies are not as express as they once were. Also, I am behind in my reading. But I was delighted to learn that I have a kindred spirit at the Grey Lady herself, the New York Times newspaper. His name is Eric Asimov, and as he and his colleagues conducted a spirited martini tasting, they vouchsafed philosophies near and dear to my own heart. To wit:
Before we discuss the findings, though, we need to clear up a little matter. Itâ€™s come to my attention that some people believe martinis are made with vodka. I hate to get snobbish about it, but a martini should be made with gin or itâ€™s not a martini. Call it a vodkatini if you must, but not a martini. Gin and vodka have as much in common hierarchically as a president and a vice president. Vodka can fill in for gin from time to time and might even be given certain ceremonial duties of its own, but at important moments you need the real thing. Vodka generally makes a poor substitute for gin in a martini or any other gin cocktail.
Nothing snobbish about it, old man! Carry on:
Indeed, gin is more of a thinking personâ€™s spirit. Vodka is neutral in aroma and flavor, which is also how gin begins life. But where vodka stays neutral, gin is infused with botanicals â€” a witchâ€™s pantry of roots, berries, herbs, dried fruits and spices â€” dominated by the piney, breezy aroma of juniper berries. Other common botanicals include angelica, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, lemon peel, licorice, fennel and ginger. It is the closely guarded combination of botanicals that makes each gin distinctive.
A woman named Audrey Saunders refers quite rightly to the horrors of â€œa generation lobotomized by vodka.â€ And on proportion, they’re nearly on the mark:
A martini is also not a martini without vermouth. What is a cocktail but a blend of disparate elements into a harmonious new whole? We used Noilly Prat Original French Dry vermouth in a proportion of five parts gin to one part vermouth, perhaps a bit more gin than might have been ideal (try 4-to-1), but we wanted to make sure that the gin was featured prominently.
I’ll lay three-to-one that those who joke about “waving the bottle of vermouth at the gin” don’t know what they’re missing.
Their favorite gin? Why, it was Plymouth, followed by something called “Junipero,” followed by a bottle dear to my own heart, Cadenhead’s Old Raj.
As the weather turns, I’ll be turning more and more to the brown drinks, but a good martini can be enjoyed season-round.