The History of the Martini

The martini was first known under the nom de guerre, Martinez; so named after the city in California where it was spotted shortly after the Civil War. Whether this elegant libation was born whole or invented may never be known, but like Jazz, it has become, by melding disparate cultures, a unique American art form. H.L. Mencken, the Baltimore Sun columnist, pronounced the martini “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet”. By 1888 a cocktail called Martini was served in American bars; the ratio of gin to dry vermouth was about 3 to 1 and often made with bitters.

The Roaring Twenties turned stemmed champagne saucers (wide-mouthed holders of bubbly) into martini up glasses. By the end of Prohibition martinis were 4 to 1 in favor of gin.

In the old “Thin Man” series, Nick Charles (a man ahead of everybody with dry wit and gin) used a medicine dropper for the vermouth and a lot of gin in the glass. “Let’s get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.”

After World War II, the famed Harry’s Bar in Venice introduced a version called the Montgomery; named after British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery who preferred odds of 15 British soldiers to 1 of the enemy before engaging in battle. Very dry.

The Vodka Martini, popularized in the 1960’s James Bond movies, gave rise to one of the most famous lines in cinema history — “Shaken, not stirred.”

Or Thurston Howell the 3rd of Gilligan’s Island — “Lovey, martoonis!”

As far as the garnishes are concerned, the classicist insists on a lemon peel. Others prefer an olive, some like the tang of a white cocktail onion, and the more adventurous will try anything from Kumquats to jalapeño peppers. Whatever your preferences, we invite you to rediscover with us the Classic American Cocktail.

Tonight, savor the sharp, cold sting of an…