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You might think that you have the recipe for a drink nailed, but if you don’t take the time to look into the history of the drink, you are probably doing a disservice to yourself, and your customers. While the full history of many drinks may be lost in the mists of time, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a trail to follow which can help you watch a drink as it evolved over time, and this evolution can help you not only see the various forms the drink might have taken over time, but also gives you some fascinating cocktail talk to share.
The Martini is probably one of the most well-known drinks, and yet its true origin is unknown, or at least highly debated. Countless times I’ve seen articles which simply toss out there that the Martini was originally created in Martinez California (or in San Francisco). What they usually fail to tell you is that the drink they are referring to was the “Martinez” and not the “Martini”, and there is no proof at all (aside from name similarity) that the name “Martini” is just a bastardization of “Martinez”. There is in fact (to date) no actual story that tells us how the Martini first came about, or how it got its name. What we do know, is its recipe, and how it appeared in various books through history.
One of the first recipes going by the name “Martini” comes from Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartenders Manual from 1888:
(Use a large bar glass)
Fill the glass up with ice;
· 2 or 3 dashes of Gum Syrup
· 2 or 3 dashes of bitters (Boker’s genuine only);
· 1 dash of curaçao;
· 1/2 wine glassful of Old Tom Gin;
· 1/2 wine glassful of Vermouth.
Stir up well with a spoon, strain it into a fancy cocktail glass,squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top, and serve.
This, or slight variations of it, is how the Martini would continue to be recorded for many years.
By 1895, the recipe appears to have settled down a bit into this version as provided in George J. Kappeler’s “Modern American Drinks”:
Half a mixing-glass full fine ice, three dashes orange bitters, one-half jigger Tom gin, one-half jigger Italian vermouth, a piece lemon peel.
Mix, strain into cocktail-glass.Add a maraschino cherry, if desired by customer.
The first time we see dry vermouth make its appearance seems to be in 1904, in a French cocktail book called “American Bar—Boissons Anglaise & Américaines”
DRY MARTINI COCKTAIL
Glass No 5
Using mixing glass No 1, and a few pieces of ice:
3 dashes of angostura or orange bitter.
Finish with gin and dry vermouth, equal quantities, stir well, pour into glass No 5, serve with a piece of lemon peel, a cherry or an olive, based on the taste of the consumer.
Which is clearly providing evidence that a “dry Martini” was basically the same thing as the “Martini” except using dry vermouth instead.
If you continue to trace the evolving recipe to present day, you quickly notice how the drink lost its way soon after prohibition, and only regained itself in the last few years.
By understanding even just a few of the details such as this, it can put a whole different spin on things the next time you decide to mix up a Martini.