The chapter is finally over!  It has been over half a year and only a single day has passed in comic time.  Except that a half year has also passed in comic time.  Time is weird in comics.  Some comics.  This comic.

Now, onto the chapter break!  This one is a bit different than the previous three, in that it features not an instrument, but a cocktail.  Given that much of this chapter has featured Elaine and her (and my) favorite cocktail, the martini, I thought I would feature the two in this chapter break.  Now, there are many, many ways to make a martini – some of which don’t even involve gin or vermouth – but this is the one that I (and Elaine) prefer.  It is a rather “bold” variation of the traditional dry martini recipe, but it still retains all the subtlety of the cocktail.  Let’s break it down:

London Dry Gin – Gin is a classic spirit – ethanol is distilled through various herbs to produce what is basically a flavored vodka.  This recipe really favors a good, strong, London dry gin.  Something with a lot of juniper flavor.  My favorite brands are Tanqueray or Gordon’s, but Bombay and Beefeater are pretty good, too.  More herbal gins (like Bombay Sapphire or Hendricks) can be tasty, too, but I like to use a bit more vermouth than most recipes call for, and the strong juniper flavor really helps offset that.

Dry Vermouth – Dry Vermouth is a fortified white wine used in many classic cocktails.  This is where the “dry” in the term, “dry martini” originally comes from, though in modern usage, the “drier” a martini is, the less vermouth it contains (and thus, the more pure gin  it contains, and the higher the alcohol content).  I use more vermouth than a lot of gin martini recipes call for.  Most bars I’ve been to will pour chilled gin with bitters into a glass that has been rinsed with dry vermouth.  This is pretty tasty, but I prefer a little bit more vermouth – probably because I learned how to make martinis with cheap gin.  This recipe uses a 5:1 ratio of gin to vermouth, but I sometimes go as high as 4:1.  My favorite brand of Vermouth is probably Noilly Prat Extra Dry, but I have never actually done a side-by-side comparison with my other favorite, Martini & Rossi Extra Dry.

Orange Bitters – Bitters are a key element to most classic cocktails.  Essentially they are highly concentrated flavor agents used in small portions – a single, tiny bottle will last years for most people.  A decade or two ago – before the resurgence in popularity of the classic cocktails – there was really only one brand of orange bitters available: Regan’s Number Six.  It is still very popular, and you’ll see it in many cocktail bars (especially the trendy speakeasy-style ones we have all over the place here in the Bay Area).  I have a bottle – in fact I used it tonight to test out this recipe.  Regan’s is pretty good, but I prefer Angostura Orange Bitters (unfortunately I ran out last year and haven’t had a chance to buy another bottle).  Angostura is best known for their Aromatic Bitters, but they also make a very good Orange Bitters – plenty of spice to complement the sweetness of the vermouth, and plenty of citrus to complement the bite of the gin.  It really ties the cocktail together.

Olives – I don’t have as subtle preferences when it comes to olives.  I usually just look for the biggest Spanish Queen olives I can find – you know, the standard big green olive with the pimento stuffed in it.  You can’t go wrong with those.  I did once have a martini in a restaurant that used garlic-stuffed olives.  It was very good.  I’ve tried jalapeno-stuffed olives and bleu cheese-stuffed olives at home, and I don’t recommend either.  After a few minutes the heat from the jalapenos leeches out into the gin, and if you wait too long it becomes too spicy to drink.  And the bleu cheese just kind of tastes weird with gin.  My dad has used a green onion stem cut from the garden as a garnish.  I haven’t tried it, myself, but it actually sounds pretty good.  And finally, you can always go with an orange or lemon rind.  This will give a sweeter, fruitier, lighter taste to the drink as a whole (making it especially good with more floral gins, less vermouth, and milder bitters).

Mixing – “Shaken, not stirred” is a classic line, but traditionally you only shake cocktails when you want them frothy.  In fact, if you shake a martini that has a healthy dose of olive brine in it, it can get a little bubbly and weird (if there’s no brine, you’re probably in the case).  Sometimes it is worth it, though.  If you have a Boston shaker (a metal glass that nests with a pint glass), shaking a cocktail makes a pretty cool party trick (or at least that’s what us nerds tell ourselves), and it gets the drink cold really fast.  Elaine always seems to shake her martinis – maybe because it gets things done faster, or maybe because she likes to show off.  Whether I stir or shake, I like to let the drink sit in the ice for a while (often warming it with my hands and swirling).  The reason for this is to let the ice melt a bit.  Diluting it mellows out the drink just a touch – a good thing, given that each ingredient I’ve picked above is always the slightly bolder option.

Serving – Traditionally, a martini is served in a “cocktail glass” (a.k.a. “martini glass”).  As a general rule, cocktails that aren’t served over ice are served “up” in a glass with a stem.  The person enjoying the cocktail holds the glass by the stem (not by the bowl, as with a glass of wine) so as to keep the warmth of their hand away from the chilled cocktail, keeping it colder, longer.

 

Remember, always drink responsibly.  And fancily.