The Martini Cocktail Family Tree
The Martini cocktail is often referred to as the King of Cocktails. But the debate about the drink’s origins never seems to end. Angus Winchester on the theory of The Martini Family.
So this article was spawned (as so many ideas are) by first a drink or two and then a debate with fellow drinkers and then an attempt to make the argument winnable whilst at the same time making it enjoyable to watch and hear. It is a summary of information with a slant and should not be taken as Gospel but instead may help resurrect a much maligned drink and also remind people of the simple majesty of a classic. Now what drink fills all those criteria and is of course the great argument instigator? I am talking Martinis.
Now I have long been fascinated by the Martini. I was lucky enough to work in New York in the mid-1990s in a time that is now seen as the start of the Martini Revival. New Yorkers of a certain age were rediscovering “Martinis” in all their glory and I was making them as fast as was possible, whilst listening to Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, being part of the Cocktail Nation and discovering the magic behind drinks via such luminaries as Paul Harrington and Dale deGroff. I then was lucky enough to set up and run a training program called the Tanqueray Martini Academy nearly 13 years ago where I examined in great detail the myth and mystery of the Martini. I know my shit when it comes to Martinis.
The Discovery of the Family
But one thing always bothered me. The acceptance of the Martinez as the “father” of the Martini when it so unlike what we think of as a Martini irked me. Just because Jerry Thomas claimed ownership it seemed that we just let it ride despite the fact that drinks like the Marguerite and the Turf Club seemed far closer to a Martini than the Martinez with its sweet vermouth and maraschino. Then the “Historical Oracle” Dave Wondrich came up with the idea that maybe the Martinez evolved from the Manhattan Club in NYC and I had an epiphany.
The Martini may well be closely related to the Manhattan. If this is true then the Martini, like the Manhattan is a sweet vermouth based drink with the Dry Martini being Dry Vermouth and the Perfect being half/half. If this is true then the Martini really is a family of drinks and not just a single cocktail. This led me to consider the Martini Family Tree with the same idea of a Royal Family whereby there are many members but only the strongest child rules that generation.Thus in the first generation we have the Martinez, Marguerite and Turf Club that all have claims to be the first Martini but the Martinez seems to have beaten off its rivals to win that battle, spawning the Dry, Sweet and Perfect Martini.
The Dominant Dry Martini
Of this generation obviously the Dry Martini was dominant, partly I believe as post Prohibition people wanted simpler drinks that would not hide bad ingredients (as had been prevalent in the Jazz Age) and sweet vermouth had been a key component in this deception. Yet the Sweet and Perfect Martini spawned many great drinks with the addition of dashes of this or dollops of that. From the Zabriskie to the Lone Tree, the Army and beyond there are some fantastic cocktails that can claim direct heritage to the King of Cocktails. By this logic even the Bronx is a close relative being a Perfect Martini plus a slash of Orange Juice.
The Dry Martini had a shortish rule tho’ as its son, the Extra Dry Martini launched a coup d’état and soon became the de facto Martini. But this Martini was hugely promiscuous and its offspring are now legion but can be seen as subtribes, battling for supremacy. The Veggies are the branch of the family for whom Citrus is anathema and olives (green and black) onions and the like are how they mark themselves out – perhaps the ruler of this generation is the Dirty Martini. In the Dashes the Dry Vermouth is added too again with dashes of liqueurs and syrups being prevalent and popular. The Allies, Parisian and Torpedo being fine examples.
The modified branch of the family are slightly black sheep as by removing the Vermouth and adding a substitute we achieved some fine drinks such as the Valencia but also theoretically opened the door to a host of –Tinis with gin or vodka being hijacked by apple liqueur and the like. Finally there is the oddball side of the family where the Martini is turned into some sort of humorous joke, by adding an acorn to it for a Squirrel, a glass of beer on either side for a Martini Sandwich, an orange twist for a Klondike (to mimic a gold nugget as in the gold rush) or of course with vodka and not gin in a Journalist. Now there is one drink that will never catch on.
This article was first published in MIXOLOGY Issue 6/2010.