Shaken or Stirred: One woman’s quest to make a vodka martini her own way
It took me a while to find my cocktail. I had to grow up a bit I guess, kiss a few frogs, before I found what I was searching for. When I was a student at Washington College, I used to drink Zima garnished with a cherry-flavored Jolly Rancher. I was a new drinker, so I thought that this “cocktail” was the height of sophistication as opposed to the ubiquitous college beer. Clearly, I had some growing up to do.
As I matured, so did my tastes. I went through the Sideways wine phase for a time (be honest, you did too). I looked down on Merlot, and only drank Pinot Noir. I sniffed deeply in my wine glass, swirled it around carelessly, and said silly things like, “it has great legs!”
For a brief moment I liked Jack-and-Coke simply because my boyfriend liked the simple cocktail of Jack Daniels and Coca-Cola. Eventually, that super sweet cocktail had to go, but I kept the boyfriend.
The first time I saw a vodka martini, I was in my mid-20s. I had just finished a shift waitressing at a bar-and-grill and was counting my pathetic tips at the bar when a cute bartender slid over a most beautiful cocktail.
“Try this” he said. It was the sexiest drink I’d ever seen — with its long stem, crystal-clear interior, and three olives skewered with a toothpick that rested effortlessly at the top of the glass like acrobats walking a tight rope. I held it in my hand, and instantly felt fabulous. It looked good on me.
Too bad I didn’t like the taste. The wrong vodka in the wrong preparation can sometimes remind me of rubbing alcohol.
A few years later, while working as a receptionist at a big time New York City law firm, I did a very bad thing. I mistakenly sent an awful email about my boss to my boss. Completely mortified, I left the office at the end of the day, headed for the nearest bar, and ordered what I thought would be liquid penance—a straight-up vodka martini.But it was not penance; when I took a sip, cartoon hearts could have floated from my eyes. The martini still looked sexy but this time the taste was also spectacular. From that day forward, I stayed with the martini, which still looks good on me, and I tweaked it each time until it became my perfect cocktail.
There are a few components to a martini that make up a masterpiece. The trick is to figure out the proportions of each component that suit your taste. First, you must decide if you’re a gin drinker or vodka drinker. Next, how much dry vermouth do you like? This could range from “I like equal parts vermouth to gin/vodka” to “Just wave an unopened bottle of vermouth near the shaker and then put it away.” What about your garnish? A lemon twist, or olives? And if it is olives then how much olive juice would you like? Slightly dirty, dirty, or downright filthy? Finally, and equally important to all of the other components: do you like it shaken or stirred? Shaken will make it colder, and slightly sweeter thanks to the bruised alcohol, and stirred will make it pure, and clear, a little more bitter, but simply divine.
Here’s how I like my martini. I pour in three parts vodka, one part dry vermouth, and one-half part olive juice into an ice-filled shaker. My instinct is to shake it, but because I prefer this cocktail in its purest form, I stir it with a long spoon instead. Thirty stirs to be exact. I then pour this glorious liquid into a well-chilled martini glass. Next, I drop a large olive (I only need one) right in the middle. Finally, I make a toast. If I’m with a friend I toast to our friendship, and if I’m alone I toast to myself. When I take a sip, I want to taste the vodka first, then the brine of the olive juice, and finally finish with the bitter vermouth.
I think I’ll stay with my vodka martini for life. Like a good friend, it’s championed me during the good times and held my hand during the bad. I’m not above one on the occasional laundry day, either. I am old enough to appreciate its complex flavors and still young enough to enjoy its giddy effect. I feel fabulous with it in hand. After all, it looks good on me.
3 ounces vodka (your favorite brand)
1 ounce dry vermouth
½ ounce olive brine
Olive for garnish
Fill a martini glass with ice water. Set aside.
Fill a cocktail shaker ¾ the way up with ice. Pour in the vodka, vermouth, and olive brine.
With a long cocktail spoon, stir the liquid for 30 seconds.
Pour out the ice water from the martini glass, and strain in this lovely concoction.
Garnish with a big, beautiful olive. Cheers!