Tuesday, December 12

Understanding Martini Lingo

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Sure it may seem suave and sophisticated to order a martini, but if you don’t understand what you’re ordering, the end result may be something not worth sipping.  Martinis are a subjective drink.  No two people order the drink exactly the same.  The key is to taste martinis mixed by different people and learn what you like and dislike by asking questions.  Once you discover what you like, then you can fine-tune your preferences and perfect your own martini order.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Vodka or Gin – A traditional martini is made with gin, but vodka martinis are increasingly more popular.  Taste both types to decide which you prefer.  Whether you choose vodka or gin, however, always go with a top shelf brand.  Because martinis are essentially entirely alcohol, it’s easy to recognize whether they are made with a good quality of alcohol.  Save cheaper brands for drinks using mixers like tonic and juice.

  • Shaken or Stirred – Martinis that are shaken have slivers of ice floating in them.  Some connoisseurs say this dilutes the drink and weakens the flavor.  Proponents of shaken martinis, however, argue that it makes the drink colder and more refreshing.  Conversely, stirred martinis are chilled but should have no ice floating in the drink.

  • Straight up or On-the-Rocks – If you like your martini icy cold, then by all means have it served on-the rocks.  Nonetheless, a traditional martini, is served straight up, which means it’s shaken or stirred with ice in order to chill it and then the ice is strained out as the liquor is poured into a signature-style glass.

  • Dirty and Dry – Ordering a dirty martini means nothing more than having a little olive juice added to your mix.  In other words, dirty martinis tend to be saltier than regular martinis.  A dry martini, on the other hand, has less vermouth in it.  Thus, the drier the martini the more it tastes like straight vodka or gin (whichever you choose).  There isn’t much vermouth in a martini anyway, so if you like more than the average martini drinker, don’t be afraid to ask the bartender for a “splash” of vermouth.

  • Olive or Twist – Traditionally martinis are garnished with an olive.  But some bartenders will ask whether you prefer an olive or a twist (meaning lemon or lime).  If you like the citrus flavor, feel free to order your martini with a twist.  If you like olives, don’t be afraid to ask for extra.  Or, try a Gibson, which is what you call a martini garnished with an onion.


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