Posted November 2, 2015

Martinis 101 – A History, Recipe & James Bond Mania

Eat + Drink

“Vodka martini — shaken, not stirred.”

Starting with Dr. Julius No, and eventually uttered by James Bond himself in the film Goldfinger, this phrase has come to resonate with wannabe spies, bon vivants and gentlemen of leisure everywhere. It’s also become somewhat of a battleground, as bartenders insist that a true Martini be a) made with gin, vermouth and orange bitters, and b) stirred well over ice and strained. The debates and mysteries are what make this drink special. Read on for our take.

You Only Live Twice

The James Bond-inspired “You Only Live Once” martini from Pennyroyal in Seattle

The history of the martini, like the history of anything alcohol related, is as hazy as the memories of last call at the after-hours bar last night. The history of drink is written by drinkers, to paraphrase the great David Wondrich.

By some accounts, the modern Martini finds its origins in Martinez, California; a miner had a drink made for him with Old Tom gin, maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters. (The original Manhattan cocktail was somewhat similar — essentially the same cocktail but with rye instead of Old Tom gin.)

When the Martini vermouth company launched their Dry Vermouth, the story goes, they created an intense marketing campaign for the “Martini Cocktail” gin, dry vermouth, and bitters.

After the Depression, Prohibition, and World War two had swept away much of America’s drinking habits, a new and relatively obscure spirit began making its presence known in the modern mixological landscape: Vodka.

Vodka was sexy, foreign, and tinged with a subtle subversiveness (being Russian, after all, during the beginning of the American-Russian ideological clashes that led to the Cold War).

James Bond has long had a close familiarity with alcohol — unsurprisingly, perhaps, for one who surely must suffer from near-continuous PTSD. In the book Casino Royale, he creates the Vesper Cocktail:

‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’

‘Oui, monsieur.’

‘Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?’

‘Certainly monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

‘Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,’ said Leiter.

Bond laughed. ‘When I’m … er … concentrating,’ he explained, ‘I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold, and very well made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I think of a good name.’

— Casino Royale, Chapter 7: Rouge et Noir

The most famous Bond order, of course, is the Vodka Martini: shaken, not stirred.

So what’s the right answer? How should you order yours? Vodka? Gin? Dirty? And what’s up with Blue Cheese Olives?

Stay tuned … later this week we will answer all these questions and more! Meanwhile, enjoy this recipe for the James Bond-inspired You Only Live Twice martini, served at Pennyroyal in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.

You Only Live Twice
Pennyroyal, Head Bartender Chad Phillips

2 oz. Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe Fino En Rama Sherry
1 oz. Navarre Pineau des Charentes Rose
2 dashes Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, stir, strain into a coupe.
Garnish with an orange twist, expressed over the glass then discarded.

Note from the bartender: This is a take on the classic martini, Bond’s drink of choice. Because it can be a wee bit difficult to be the best Bond you can be after a few gin (or vodka) martinis, I switched out the gin for a lower proof dry sherry and the vermouth for the incredibly luxurious Pineau des Charentes Rose. The chocolate bitters add just the right amount of depth. This is most definitely an elegant drink for a dignified gentleman.


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