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LaNiña

The Martini

280 posts in this topic

What would make me happiest of all would be to be able to walk into a neighborhood bar, a hotel bar, or even a nightclub and order a "perfect martini" and get one served correctly. I have a feeling DrinkBoy could honor this request. Used to be the case in San Francisco at the Persian aub Zam Zam, but those days are long gone.

Isn't there some old bar in SF that was rated to make the best martini in America? I read about it some years ago but can't remember the name. Anyone else know this place?

I think you must (or at least may) be referring to the venerable Persian aub Zam Zam itself, as renowned for its eccentric proprietor/bartender as for its fabulous martinis. That guy was a real character, and stories abound, but he knew a "perfect martini" calls for equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

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lowest common denominator does not a world-class beverage make, you know?

trillium:

I remember reading nearly hundreds of cocktail menus for some silly eGCI class... Many of those cited resources are some pretty world class, leading European bars comprised of some of the most talented and skilled mixologists that are far from the lowest common denominator. Read through their cocktail menus.

Smug value judgment aside please! If I recall correctly, Meow Mix asked how "you" prefer your martini! :biggrin:

I'll tell you, should I mix up a martini and handed it to a guest who requested same, chances (98% -- our gins are some of the slowest moving liquors in our inventory and the smallest representation of the number of brands that are distilled and available) are they will scream that it was made with gin. Right or wrong? Doesn't really matter as I'm not in the business of correcting my graciously generous guests. :raz:

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...I never considered a dry martini as an excuse or an attempt to increase the alcohol content...

I suppose a little further explanation is in order.

The "attempt to increase the alcohol content" is more targeted at folks like Fields, Bogart, Churchill, and the likes who "popularized" this approach to make Martinis... Other folks pick up on this, and since this is what their "heros" are doing, then it must be right (anybody remember the Dr. Suess story about the "Snitches" with stars on their bellies?). Eventually, this spreads so far that folks just assume it is the right way to do things.

So while perhaps some modern Martini drinkers are intentionally intending to get a higher octane drink, I think in most cases it is simply what they grew accustomed to. Drinking alcohol itself is a fairly mean feat of "growing accustomed" to something. Face it. Straight Alcohol tastes pretty nasty, at least to the new initiate. It has been suggested that what happens is that the brain is capable of overriding the "turpentine" effect with the promise of the slightly euphoric feeling that will follow. This is why so many beginning drinkers are so intent on finding drinks where you can't taste the alcohol... their brains haven't adjusted yet.

I've got a very strong culinary background, as well as having been an enophile long before I was into cocktails. So I approached cocktails from a slightly different angle. In messing around with the various cocktail recipes, I was always looking for the unique flavor profiles, the balance, the nuance of the art.

The balancing of flavors, just like I would do with a fine sauce, was clearly something that seperated a mediocre cocktail from an exceptional one. Bitters, a product which has almost totally disappeared from the bartenders lexicon, became one of my primary passions. It struck a cord with me in how it very carefully accentuated the flavor of the drink. And in looking through various pre-prohibition bartenders guides, I came to realize that this is exactly how many of the old masters worked their craft... even if many of them didn't fully realize it.

Lots, and Lots of people out there are drinking, and quite satisfied with, very mediocre cocktails. It's not because they are backwards, or even wrong, it is just that they perhaps haven't been exposed to a truely well-made drink. It's not that much different from back in the early 80's when people were still proudly drinking canned coffee, and didn't even realize that there was something better.

I'm a cocktail evangelist. I view it as my role to try to expose people to some of the more facinating and exciting aspects of cocktails as a culinary artform. At times, I may end up being just a tad over-the-top and heavy handed, but it is just my way of trying to get folks attention :->

-Robert

www.DrinkBoy.com

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I remember reading nearly hundreds of cocktail menus for some silly eGCI class...  Many of those cited resources are some pretty world class, leading European bars comprised of some of the most talented and skilled mixologists that are far from the lowest common denominator.  Read through their cocktail menus.

I'm not sure what your point is. I thought you were saying that what is in common usage (word or recipe) should be the standard. I would disagree with that, given what is most "common" in cocktails today. People wouldn't think that McDonalds should set the standard for American cuisine, cocktails deserve the same respect. They had it in the past and its my hope, through education, they will have it in the future. While I prefer wit over a rant any day, I in no way intended to come across as smug. Perhaps the sincerity of my conviction reads as smug, but I stand convicted nonetheless.

Smug value judgment aside please!  If I recall correctly, Meow Mix asked how "you" prefer your martini! :biggrin:

Yes, Meow Mix did ask how "you" prefer your martini, and I will assert that a martini means something in particular, and does not refer to any clear drink in a cocktail glass with an olive.

I'll tell you, should I mix up a martini and handed it to a guest who requested same, chances (98% -- our gins are some of the slowest moving liquors in our inventory and the smallest representation of the number of brands that are distilled and available) are they will scream that it was made with gin.  Right or wrong?  Doesn't really matter as I'm not in the business of correcting my graciously generous guests. :raz:

I'd just say your guests are uninformed. I don't need to be tactful, my livlihood doesn't depend on their generousity.

Something interesting I've found that the level of education on both the patrons' and the barkeeps' part really have huge regional differences. For instance, when I lived in SF I could order a Picon punch nearly anywhere and they'd know what it was. The biggest dive bar would ask if I liked it with grenadine or not. Bars there also knew what Negronis were about 50% of the time. When I'm in New Orleans, I'm almost guaranteed that when I ask for a Sazerac, I'm going to get one, without having to explain what it is. Too bad I can't get paid to research regional cocktail education and preferences... hmmm....

regards,

trillium

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I think you must (or at least may) be referring to the venerable Persian aub Zam Zam itself, as renowned for its eccentric proprietor/bartender as for its fabulous martinis. That guy was a real character, and stories abound, but he knew a "perfect martini" calls for equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

hmmm, I don't think it was that place. The place in question had a name that was more "square" than the Persian aub Zam Zam, lol. The Persian sounds interesting, though. Does it still exist? I'll have to stop in there for a martini next time I go to SF if it's still there.

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I think you must (or at least may) be referring to the venerable Persian aub Zam Zam itself, as renowned for its eccentric proprietor/bartender as for its fabulous martinis. That guy was a real character, and stories abound, but he knew a "perfect martini" calls for equal parts sweet and dry vermouth.

hmmm, I don't think it was that place. The place in question had a name that was more "square" than the Persian aub Zam Zam, lol. The Persian sounds interesting, though. Does it still exist? I'll have to stop in there for a martini next time I go to SF if it's still there.

Well, yes and no. The bar itself is still there, but the main attraction (the old proprietor/bartender) is gone.

He was known for throwing people out if they ordered a drink he disapproved of, looked at him sideways, or simply did not meet with his (entirely arbitrary) approval. He never seemed to have a problem with me, though. :rolleyes:

It's on Haight street near the park if you want to check it out, but be forewarned that it cannot be described without using the word "dive".

I'm still trying to think where you might mean, but am coming up blank. When I want a well-made martini, I usually make it myself, but there is an excellent neighborhood bar near my house that specializes in classic cocktails, and they do a great job. It's called the Orbit Room and is on Market at Laguna.

Cheers,

Squeat

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I'm a cocktail evangelist. I view it as my role to try to expose people to some of the more facinating and exciting aspects of cocktails as a culinary artform. At times, I may end up being just a tad over-the-top and heavy handed, but it is just my way of trying to get folks attention :->

And entirely why I respect and adore you Robert. :wub: You keep us whiskey slingers honest, if said whiskey slinger has any interest in seeking truth. (oh, I sound like queneau. :groan:)

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It's on Haight street near the park if you want to check it out, but be forewarned that it cannot be described without using the word "dive".

Oh don't worry, I definitely can appreciate a good dive bar.

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I remember reading nearly hundreds of cocktail menus for some silly eGCI class...  Many of those cited resources are some pretty world class, leading European bars comprised of some of the most talented and skilled mixologists that are far from the lowest common denominator.  Read through their cocktail menus.

I'm not sure what your point is. I thought you were saying that what is in common usage (word or recipe) should be the standard. I would disagree with that, given what is most "common" in cocktails today. People wouldn't think that McDonalds should set the standard for American cuisine, cocktails deserve the same respect. They had it in the past and its my hope, through education, they will have it in the future. While I prefer wit over a rant any day, I in no way intended to come across as smug. Perhaps the sincerity of my conviction reads as smug, but I stand convicted nonetheless.

Smug value judgment aside please!  If I recall correctly, Meow Mix asked how "you" prefer your martini!   :biggrin:

Yes, Meow Mix did ask how "you" prefer your martini, and I will assert that a martini means something in particular, and does not refer to any clear drink in a cocktail glass with an olive.

I'll tell you, should I mix up a martini and handed it to a guest who requested same, chances (98% -- our gins are some of the slowest moving liquors in our inventory and the smallest representation of the number of brands that are distilled and available) are they will scream that it was made with gin.  Right or wrong?  Doesn't really matter as I'm not in the business of correcting my graciously generous guests.   :raz:

I'd just say your guests are uninformed. I don't need to be tactful, my livlihood doesn't depend on their generousity.

Something interesting I've found that the level of education on both the patrons' and the barkeeps' part really have huge regional differences. For instance, when I lived in SF I could order a Picon punch nearly anywhere and they'd know what it was. The biggest dive bar would ask if I liked it with grenadine or not. Bars there also knew what Negronis were about 50% of the time. When I'm in New Orleans, I'm almost guaranteed that when I ask for a Sazerac, I'm going to get one, without having to explain what it is. Too bad I can't get paid to research regional cocktail education and preferences... hmmm....

regards,

trillium

It's all consumer interest. If they don't bite, well then that "obscure" Negroni is made with all sorts of oddities that have no earthly reason for being present in that combination in the glass presnted to you, upon your "out of place" request.

Regarding the standardization of the word Martini. I'm not for that, just noted from a long list of worldly sources that it has occured in one way or another. Some of them top of their game, while others, well that's just the way it is. I have a hard time disputing cocktails touted as martinis when they are *the* cocktail bar of all of the UK that makes many of my esteemed European counterparts ooh in glee with that establishment's barstaff's performance and astonishing consistency.

And, choke on any of those that may consider McD's as the standard cuisine of America (sorry Canada and those good folks to the central and south!) That is a tad extreme at the very least and that being said, one I cannot and refuse to relate to on principle or with regard to martinis. :wink:

Educating those about the mixed alcoholic concoction in correctness of terminology often results in a similar situation of a whisk(e)y newbie on another recent thread of today expressing they could care less about the correct terminology/"fight" of who knows the most about the subject and was merely interested in a good tasting and frugal/economical recommendation.

I've accepted it and have chosen to move on. I'm service industry. Their wish is my command and I'll pour them the best tasting spiritous beverage they've ever had because that is what they wanted and asked for, incorrectly or correctly. Getting all caught up in which is "right" whether it be shaken, stirred, vermouthed or from the icebox is just plain silly. :raz:

edit: Strawberry Margarita controlling the lack of typing ability/skills.... :raz:


Edited by beans (log)

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Other folks pick up on this, and since this is what their "heros" are doing, then it must be right (anybody remember the Dr. Suess story about the "Snitches" with stars on their bellies?).

Those would be the "Star-Bellied Sneetches", yes?


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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This is an excellent thread. I found it on Google, when searching for opinions on the best gin (when trying to prove an annoying co-worker wrong). Not knowing much at all about cocktails, this thread openened up a whole new world of alcohol to me! :blink: I am now hooked on researching and experimenting with classic cocktails.

BTW, I have found that I like a classic martini with Tanqueray & Noilly Prat, stirred, 2 olives. I tried a Bombay Sapphire martini, and found that it was better with less vermouth -- I guess because of its weak gin flavor?

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Welcome, Aesthete!

Recently in New York I had something called a Dirty Martini which I think was gin + olive brine, no vermouth. Yuck. Well, I thought it was grim, but apparently it's all the rage. Waste of good gin.

Am totally inspired by this thread! Going to go home and crack open the Plymouth gin - finest gin in the world - drier than Tanqueray, which is my next favourite. What a shame it's only 3.30pm in London. I am gasping for a Martini.

Fi


Fi Kirkpatrick

tofu fi fie pho fum

"Your avatar shoes look like Marge Simpson's hair." - therese

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Thanks!

A few posts back, someone asked how to order a not-so-dry martini when out at the bar. I have been asking for a "classic" martini, but am not sure if that is the correct terminology. Does anyone else know?

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Don't be shy with your bartender. Ask them what vermouth the bar stocks and never be uneasy to specify how and what goes into your drink! :smile:

Just as you typed it out here:

I like a classic martini with Tanqueray & Noilly Prat, stirred, 2 olives.

works perfectly!

I love when a guest is specific, then they get exactly what they want. :cool:

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To the few die-hards who absolutely cannot stomach a martini as described above... there is nothing wrong with pouring gin or vodka straight out of the freezer into a chilled cocktail class and plopping in an olive, twist or other garnish.  Just don't call it a martini.

But I do call it a martini -- and after two, I'll be ready to trade blows with anyone who dares deny me the right to do so. After three, I'll be asleep.

Me too. And I stand by my right to use vodka and vermouth and call it a martini. So there MatthewB :raz:


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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To the few die-hards who absolutely cannot stomach a martini as described above... there is nothing wrong with pouring gin or vodka straight out of the freezer into a chilled cocktail class and plopping in an olive, twist or other garnish.  Just don't call it a martini.

But I do call it a martini -- and after two, I'll be ready to trade blows with anyone who dares deny me the right to do so. After three, I'll be asleep.

Me too. And I stand by my right to use vodka and vermouth and call it a martini. So there MatthewB :raz:

And I reserve the right to serve you offal whilst calling it filet mignon. :raz:

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Welcome, Aesthete!

Recently in New York I had something called a Dirty Martini which I think was gin + olive brine, no vermouth. Yuck. Well, I thought it was grim, but apparently it's all the rage. Waste of good gin.

Dirty martinis are bad enough, but once a less ept (if not entirely inept) server brought my wife a "dirty gimlet" having misheard the order in a particularly vile way. Imagine the expression that played across Stephanie's face as she got that first sip of gin, Rose's and olive juice.

To her credit, she did not spit.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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My feeling is that things are so topsy turvy these days that no one can really be offended. Everything under the sun is a "martini" as long as it's served in a "V"-shaped cocktail glass.

I remember when a vodka martini was an odd thing and gin was the standard. And until a very few years ago, clear drinks were stirred, not shaken.

The first time I was served (proudly) a gin martini with a layer of thin ice on the top (from the shaking) I thought it was a joke.

I've learned to lighten a lot (and switch to tequila and beer) but all rules are off as far as I can see. The bartender shouldn't have been offended and you can expect to spend a lot of time explaining your preferred method of preparing a previously "standard" drink to a young bartender.


Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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[Editor's note: Since the Key Lime Martini thread was splitting into two topics, I took the liberty of splitting it officially. The question of what exactly constitutes a "martini" and what to call all those other drinks begins with this comment by tana. -- JAZ]

Just because it's served in a martini glass doesn't mean it's a martini. It's a marketing ploy to sell a Key Lime cocktail that people otherwise might not order.

A martini is gin (and purists, of course, exclaim "Never vodka!"), unsullied with anything except the barest vermouth. Diaphanous vermouth.

All references to vermouth, of course, are spoken in droll terms, such as "wave the vermouth bottle over the glass" or "stand across the room with the vermouth bottle and whisper its name to the martini." Martinis seem to have their own eclectic language, conceived by the cult following they, above all cocktails, seem to enjoy. The only conceivable additions are one of the following: a lemon twist, olives, or cocktail onions. Anything else is considered an abomination.

I'm not even a martini lover, but even I know not to mess with the formula for the classic cocktail of all time.

Please read this brief treatise on The Secrets of a Very Dry Martini. Mr. Lucky is also kind enough to offer up this Advanced Martini Making lesson. (Rather than out him, let me implore the author, an eGulleteer friend of ours, to step from behind the curtain.) I've known about Mr. Lucky since about 1995, and am proud to be one of the early subscribers to his paper magazine. Don't forget to check out his other cocktails.

Yes, martini glasses are groovy, and make things look cool, but Kool-Aid in a flute will never be champagne.

Pardon my bluntness: I've clearly been brainwashed by people who know their martinis.


Edited by JAZ (log)

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Pardon my bluntness: I've clearly been brainwashed by people who know their martinis.

Sure, now go change every bar, restaurant, club menu and the manufacturers and retailers of cocktail glasses that call them martini glasses.

tana, you haven't unearthed what hasn't been bickered about here on the Gull before. :wink::biggrin:

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Ubetcha. No one feels more like Tana at the core of the issue than I. For me, even vodka is reserved for Moscow Mules and Bloody Marys.

Nonetheless, there is no escaping the evolution of the... English language. It is clear that just as the term " cocktail " usurped and overwhelmed other categories - soon to be SUBcategories, so has the wildly popular word Martini. Yes, it once referred exclusively to a gin, vermouth and bitters (yes, bitters) concoction, and in its latter years gin OR vodka hinted with vermouth, it has come to supercede the term " cocktail ". Walk into any responsible bar and ask for a Martini - and you'll still be asked, "gin or vodka". Probably won't be enough vermouth put in, but it IS the basic drink you envision. Add any descriptor to the beginning of the term, and the gates swing wide open. That is because in popular parlance the word "martini" has become synonymous with the term " cocktail ".

Don't fret! " Cocktail " consumed juleps, crustas, fizzes, fixes, shrubs, slings, swizzles, sangarees, corpse revivers, and MANY others. This is just the evolution of the language. Cocktails became the overall category embracing all of the above, many of which actually preceded it. So it remains today.

If you aren't just posturing -- if you really appreciate Martinis -- after all, they were just one of MANY cocktails of the golden age of cocktails, and certainly other cocktails of equal value from that same period are still enjoyed, pristine, while others of value have been unduly forgotten, if you know all this and still appreciate and embrace the balance it presumes, then we agree and have recipes to share. These formulae will never go away, no matter what the new crop of drinkers call them. We can just hope they WILL call them! When you speak of "traditional Martinis", you open yourself up to queries about their brothers and sisters. It's hard to be HALF of a traditionalist.

Whatever the terminology, and as Beans said, the umbrage is nothing new, you can still have your drink - just don't assume the slippery slope is, itself, anything BUT traditional!

(edited, as always, for typos.)

--Doc.


Edited by drcocktail (log)

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Thanks, Beans and Drcocktail.

The umbrage really isn't mine. Consider me a proofreader who spots an error that might prove embarrassing were it to be published. I didn't write the rules, I didn't write the copy. I'm just looking around, nervously, at the posse that might be showin' up any time, ready to lynch the idea of an (ahem) Key Lime Martini. Or any other of the libelous libations, the cockeyed cocktails, the bastardized brews churned out in marketing lingo (and that's all it is :angry: ) today.

Over at my other hangout, Readerville, there is a thread called "Word Abuse! Word Abuse!" and another one all about food. (Readerville is specifically book-centric.) I can't count the number of times that I've seen people go off about martinis. It just has come to be sacrilegious to me that a martini could include things like apple or vanilla or blackberry. They should call them "pot pourri cocktails." A martini with fruit would go, in my opinion as a non-martini drinker, right straight into the "Word Abuse" thread.

I think specificity in language is a very nice thing, especially when it counterbalances corporate speak. Corporations employ marketing people. Marketing people employ hype. Hype employs falsehoods. I think it's very good when language gets real.

Or maybe I need a deprogrammer. I hope not. :wink:


Edited by tanabutler (log)

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The umbrage really isn't mine. Consider me a proofreader who spots an error that might prove embarrassing were it to be published.

I wrote that eye popping amount on the evolving cocktails listing oodles of these new breeds of martinis, and I'm hardly embarrassed. I doubt that many of the other "real" publishers of hard copy books on the same/similar subject with their pink martinis, filled with fruit purees are either.

Meh. Language, schmanguage. We all have our pet peeves and mine are almost always the glaring split infinitive -- which, too, has become common place and somewhat accepted as proper by many writers today.

typos here tooooo! :rolleyes:

wine not helping either....


Edited by beans (log)

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I think specificity in language is a very nice thing, especially when it counterbalances corporate speak. Corporations employ marketing people. Marketing people employ hype. Hype employs falsehoods. I think it's very good when language gets real.

Or maybe I need a deprogrammer. I hope not. :wink:

I think, Tana, that it's undeniable that the trend toward naming every new drink a fill-in-the-blank martini is spurred by marketing. "Martini" conveys elegance, sophistication and, well, coolness in a way that "cocktail" does not. I don't think it's an accident of language that everything is now a "martini" rather than, say, a daquiri or a margarita, even though, in construction, the new drinks are often closer to them than they are to the classic martini.

Yes, I wish that new drinks were not all called "martinis." No, I don't think it's going to stop. I really like the creativity in bartending these days (even if I personally don't like many of the drinks) and if usurping the name "martini" has helped that trend, then I (very reluctantly) have to say that it's not all bad.

This is a very new attitude on my part. A very big part of me still wants a martini to be gin, vermouth and bitters. Period. As a lover of the language, I really, really wish that new drinks had the great names of older drinks -- how can a "fill-in-the-blank martini" compete with a Corpse Reviver, a Satan's Whiskers, a Monkey's Gland, a Blood and Sand? When I create new drinks, half the fun is coming up with a cool name.

But, marketing rears its head in the cocktail world, just as it does everywhere else. Is a Key Lime Martini, language-wise, any worse than a Mexican Caesar Salad? I've come to the conclusion that this is one battle I'm not going to win. It doesn't mean that I'm going be calling my new drinks "martinis," but it does mean that I'm over my outrage. But, believe me, I do understand your point. You're not alone.

PS Reading Steven Pinker's book The Language Instinct totally changed my attitude about "word abuse."


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Ummm... ok, all of this seems to avoid and ignore the concept of the evoloution of the language, doesn't it? Thermos. Scotch tape. Triple Sec. Websters now recognises vodka martinis, so what's your point? Bring on the "posse". Whatever they presume to know about etymology or cocktails, it is evident that, they are behind the times if you are characterizing their position correctly. And of course all linguists know dictionaries, by their nature, lag behind the evolving language that drives them. Again, 'cocktail' consumed previous categories that were once its equals (and in the case of Slings, it's father). Now, as the "martini" in the popular Martini Cocktail consumes previous categories that once contained it...well, what IS your point? The typically revisionist stance is that the "Martini" is simply gin and vermouth. This is laughable. The martini in its history has embraced sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, old tom gin, genever gin, dry gin, vodka, olives, lemons, aromatic bitters, orange bitters... but now it's this thing that can't be changed, from its current incarnation, the last 40 years of its 140 year history?! Oh please, bring on the "posse."

OR begin to understand what's really happening and put your energy into more relevant (cocktail) issues. Orange bitters. Fresh juices and ingredients, evolution.

(Sorry to be so stern, but I've been at this -- in depth -- longer than you {or the posse} were alive) --Doc.

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