Friday, April 9, 2010

Martinis – One is alright. Two are too many, and three is not enough.

Well, I've been watching some of the 1960's hip, swingin', bachelor, romantic comedies lately and it's made me long for the classic days of cocktail hour that I remeber my parents and grandparents enjoying when I was a kid. So I thought that a Lit article about the king of cocktails, the Martini, was in order. So, here it is...

Martinis – One is alright. Two are too many, and three is not enough.

Whatever happened to the sophistication associated with cocktails and the cocktail hour? I long for the days of strong, simple drinks, smoking jackets, elegant gowns, cigarette girls, and torch singers accompanied by a full orchestra. Where are all the red, velvet curtain-lined dinner clubs and smoky, sultry lounges? Not in Dallas I can assure you. I yearn to put on my tux (yes, I own my own tux) and take my wife out for an evening of drinking and dancing, but not to some digital hip-hop beat, and not to Lady Gaga or Kelley Clarkson, but to a big jazzy, swingin’ band like Hunter Sullivan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, or even Mr. Pink, in a place like Maxwell DeMille’s Cicada Club in Los Angeles.

Cicada Club

Hopefully someone will soon realize that people are longing for a taste of class, a regression to the way things used to be in the “good old days” of wining, dining and lounging, and open up a ritzy joint that fits this bill.

But, if we can’t get a classic dinner club experience here in Big “D,” we can at least get a good Martini, the drink of choice for the upper crust. And I’m not talking about the simpering, sweet, distant cousins; the Appletinis, the Chocolatinis, the Wheat-Grasstinis, or any other bastardization of the classic cocktail. I’m talkin’ about Gin or Vodka, shaken with ice, enhanced by perhaps a whiff of Vermouth and a couple of olives (we’ll allow cocktail onions and lemon twists too), served up in a frosty, elegant V-shaped glass, which I will expound upon shortly.

The drink that Hollywood made famous developed a wide following in large part due to the celebrities who held a warm place in their heart for this heart-warming cocktail. People like W. C. Fields, who drank two doubles at breakfast and consumed two quarts of Gin daily; Richard Nixon, who liked a seven to one ratio of Gin to Vermouth; Dorothy Parker who said “I like to drink Martinis, two at the most. Three I’m under the table, four I’m under the host.”; George Burns who said “Happiness is a dry Martini and a good woman… or a bad woman.”; William Powell, who as Nick Charles (of the Thin Man film series) consumed copious quantities of the classic cocktail; and of course James Bond who liked his “Vesper” Martini (named after Vesper Lynde, the beautiful blonde double agent in Casino Royale) “shaken, not stirred.”

Now, a word about the Martini glass itself, where form follows function as its stem allows you to hold the glass without warming its contents, while the conical shape keeps ingredients from separating, and the wide brim creates surface tension, helping to bring out the aroma of the chosen gin or vodka. While these benefits of the shapely glass may seem apparent, others have suggested that the wide brim on the glass made it easier to quickly dispose of illegal alcohol in the event of a speakeasy raid, during America’s prohibition period.

While the drink’s true origins are shrouded in mystery, many believe that a rendition of what we now recognize as the Martini was created in San Francisco in 1862 and was known as the “Martinez.” It’s rumored that a bartender at the Occidental hotel, named Jerry Thomas was challenged by a gold prospector, to make a special drink in honor of the miner’s recent trip to the gold strike in Martinez, CA. It consisted of 4 parts red, sweet Vermouth to 1 part Gin and was garnished with a cherry. This is certainly not the only claim to the invention of the infamous cocktail, but I find it to be one of the earliest and most credible.

With as many drinking establishments as Dallas has, there are a number of them that serve up a decent Martini. And whether you prefer your Martinis with Vodka or Gin, clean or dirty, here are a few good places to pick up a dry Martini and wet your whistle…

4511 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX 75205 (214) 559-3111

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House
5251 Spring Valley Rd. Dallas, TX 75254 (972) 490-9000

8300 A Preston Rd. Dallas, TX 75225 (214) 691-8991

Inwood Lounge
5458 W. Lovers Ln. Dallas, TX 75209 (214) 764-9106

The Library Bar at the Warwick Melrose Hotel
3015 Oak Lawn Ave. Dallas, TX. 75219 (214) 224-4134

2911 Routh St. Dallas, TX 75201 (214) 871-9991


2120 McKinney Ave. Dallas, TX 75201 (214) 744-0820

Sevy’s Grill
8201 Preston Rd. Dallas, TX 75225 (214) 265-7389

While Martinis can be a bit pricey, they’re certainly a great bang for the buck, as two or three good ones will have you feeling like Bond, James Bond. So dust of your tuxedo, put on an air of class, and head to your favorite lounge, to sip on an ice cold, classic American cocktail.

As I wrap this article up and slip into a long-stemmed frosty “elixir of quietude,” I say to you, the originator of the Martini, whoever you truly are, we offer our most sincere thanks, gratitude, and scorn; for your creation, which has certainly come a long way since its inception, has both saved and ruined the lives of a multitude of people and has furnished many of us with foggy memories of Vodka and Gin-soaked evenings, amorous nights of drunken passion, and long mornings of suffering and yearnings for yet another Martini. We salute you! “Bartender, … I’ll have another.”

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