Martini Madness

There Are an Infinite Number of Variations on the Proper Martini
Wine, beer, and other potent potables.
March 14 2013 5:36 AM

Martini Madness

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Promotional gimmicks, conceptual stunts, regional twists, and other martini variations.

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

For years, the cult of the cocktail has centered on an ecumenical rift between those advocating the consummately dry Martini and those seeking to play havoc with its genetic structure. Being the pampered pet of purists, the Martini has always flirted with at least an occasion violation. The strict Martini recipe provides a stable springboard from which mixologists have been able to indulge in a variety of deviations.

                              —Joseph Lanza, The Cocktail

Advertisement

There are, in theory, an infinite number of variations on the proper martini. There are also, in actuality, an infinite number of variations on the proper martini. To be clear, we’re not even talking about “chocolate martinis” or “vodka martinis” or any of the pastel distractions served in stemmed glasses. We’re talking strictly about variations that retain the essential elements of gin and vermouth (or one of vermouth’s closest cousins on the fortified-wine shelf): If can be done, it has been done, and if it cannot be done, it has been done nonetheless. The most complete rendering of martini variants would include promotional gimmicks (the Algonquin’s diamond-garnished “Martini on the Rock”), conceptual stunts (the Oak Bar’s “Mel Gibson”), regional twists (a Douglas Fir-scented version from Tacoma, Wash.), and bygone curiosities (Barnaby Conrad III mentions a Martini-Sicle created using “a thermos of minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit liquid nitrogen”).

But with notable nutty exceptions, most of the recipes below simply ask the reader to augment the primal drink with half an ounce of This or two dashes of That or a garnish of The Other Thing. In some cases—such as the Third Degree (which requires a bit of absinthe) and the Paisley (which asks for a touch of scotch)—the extra ingredient is not even discernible in itself but instead serves to intensify the existing herbal interplay. In some others, the goal is to nudge the dryness and clarity of the proper martini in a flashier direction.

Most famous is the Vesper, created by a British secret agent who named it for his one true love: "It sounds perfect and it's very appropriate to the violet hour when my cocktail will now be drunk all over the world.” Yes, that’s Vesper as in vespertine. No, I don’t know whether Ian Fleming, writing “violet hour,” was intentionally echoing the martini classicist Bernard DeVoto, who memorably attached the crepuscular phrase to cocktail time. In any case, the point stands that purists and innovators inhabit the same long shadow.

Indicate which of the following experiments are worthy of a purple evening by upvoting and downvoting the recipes below; the most popular will enter into Slate’s Martini Madness tournament. (Voting ends Sunday, March 17 at 6 p.m. EDT; tipoff is Tuesday, March 19.)

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

Walmart Is Crushing the Rest of Corporate America in Adopting Solar Power

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.