Martini Madness

Martini Madness: The New Yorker’s Martini vs. a 1½-Foot-Long Lemon Twist
Wine, beer, and other potent potables.
March 21 2013 9:25 PM

Martini Madness

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The New Yorker’s martini goes up against a 1½-foot-long lemon twist.

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Roger Angell's martini recipe was published in The New Yorker. But can it stand up to a 1½-foot-long lemon twist?

Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson

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

The Angell’s Share vs. The Giraffe’s Neck

The first of our eight reader submissions soared into our tournament on a fine gust of praise when a fan cried hosannas for Roger Angell’s prose and, in the comments, pasted an excerpt from a 2002 New Yorker essay. I was familiar with the piece—and with the fact that Angell is family with the magazineand with the fact that his stepfather, E. B. White, composed upon the martini a compact ode: “the elixir of quietude.” And now I remember why I resisted including the recipe on our original list. The facts I just name-checked are deeply conjoined. The relationship between The New Yorker and the martini is intimate and intricate, and in order to explore it in full, I’d have to publish a weekly magazine.

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A sampling of story topics from that hypothetical periodical: New Yorker founder Harold Ross wrote to E.B. White about day-drinking with Mrs. Parker: “Dottie with no lunch and four martinis.” Christopher Buckley wrote a classic Shout & Murmurs titled “The Three-Martini Debate.” Henry Luce launched Sports Illustrated to attract “the same well-heeled subscriber of the New Yorker” and readers wrote complaining that its first issue was for the “martini set.” Updike. Salinger. Newly reissued Renata Adler. There’d be no end to it—but you’d wish there were when confronting the sorrows of Cheever’s gin or the postmodern post-mortem condition of Donald Barthelme's liver. There’d have to be a five-part series on Peter Arno and an endless elaboration on a Lowell Edmunds quote: “The businessman may express his power by means of the Martini, but in a New Yorker cartoon it is the Martini that will be used to satirize him.”

That’s all beside the point. Angell’s drink is obviously not a taste sensation. I’m not going to waste gin on such a drab scheme, especially when its opponent is so brightly frisky. The recipe for the Giraffe's Neck is a reading pleasure in it its own right. The very idea of it is festively devious. This recipe came in with no name or attribution—sign your work, people!—and my deft editrix named it in the tradition of the lavishly garnished highball called the Horse’s Neck, opening the possibility of further fun: Here's a gin drink abbreviated as G-N.

I’m advancing the Giraffe’s Neck to the next round without even tasting it, predicting a d-limonene delight. (John McPhee wrote that d-limonene “is the main ingredient of peel oil. [It] is what the Martini drinker rubs on the rim of his glass and then drops into his drink in a twist of lemon.”)

The Giraffe’s Neck advances to the No. 16 spot in the Midwest Regional.

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