The Martini, and the Understanding of the Framers
I, too -- along with the estimable Ms. Cox -- happen to agree with Judge Bork's assessment of the silliness of such creations as the chocolate martini and the raspberry martini. Indeed, if we're throwing silly drinks around, I would immediately hurl an apple martini into that very same swill-bucket.
Martini's Founding Fathers: Original Intent Debatable
Eric Felten's essay on the dry martini is itself near-perfect ("Don't Forget the Vermouth," Leisure & Arts, Pursuits, Dec. 10). His allusion to constitutional jurisprudence is faulty, however, since neither in law nor martinis can we know the subjective "original intent" of the Founding Fathers. As to martinis, the intent may have been to ease man's passage through this vale of tears or, less admirably, to employ the tactic of "candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker."
What counts in mixology is the "original understanding" of the martini's essence by those who first consumed it. The essence remains unaltered but allows proportions to evolve as circumstances change. Mr. Felten's "near-perfect martini" is the same in principle as the "original-understanding martini" and therefore its legitimate descendant. Such latter-day travesties as the chocolate martini and the raspberry martini, on the other hand, are the work of activist bartenders.
Mr. Felten lapses into heresy only once. He prefers the olive to the lemon peel because the former is a "snack." Dropping a snack into a classic drink is like garnishing filet mignon with ketchup. The correct response when offered an olive is, "When I want a salad, I'll ask for it."
Robert H. Bork
The Hudson Institute
However, I would observe that Judge Bork's arguments regarding the heresy of the olive as a garnish for a true martini reveal the problems inherent, in both jurisprudence and mixology, within Judge Bork's use of "original understanding" as a decisional methodology.
We all have our favorite framers. I prefer John Jay, for example, to Ben Franklin -- but that's just me, I suppose. In the world of the cocktail, I prefer David Embury, who offers his own opinion regarding the perfect martini in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948; reviewed by yours truly in a previous post here). After citing several popular yet mediocre recipes for a martini, Embury offers the following as a preferred formula:
MARTINI DE LUXE or GIBSON DE LUXE
1 part Lillet Vermouth
7 parts imported English Gin
Stir well ["If you shake the martini, it becomes a Bradford," according to Embury] in a bar glass or Martini pitcher with large cubes of ice and pour into chilled cocktail glasses. Twist lemon peel over the top.
The distinction between the Martini and the Gibson is simple. The Martini is served with an olive, the Gibson with a small pickled cocktail onion.
If you can get olives stuffed with any kind of nuts, they make the perfect accompaniment to a Martini.
Embury insists that his 7-to-1 ratio was derived after extensive experimentation, and that it is the proportion "most pleasing to the average palate," although some have been known to prefer a ratio as high as 10-to-1.
You and your framer can protest all you want, but if my framer says I can have an olive (even an olive stuffed with a nut!), then by the Constitution of this great land of ours, I will have one.
Categories: Cocktails, David-Embury, Juris-History