Monday, December 17, 2007

Of Martinis, "Bradfords" and "Teslas"

My apologies to regular readers who may have been showing up at this space every morning hoping for a new "parlour trick." It is has been a busy season, full of deals, machinations and pre-holiday chores -- but I hope to see my way clear to writing more when 2008 begins.

One thing, however, has inspired me to put pen to paper once again ... I was out with my wife the other day, trailing behind her as she rummaged through the holiday sales at a local Sur la Table, when I stumbled upon a most disconcerting item: the Waring Pro WM007 Professional Electric Martini Maker.

First of all, we all know about Waring and his blender, and also about his Pennsylvanians. More power to the fellow, I guess, for the laser-like focus of his life and imagination upon things that rotate (phonograph turntables, blending blades, etc.). I know that, after soda fountains, taverns and bars were among Waring's first customers, but Waring was no doubt hawking his blender to poor fellows who were forced, by the preferences of their clientele, to make frozen cocktails of one type or another, such as a Frozen Daquiri or a Margarita. The venerable David Embury says as much. "Frozen cocktails require the use of a Waring Blendor or similar electric mixer of the type used at soda fountains," Embury writes in deadpan manner in his book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. "The egg-beater type of electric mixer cannot be used." Implicit in his observation that a "Waring Blendor" is something that is normally seen at a soda fountain is the opinion, no doubt, that frozen cocktails are for grown-ups who still have adolescent tastes. In his chapter on "Glassware, Gimmicks, and Gadgets," Embury remains pointedly silent on the necessity of keeping a "Waring Blendor" around a well-equipped bar.

Now the people who own Waring's name have unleashed this strange little device on the American consumer market, the Electric Martini Maker -- an appliance whose essential mechanism is not simply rotation (as in the machine's "Stir" mode), but also vigorous shaking (as in its "Shake" mode). Yes, that's right, the Waring 007 can give you a Martini that's either "shaken" or "stirred" at your command.

Notwithstanding James Bond's request for a "shaken, not stirred" Martini, first uttered by Sean Connery in Goldfinger and used ad infinitum ever since, David Embury is very clear on the matter. Martinis are, strictly speaking, always stirred. "If you shake the Martini," Embury maintains, "it becomes a Bradford."

Embury continues: "The real distinction between the two methods is simple. Shaking produces a colder cocktail quicker than stirring. Therefore, since frigidity is highly desirable in all cocktails, shaking is normally the preferable method. However, with some cocktails another consideration enters into the picture, and that is 'eye appeal.' A substantial part of the charm of certain cocktails such as the Martini and the Manhattan is their clear, almost scintillating translucence. A stirred cocktail will remain clear; a shaken cocktail will be cloudy or even muddy in appearance. This result is particularly noticeable where vermouth or any other wine is an ingredient. Therefore, you should never shake a cocktail containing wine unless you want a muddy looking drink. This cloudiness will clear somewhat as the drink stands, but it will never have quite the limpid appeal of the drink that is stirred. ... Incidentally, there are very few cocktails that can be made with the beautiful translucence of the Martini and the Manhattan. This is because more cocktails are made with citrus juices than with vermouths, and the citrus juices themselves are not translucent."

(Why a Bradford? I have no idea, although it does call to mind one hopelessly foggy, early morning airplane flight I took from the airfield at Bradford, Pennsylvania that forced me to admit to myself, then and there, that I was taking the worst calculated risk of my life. I'd be willing to bet, though, that Embury himself never experienced such a thing.)

Embury's distinctions seem quaint and almost archaic now, in a world of filled with muddy Mocha Fudge Latte Martinis and Apple Cinnamon Vanilla Martinis. It does, however, prompt me to wonder what the appropriate name should be for a Martini that is neither shaken nor stirred by human hands, but rather, jerked around by a Waring Pro WM007 Professional Electric Martini Maker. One is tempted to call it a "Waring," but I refuse to cast aspersions on Fred Waring without more evidence of his posthumous complicity. Perhaps we can call it a "Tesla," in honor of the unfairly maligned inventor of the AC current transmission system. Then again, I wouldn't want to further sully his memory, either.

Call it what you like -- the Waring Electric Martini Maker will not be under my Christmas tree this year or any other. I'm not a Luddite, even if I do prefer to chop my own vegetables, when making Salsa, instead of using an electric food processor. It's all about aesthetics. Give me the manually crafted beauty of a dry, translucent Martini (made with Gin, as all Martini aficionados agree), and keep the electricity out of my aperitif.

And if that isn't reason enough not to be experimenting with electricity and cocktails, try this review of the Waring Electric Martini Maker by Dave Wells:

Let's recap. You pay $99.95 (plus tax/shipping) for the machine. You measure the ingredients. You pour the ingredients. You add the ice. The machine wiggles the shaker - either up and down ('shaken') or in a circular motion ('stirred') probably for much longer than necessary. You pour the martini. You wash the jigger and the shaker. You find a place to store the bulky unitasking device. Wow, aren't modern conveniences wonderful?Indeed.

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Blogger Pmisiak said...

Fred Waring did not "invent" the Waring Blendor, but he did champion its development and introduction to the American public at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago in 1937. The original inventor/patent holder ran out of money and asked Fred to invest in his "Magic Mixer." Waring did and, as an inveterate tinkerer, began working on the mixer's rotor blades and the ball bearings. Waring also is credited with coming up with the Blendor's unique glass container design. The Blendor was not used just for drinks; specially designed Blendors were used in hospitals and laboratories as a way to blend medicines. Dr. Jonas Salk is said to have used one of these Blendors in the development of the polio vaccine. FYI--Fred Waring's favorite drink (other than the frozen strawberry Daiquiris he made in the Blendor) was vodka on the rocks with a twist of lemon...which was poured by a bartender and not mixed in a Blendor.

9:21 AM  
Blogger RSchuler said...

PMisiak --

I've written about Waring before -- see Household Sounds, from back in June. Vodka on the rocks with a twist -- I knew Waring wouldn't be a Frozen Daquiri guy!

9:15 PM  
Anonymous RevRev said...

You are such a clear concise writer. I admire your style. The great David Embury also pointed out that a Martini with a dash of bitters is called a "Golf," and that which we call a vodka martini is in fact a Kangaroo Cocktail. As you no doubt know, Embury detested vodka. BUT... I just made a couple of Martinis with the Waring gadget a device my wife is determined to remove from the household by hook or by crook. The shaken cocktail comes out much colder than the stirred (that is, spun) version but what is the point aside from a funny gadget? It reminds me of an adult version of Mr. Machine.
Speaking of 007, remember that in Live & Let Die (cinema), Bond whips up an espresso for M using his La Pavoni espresso maker. "Is that all it does," M asks snidely. Well, yes. The same can be said of the Waring Martini gizmo, but at least the La Pavoni does something exceptional (I own one, BTW). But anyone can shake a Martini (to waltz time as Nick Charles says).
I paid nothing for the Martini Maker, but at a list price of 190 simoleons, I wonder what the market is. Armless drunks? And did you go to Bradford, PA to replace a defective Zippo, perchance? And now I shall explore your blog. Thanks for the fun!

5:28 PM  

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