Friday, July 8, 2011

My First Dirty Martini


I am, as all true drinkers should be, a martini snob.  But one should -- nay, must! -- keep an open mind about all serious matters.  So, at the Chestnut Grill the other day, while Marianne had one of their superb Grill gimlets, I tried, for the first time, a dirty martini.  Here's my review:

my first dirty martini

At first sip, the dirty martini comes across as being distinctly . . . well, the word that comes to mind is martiniesque.  It doesn't do a violence to the concept of martinis, the way that adding fruit juice or chocolate or Pepto Bismol and then sticking a little paper umbrella in the resulting abomination does.  All the addition of olive juice actually achieves is to bring up the flavor of the olives too strongly.  The same thing could be achieved more exuberantly by filling the glass with a handful of olives and pouring the martini over them -- and then you'd have a meal to go with your drink!  It would almost be health food.

And yet . . . and yet.  We are talking about a drink so finnicky that the mere substitution of a pickled onion for the canonical olive-or-lemon-peel turns it into a completely different drink -- the Gibson.  By the eighth sip, I began to feel that the olive juice was just a bit much, a little, dare I say, gimmicky.

Hard drink scholars and cocktail rabbis will doubtless be arguing over this one for centuries to come.  But for a martini-wallah such as myself, this sense of near-excess is the killer.  The martini is a perfect drink, and it achives this perfection in part by not trying too hard.  The dirty martini tries too hard.  So it is merely an almost-martini, a martini-like drink.

Those pink things with celery stalks and multicolored sprinkles only wish they could achieve so much.

Above:  There it is, the semi-distinguished thing, after the eighth sip.



Keith Ferrell said...

You caught the essence of the drink perfectly, near your close: almost-martini and martini-like.

Because, like unique, martinis don't take modifiers well, if at all.

Of course I still have trouble accepting the fact that when I order one I have to say "gin martini," which in a just and happier world would be self-evident to even the least capable bartenders.

This is the second time you've mentioned the martini, and the second time your encomia to the perfect drink suggested a trip to the bar for some Cheever.

But this time I won't be ordering John: my copy of your Dancing got here for my birthday! (I am going to sip some gin as I read, though, you bet.)


Michael Swanwick said...

I hope you enjoy the book.

The chief virtue of vodka being its lack of flavor, I have never understood why anybody would employ it in a martini. Takes all kinds, I guess.

A good gimlet, on the other hand, benefits from the choice of vodka over gin. Go figure.