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A Martini Anthology

June 2024
2min read

“A Drink With Something in It”

There is something about a Martini , A tingle remarkably pleasant; A yellow, a mellow Martini; I wish I had one at present . There is something about a Martini , Ere the dining and dancing begin , And to tell you the truth , It is not the vermouth I think that perhaps it’s the gin .

—Ogden Nash (1935)

My True Friend

The first Martini I ever drank was strictly medicinal, for threatened seasickness, and in spite of a loyal enjoyment of them which may be increasing in direct ratio to my dwindling selectivity of palate, I must admit that I still find them a sure prop to my flagging spirits, my tired or queasy body, even my over-timid social I self. I think I know how many to drink, and when, and where, as well as why and if I have acted properly and heeded all my physical and mental reactions to them, I have been the winner in many an otherwise lost bout with everything from boredom to plain funk. A well-made Martini or Gibson, correctly chilled and nicely served, has been more . often my true friend than any two-legged creature.

—M. F. K. Fisher, “To the Gibson and Beyond” ( Atlantic , Jan. 1949)


Nobody seemed to notice the unusualness of a Martini at midnight, though Daylight looked sharply for that very thing; for he had long since learned that Martinis had their strictly appointed times and places. But he liked Martinis, and, being a natural man, he chose deliberately to drink when and how he pleased.

His tremendous vitality remained, and radiated from all his being, but it was vitality under the new aspect of the man-trampling man-conqueror. … In the North, he had drunk deeply and at irregular intervals; but now his drinking became systematic and disciplined…. Without reasoning or thinking about it, the strain of the office, which was essentially due to the daring and audacity of his ventures, required check or cessation; and he found, through the weeks and months, that cocktails supplied this very thine. They constituted a stone wall. He never drank during the morning, nor in office hours…. But the instant the business was finished, his everlasting call went out for a Martini, and for a double-Martini at that, served in a long glass so as not to excite comment.

—Jack London, Burning Daylight (1910)

British Accent

“Mr. Farley, [said Emily] would you like to mix a cocktail? If you have anything in mind. There’s gin and French and Italian vermouth, but we could just as easily have something else.”

“I like a Martini and so does Nancy.”

“I think a Martini,” said Emily.

“Tell Mrs. Liggett what you told me about shaking Martinis,” said Nancy.

“Oh, yes,” said Parley. “You know, like everyone else, I suppose, I’ve been going for years on the theory that a Martini ought to be stirred and not shaken?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ve always heard,” said Emily.

“Well, in London last year I talked with an English bartender who told me that theory’s all wrong. American, he said.”

“Scornfully,” said Nancy.

“Very scornfully,” said Paul.

“I can imagine very scornfully,” said Emily.

—John O’Hara, BUtterfield 8 (1935)

Attorneys Choice

Sometimes my mother goes to Virginia with her lawyer…. Here’s what he likes: Martinis.

—Kay Thompson, Eloise (1955)

Valor Reborn

There is a point where the marriage of gin and vermouth is consummated. It varies a little with the constituents, but for a gin of 95 proof and a harmonious vermouth it may be generalized as about 3.7 to one. And that is not only the proper proportion but the critical one; if you use less gin it is a marriage in name only and the name is not martini. You get a drinkable and even pleasurable result, but not art’s sunburst of imagined delight becoming real. Happily, the upper limit is not so fixed; you may make it four to one or a little more than that, which is a comfort if you cannot do fractions in your head and an assurance when you must use an unfamiliar gin. But not much more. This is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen magically along the edge of the forest and we believe that, if we watch carefully, at any moment we may see the unicorn. But it would not be a martini if we should see him.

—Bernard DeVoto, “For the Wayward and Beguiled” ( Harper’s , Dec. 1949)

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