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More Martini Lore

February 2024
1min read

It was the second day of my only stint as a bartender in Sun Valley, Idaho, and I was busily occupied fulfilling the hydration needs of customers in the Calico, a Trader Vic’s—like restaurant and bar. Madly mixing exotic tropical concoctions, I was interrupted by April, a somewhat surly and impatient food server, who launched a mega-order of drinks at me. I wrote them down and began assembling a diversified portfolio of spirits. Unable to define one, I hurried over to the drink mix book and began thumbing through it. April asked what I was doing, and I explained that though I knew how to make a regular martini, I wasn’t sure how to make a vodka martini.

With a withering look of disgust, April ordered me to grab a chilled martini glass, wash and empty it of dry vermouth, pour in some vodka and stick in an olive. “And?” I asked.

Contemptuously, she said, “That’s a vodka martini!” and stomped off with her order. A little later, she returned and urgently yelled, “I need a damp rag! ” I ran again to the recipe book and began madly leafing through the pages. “What the hell are you doing?” she demanded. “I’ve never made a Damp Rag,” I replied with a smirk. The bar patrons applauded as April’s face reddened deeply before she bolted across the restaurant. There truly is something about a martini!

P.S. : I couldn’t help but notice that in the article about James Cagney and George M. Cohan, “My God, What an Act to Follow!,” rehearsals had just begun for the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy when the Pearl Harbor bombing was announced, and the play opened on Broadway on May 29, 1942, the evening of my birth in a concentration camp for Americans of Japanese ancestry at the Tanforan racetrack, across Highway 101 from what is now San Francisco International Airport. Previously I had only known that Bob Hope celebrated my birthday and JFK’s. Thanks for the (new) memories.

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