Martini the Brief history: From California to James Bond
“I never go jogging, it makes me spill my martini.” – George Burns
The Martini has stood the test of time; it’s the Mona Lisa of the cocktail world, a genuine classic. However the origins of the Martini is shrouded in history. Theories range from the romantic to the implausible. With no clear winner, here are some of our favourites:
- The Martinez
Some argue that the Martinez was the precursor to the Martini. Legend has it that Jerry Thomas created the cocktail in San Francisco in the 1870s after a customer wanted a special cocktail in return for a piece of gold. The customer made a pit stop on his way back to Martinez, California and thus the cocktail was born. The first known record of the recipe can be found in OH Byron’s ‘The Modern Bartender” published in 1884 as a twist on the Manhattan.
- Italian Connection
Another story for the romantics is the Martini was born in the early 1900’s by Italian bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia, at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City. Again you want to believe that this is true however Harry Johnson published the first known recipe for a Martini in 1888 in his seminal book “Bartender Manual” so the dates don’t quite match up.
An alternative theory is that the martini was simply a branding exercise named after the Italian vermouth ‘Martini & Rosso’ which was launched in 1863. Customers would ask for a ‘martini and gin’, which was simplified to a ‘Martini’.
We will probably never know the true origins of the cocktail, but the one thing we do know is the debate around the Martini doesn’t stop here.
“Shaken Not Stirred”
– Chris Capaldi
No person real or fictional is associated more with the Martini than James Bond. But in Ian Fleming’s classic ‘Casino Royale’ James Bond ordered a Vesper made of part gin and part vodka to symbolise the double agent Vesper Lynd, the love of his life. After Vesper committed suicide, Bond never drank the cocktail again. However the line “shaken not stirred” was uttered and the rest is cinematic history.
So should a Martini be shaken or stirred?
Stirring gives the bartender more control over dilution, as opposed to shaking which causes much faster dilution with the breakdown of ice. Shaking also causes more oxidation, which adds a cloudy appearance to the martini. A Vesper should be “shaken, not stirred” as mixing the vodka and gin requires faster dilution than stirring. However as with everything related to the Martini there is no definitive answer and many bartenders still choose to stir their Vespers.
Now we’ve cleared all that up; watch out for our second instalment where we explore Martini techniques and recipes using our field to bottle vodka and gin.