June 19: National Martini Day

FDR MartiniLadies and gentlemen, let us raise a glass to that king of cocktails, The Martini. According to the internet today is National Martini Day. Why? I don’t know, but I’m not going to argue with the internet, so let’s have a drink!

The Martini’s history is oddly murky. What we know for sure is that its origins can be traced to the late 19th century when drinks combining gin and dry vermouth started appearing in bartending books. Much like hip-hop in the early 90s, there’s a bit of a West Coast/East Coast feud going on. The drink’s name is probably a spin on an older drink called the Martinez, which shares some ingredients and preparation style. It’s said that the Martinez was popular at San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel in the 1860s, and was named for the nearby town of Martinez, California. However, the old Knickerbocker Hotel in New York also made a claim to creating the Martini. It’s also said that its name comes from the Italian vermouth company Martini.

No matter where it was born, we do know that the rise of illegal gin during Prohibition made the Martini quite popular in America, to the point that now lots of less classy bars will call any drink served in a cocktail glass a Martini, and that’s just wrong. In fact, the popular “vodka Martini” is in fact an old drink called a Kangaroo.

Anyhow, a normal Martini is two ounces of gin with a half ounce of dry vermouth, stirred with ice, poured into a cocktail glass and garnished with an olive. However, I want to introduce you to the special recipe of one of history’s great Martini lovers: President Franklin Roosevelt. FDR was well known for his Martinis, and in fact waited patiently until Midnight of December 5th, 1933 so he could make a Martini to celebrate the end of Prohibition. FDR’s recipe is a variation on the Dirty Martini with a bit of olive brine, and just like James Bond, Roosevelt enjoyed his Martinis shaken, not stirred.

FDR’s Martini

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 1 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon olive brine

Rub a lemon peel around the rim of a chilled cocktail glass. Shake the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-filled with crushed ice, strain in to the glass, garnish with an olive.

Tomorrow: An orange drink to celebrate a blues movie.

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