Screaming Orgasm, Sex On The Beach, Side Car, Sazerac, Salty Dog, Singapore Sling, Slippery Nipple, Stinger, Shirley Temple, Slow Comfortable Screw, Snakebite, Sombrero, Surfer on Acid, and Screwdriver. All of these are cocktails I can think of that start with the letter S. If I walk into a bar and order them by name I know what I will get. How did we get saddled with the Chocolate Martini?
In the old days, it was a bartender’s job to come up with the recipe and name it. Needless to say, we got some awesome cocktails with imaginative names. Recently, every time I walk into a bar I hear people ordering Apple, Chocolate, or a Raspberry-tinis. The original Martini was such a simple, classic drink that it became a Gibson if you put onions in it instead of olives or a twist. There was dry, in and out, rocks or up.
I am told the messing up of the fine tradition of naming a cocktail, and the pathetic use of Martini to describe any drink in an up glass, can be traced to and blamed on Hollywood. This may just be because I love a good advertising-screwing-up-America anecdote, but here is the urban legend I like best. In the original James Bond books, Bond drank a 50-50 gin and vodka Martini, somehow showing his British, Russian duality. However when the first film was to be released, Smirnoff, the American vodka company, paid United Artists to have Bond’s drink of choice change to the now-famous “vodka Martini,” shaken, not stirred. As they’d hoped it would, the drink took off and every American gave up on the sanctity of tradition and, in order to sound cool, starting ordering vodka Martinis. Eventually, people began ordering Martinis and expecting them to be vodka drinks. From there it was an easy step to all up drinks being labeled Martinis because they came in a “Martini glass.” Bars and restaurants started publishing “Martini menus” which included drinks like the Manhattan (which, being mainly a whiskey drink, probably predates the Martini by years, because gin only truly came into vogue during prohibition because of how easy it was to make in a bathtub).
Demand more from your bartenders. When they create a drink, encourage them to give it an original name, learn how they make it, and when you are at your next bar tell the bartender you want one. When he asks how it is made, tell him. Now he will know, and you may be encouraging the next Cosmo, or Kamikaze, or Rob Roy.
The Martini is a classic drink and a rite of passage. It is gin, some small part dry vermouth and, if you have enough tradition, maybe you’ll wash the ice with either bitters or Cointreau. Stir it in a tall metal canister with a long spoon, never shake, serve in a chilled up glass with a speared olive or twist, and love the creativity it inspires.
Be warned: all of my friends and family get belligerent when I drink gin, which I feel just ads to the fun, but your circle may not enjoy debate as much as mine.