27 February 2009

Friday Belts - The Tiffany Martini

One classic deserves another.

I've always had a thing for the martini. But it's all about the details. For me, it has to be gin and it has to be very dry. There was once a bar in Philadelphia called Harry's. The bartender was better than the bar. Murray made the best martini I've ever had (other than my own) and when he poured it into the chilled glass on the bar - - I swear you could smell juniper from across the room. He's still one of the best barmen I know and can be found today in Philadelphia at the Westin in Liberty Place (the old Ritz Carlton).

For some contrast...back in the late 80's I ordered a martini in London. I was given a couple ounces of warm gin in a highball glass. London didn't get jiggy with martinis until the 90's. Duke's Hotel has a couple Italian bartenders who push around twee little carts and laugh at you if you ask for olives whilst they prepare your cocktail tableside. When I'm paying a small fortune for a cocktail I really don't need that kinda crap. Consequently, I've never returned. Buena fortuna, Tony!

Martinis have a well deserved reputation as being dangerous. Just like women's breasts...one's not enough and three's too many. It should be icy cold with a smidge of dilution from the shaken ice. Dry vermouth, while it has it's place, has no place here. I shake mine until the cold stainless steel shaker gives me frost bite and like so many things - - I like it a little dirty. The first sip should almost take your breath away. Use whatever gin you like. I followed Trad Dad and am a Beefeater man. I tried this stuff you see in the picture. Cheap. Very 60's bottle. Not bad for what it is. Anyway, I'm sure a bartender in South Kensington is microwaving a martini for some Yank right about now.

The sterling monogrammed buckle with alligator strap speaks to the crisp cold of the martini. Elegant, understated and simple. It's not a cheap proposition but you'll have it for donkey years. My plain buckle goes back to 1991 or '92 and I have an engine turned buckle from '87. The strap is Brooks Bros and I have no idea how old it is. At least 1992. Maybe earlier?

I remember paying $75 for the engine turned buckle. That's $3.40 a year for something that'll never go outta style and if you buy it from Tiffany they'll polish it free for life. Mine or the buckle's... I'm not really sure. "No, I just came in for a polish. May I look at the Crain's letter stock you fob off as your own while I wait?" $215 for a buckle today but what's it gonna cost in 2029? Hell, what's a martini gonna cost in 2029?


longwing said...

I've grown to love Martinis as I've aged. Though it's not the kind of thing I'm likely to mix up at home. More of an out on the town experience, which may not be so smart. It is just about time to put away the scotch and get going with the G & Ts though.

Nice belt.

Tony said...

Yes! I wholeheartedly agree with your choice of Martini ingredients - it has to be gin. And especially Beefeater.

Over here in the UK, every year they'll market some faux-Edwardian new fangled Gin on the market, and suddenly absolutely everyone will be using it for their martinis, darlink. Normally, I find these gins far too overpowering and botanical, ruining the overall cleanliness of taste.

I recommend Gin Martinis made by Gianfranco at Quo Vardis on Dean Street - In fact, I cannot wait to finish work now and scurry down there.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Nice piece of ... writing you got here.

Michael Rowe said...

Wonderful piece again, Tin. As good, or better, than anything of its genre I've read in GQ or Esquire. Well done.

Sartre said...

Hold on a minute. I'm not a martini guy but are you suggesting no vermouth at all with the martini?

Incidentally this may be apocryphal but I'd always understood that a martini was called "dry" because it uses dry (vs. sweet) vermouth -- that the modern notion of a martini being dry when it has a lesser proportion of gin is a bastardization of the original meaning.

dandy nihilism said...

Lovely blurb. Martini has to be gin.

It's a shame. Most of my peers don't even know how to order a martini.

jpe said...

I wholeheartedly agree on the Beefeater--for me, that's what a martini should taste like. It took me a while (and a lot of bad gin) to figure this out, but now there's no question.

I still haven't figured out the perfect olive brine though...

Tin-tin's phred/dad said...

Tin-tins phred/dad
Went from Beefeater to Bombay. Simple reason--caps on beefeater have been reduced to something resembling alum foil; bend easily, then leak.
Here's another favorite. "Taaka" brand. Cheap here at $8 for 1.75 ltr. Has a "distinct" gin flavor (swill? yes, but tasty). So many of the so-called top of the line gins are so ultra-refined they have no distinct flavor.
In the far east, I preferred a Polish gin that came in a clay crock. Knock your socks off!

initials CG said...

Cracked me up! By far, a great rant on boobs and booze... (by boobs, I mean those other bartenders who can't make a martini if their life depended on it...)

I wouldn't recommend getting a martini in any establishment in Rome (you have to ask for a "Cocktail Martini" to get something even remotely similar and at that point it's not even worth it....) I think it was really perfected in America. Though some of my doctor friends follow your recipe almost to the letter.

"One's not enough and three is too many...." I'm still laughing, even when I think about the 12 I had at a fund raiser in Seattle with my ex...no, especially when I think about it.

tintin said...

longwing- I agree with you. I've always been seasonal with the hooch. My G&T gin of choice is Plymouth. Tastes great and has a very low alcohol content - - somewhere in the 60s. Otherwise, two G&Ts on an empty stomach and I start my Robert Wagner impression.

Tony- I'll check out Quo Vardis but no one comes close to mine. Although, my Dad didn't think so. He fired me from making his martinis when I was 14 and replaced me with my sister.

Tessa- Cheers. Very nice of you to say. And you read. A lot.

Michael- Very nice of you to say and you're published. A lot.

Sarte- The code for ordering a martini without any vermouth is "very dry." I guess it would make better sense to order, "Gin, up with olives. Shaken. But that strikes me as vulgar.

dandy- Educate them. I did when I was in college. I just wish someone taught me a cure for the gin hangover. One of the worst.

jpe- I like the blue cheese olive brine. The saltiness of the brine is mellowed out with the creaminess of the blue cheese. A delightful pairing with those little French cheddar cheese crackers that come in a blue and yellow tin and cost a small fortune.

Dad-Most of the caps are like that nowadays. Still, I grew up on the olives you'd feed me from your martini and nothing comes close to an olive soaked in Beefeater.

tintin said...

cg- 12? I had 7 one night. Before dinner. The worst hangover of my life. Was it Bogart who said, switching from Scotch to Gin is gonna take at least 10 years off my life."

Ben said...

A Tiffany belt buckle? I've never thought of it, and I think I shall, thank you very much! Your amortization is a brill argument at almost any price.

And I think I'll have a Martini, too. And yes, only my own will do. As it should be.

Ben said...

... Oh and for me it's Bombay, but I must admit I've never had anything with Beefeater in it as far as I know.

M.Lane said...

Great job. I am a martini man too. I do like a bit of vermouth though.

Were you ever posted in Columbus GA? I was in the [now defunct] Hilton there one night and ordered a martini. The bartender didn't know how to make one. I asked her if she had vermouth. No idea. Conrad was by this time spinning in his grave I am certain. No wonder they lost the franchise.

I have two great Tiffany buckles, a turned one and a plain one. Gifts from my Irish Redhead on anniversaries. I just love wearing them with a BB strap that is at least 10 yrs old.

Thanks for the great starter for the weekend. Now where did I put those olives....?


ADG said...

I just want to learn to write as well as you and Sartre!

Agreed re the comments on the subject,writing style, etc. Merking used to write engaging stories similar to this in GQ tweny years ago.

Martinis...I love 'em but the gin just works on me the next day...regardless of brand. I do though, love the lore around the Martini. Surely you've read Barnaby Conrad's book.

I also loved reading in Paul Mellon's biography...Refelctions in a Silver Spoon...his martini ritual. He preferred a mongrel consisting of 50-50 gin/vodka.

There's a guy here in DC...at the Town and Country bar in the Mayflower Hotel...been there for 30 years...his martinis are legendary.

tintin said...

Ben- Try the Beefeater but I'll admit gin is like comfort food. I grew up eating my old man's martini olives hence my dedication to the Beefeater. I just wish they'd bring back that frosted glass bottle.

M Lane- Did Infantry and Jump school at Benning / Columbus. I was more interested in strippers and beer in those days. That and getting outta there.

ADG- I'm flattered and did hit the Mayflower a couple of times during my residence in Old Town. I have Conrads book but never knew about Mellon. Will check it out.

Anonymous said...

When you look at bartenders' manuals from the early and mid-century you'll notice the recipes required quite a bit more vermouth than is used today.

I prefer ordering a martini with a lemon twist. It just looks like it's having more fun than the olive martinis.


robin said...

i have a ton of these old buckles (not tiffany, but the same type)...the problem is finding the belt of the right thickness, without holes and that snaps on. sigh.