Ahhh, the martini. The classic cocktail that casts a spell over men and women alike. Its reputation began well over a hundred years ago and continues to this day. Many have claimed to originate this classic drink, but only one can claim the title of creator of the martini…
Origins Of The Martini
Like many classic cocktails, martinis have experienced a resurgence with drinkers who like a touch of elegance and class. Once a simple mixture of gin and dry vermouth, there are literally hundreds of recipes for the drink today.
Martinis can be enjoyed as a cocktail made with gin, vodka, rum, and even whiskey. Like most drinks, it has its share of purists who claim only gin can make a martini. Gin does have the longest association with the cocktail, without question.
But how did the martini get its name?
For the answer, we need to go back some 140 years to the small California town of Martinez. It seems a bartender of French heritage invented the gin and dry vermouth concoction and named it after the town. The town still exists, about 40 miles northeast of San Francisco with a population of 36,000.
In any event, the name was slightly changed to martini, in honor of a brand of rifle that was well known to discharge quite a powerful shot of ammunition. Giving credence to the story is the presence of the word “martini” in a bartenders guide published in the early 1880’s.
Evolution Of The Martini
The famed Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City also lays claim to popularizing the drink, if not inventing it. The swanky bar in the hotel served many of the classic cocktail during the era around World War I. When Prohibition arrived, bootleggers found that gin was the easiest alcohol to distill, so despite being illegal, martinis were more popular than ever.
Not surprisingly, the popularity of the drink went through cycles. After a down time in the 1980’s and 90’s, it is back and more popular than ever. Hundreds of variations on the recipe have created new signature styles and tastes of martinis. Bartenders who create a new style can ride the crest of their concoction for years.
Some traditionalists insist a martini is made with gin and dry vermouth, period. However, the popularity of martini bars and themed martini parties has overwhelmed this sentiment. You can now find the drink, in various forms, from casual establishments to high end nightclubs and everywhere in between.
Martinis have been one of the most popular drinks in America for almost 140 years. They lend a certain air of class and sophistication to any occasion, but aren’t too staid and reserved to be fun and flirty.
And now you know the history, so be sure to impress your friends and guests with your knowledge of this classic cocktail!