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No Thanks
(she'll have her's 'up')
First: shaken or stirred? Yes, it was bound to come up eventually. The martini is stirred. Bond be damned.

Vigorous shaking is necessary to dissolve, distribute, or emulsify some of the more stubborn cocktail ingredients: citrus juices, dairy, egg, etc. — all need a good thrashing with some ice cubes before they play nicely with others. A martini does not benefit from the extra drama. Fact is, some serene fellow in the French countryside put his toil and intelligence into that vermouth, and beating the ever-loving piss out of it is downright un-gentlemanly. It also makes a helluva lot of work out of something very simple.

Stirring is easy, graceful, and offers a lot of control. It keeps the liquid clear as a bell (no air bubbles) and does not result in a bunch of jarringly crunchy ice chips floating smugly about your glass, over-diluting your careful work. I use a specially designed stirring vessel, but anything clean will work. You will lose some heat (well, cold) to large, glass vessels — I store mine in the freezer — but if you use plenty of ice, it won’t negatively impact your dilution. Just understand that you are chilling the vessel as well as the ingredients.

A bar spoon looks sexy, but a chopstick also works great. Trick is, hold it like a pencil and swirl it around the outside edge of the glass without moving your wrist — it takes a little practice. I find clockwise with my right hand the easiest direction. The whole idea is to minimize effort while swirling the ice around in the glass, which is all the mixing action you want or need. David Wondrich uses the phrase “waltz it around with some ice.” He is spot-on.

Use a julep strainer or a Hawthorne strainer to hold back the ice; style points for leaving the spoon in the glass while pouring. If you are going to buy a strainer, get the Hawthorne. It’s more versatile.

Lastly, the serving glass. A martini glass is iconic and functional. Perhaps it is no coincidence that its upwardly drawn, V-shaped silhouette is favored by men in tuxedos. It is also designed to preserve the drink’s chill. The martini is separated from its ice so it doesn’t over-dilute during consumption, but this means it will gradually warm to room temp. Thus, a stemmed glass is employed, allowing the drinker to hold it without warming the drink with his hand. Straining a chilled cocktail into a stemmed glass is called serving it “up” or “straight up,” as in up off the bar and as opposed to “neat” (room/cellar temp, no ice) or “on the rocks.”

Since the whole point of serving a drink up is to preserve coldness, it is imperative that you chill the glass before you begin mixing. Fill it with water and ice or put it in the freezer for a few minutes prior to service. With the first sip of a diligently prepared martini, a slight breath across the drink chills to vapor, as on a cold day, and one experiences a slight throb at the temples, so reminiscent of the ice cream headaches of childhood. Its effect is magical, and, more importantly, it lets the drinker know he is in good hands. Afford yourself the discipline to prepare something beautiful. Every time.

Homework: If you do not already own a pair, go and buy some stemmed cocktail glasses. Find something that inspires you to make wonderful cocktails — the wand chooses the wizard here. It’s YOUR cocktail set, after all, so have fun. The shrewd man will be thrilled to discover the quality and selection of vintage glassware available at most Goodwill stores (and for $3, he won’t cry when breaks a glass by accident in a couple months).

Drink well.


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