So after reading up on the matter (Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits by Jason Wilson & Imbibe by David Wondrich), I see that the original martini is a completely different animal than the spartan olive-wielding martinis of today. A mix of Old Tom Gin and Italian vermouth; two items that are sweet. The result is a ruddy brown or amber-colored sweet and complex drink that has almost no similarity to today’s dry martini. The original martini is much more like a manhattan. In fact invented today it might be called a gin manhattan. Whether it is the fault of prohibition or the London Dry Gin lobbyists (a tough crowd I’m sure), I don’t know how the change happened, or when. The crux of the issue is if you ask for a martini today, we get something that is way different. Recently after asking for a martini and specifying gin I received a glass of shaken gin with no vermouth at all. To me this actually disqualifies the drink as a cocktail at all. Sure, sure the vermouth at said bar was probably months old and was not refrigerated, thus rendering it foul and stinky. So I drank my cup-0 gin and thought about ordering something else – like a scotch – something easier than, say, a challenging two ingredient cocktail.
I like trying classic cocktails, and tasting with a scence of nostalgia and history, but I have a cultural impression of what a martini is supposed to be. So where is this disconnect? When did the classic cocktail change forever? Is the classic martini even relevent?