In these economic times, it's hard to imagine anyone who doesn't long for a dry martini. But Jason Wilson in the Washington Post today asserts that the "post-war era dry martini" has gone the way of American exceptionalism. That is to say, down the drain.
"The Greatest Generation was great for many reasons," he writes. "But can we finally, at long last, be honest about one crucial thing? That generation's taste in martinis is awful." Wilson can't stand the entire ceremony around the classic cocktail, from the tired instruction to merely whisper the word "vermouth" to the celebration of "alcoholics" like Hemingway and Churchill, who just wanted an excuse to drink something containing only one ingredient. As for vodka, Wilson quotes Philip Greene, an ambassador for the Museum of the American Cocktail, who asserts, "James Bond did a lot of damage to martinis." Not only did he introduce vodka, explains Greene, but the whole idea of shaking.
In the end, Wilson makes a case for a new kind of martini, utilizing the benefits of contemporary gins and more cutting-edge vermouths. As for gin, "One of my new favorites is G'Vine Nouaison, a gin distilled in Cognac, France, with a botanical formula that includes green grape flowers," he writes. "And there have been big recent developments in the world of vermouth" as well. He recommends Noilly Prat's new recipe.
Indeed, Barack Obama has brought change to America and perhaps change should come to your apertif as well. But at the end of the day, though, a martini is intended to accomplish one thing. And that happens with or without vermouth and with gin—or vodka—both old and new.