Wednesday, May 25, 2005

"Martini"

What's with the overapplication of the term "Martini"? Here's what goes into a martini -- at least enough vermouth to coat the container, and then some gin. Maybe some olives or lemon peel. You leave out the vermouth entirely, and you're drinking gin. The phrase "vodka martini" is to be understood like "toy gun", "counterfeit money", or "nonalcoholic beer." Random fluids do not become martinis by being poured into a Y-shaped glass. (They may still be good to drink.)

6 comments:

Bill said...

Wow, you are even more strict about this topic than I am!

The Martini coctail is named for Martini e Rossi, which is a brand of vermouth. No vermouth == No martini. I have given in to allow the vodka to replace the gin, but have always felt a little dirty about it. After all a Whiskey and Vermouth has its own name. Heck, even Gin and Vermouth garnished with an onion is not called a martini (its called a gibson).

I wonder if Martini e Rossi has ever sued anyone for trademark infringement/ dilution of brand.

Matt said...

I think the idea that a Marini is named afer the Martini e Rossi brand of Vermouth is a myth- there was an article in Harpers many years ago that pointed out that people were calling a mixture of Vermouth and Gin a Martini many years before the Martini e Rossi brand of vermouth came on the market, though the exact origin of the martini name is obscure. I can't say that's right, but the article was pretty convincing. (Wikipedia seems to confirm that the origins of the drink "martini" are distinct from the brand of vermouth.) (In Russia people will often offer you a "martini". What they mean is _just_ martini e rossi vermouth, usually sweet vermouth- an awful drink.) But, it's certainly right to say that putting something in a "martini" glass no more makes it a martini than putting milk in a coffee mug makes it coffee.

Bill said...

While the coctail that the modern Martini probably orriginated from, the Martinez, has nothing to do with the Vermouth brand, I thought that the confusion in name did come after the martin brand of vermouth was popularized. I could be wrong, probably am, and will do more research.

I hereby renounce calling vodka and vermouth a martini, but will still consider it a "martini-like coctail", analogous to the manhattan. I do not have a proper name for this vodka drink.

Mixtures of vodka and apple, or whatever else have you, are categorically not martinis. They are coctails, which is a perfectly respectable class of mixed drink, of which the Martini is one, but not all.

Can we purists reverse this trend?

Neil Sinhababu said...

Well, I don't endorse total rejection of the term "vodka martini." I just want people to see it like "toy gun". A toy gun isn't a gun, and a vodka martini isn't a martini. The expressions are still usable, though.

When I had finished all my gin but still had gimlet and martini stuff left over, I would sometimes mix 1 part Rose's lime juice with 3 parts dry vermouth over ice. It wasn't bad.

Julian Elson said...

That's interesting. Have you read Peter T. Geach's "Good and Evil?" "Vodka," if this is case, becomes an attributive adjective, rather than a predicative one. This is ironic because "materials" adjectives, along with colors, seem like they should be among the few predicative adjectives around (along with colors). Vodka, in this case, serves as an alienans adjective to martini.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I haven't, Julian. But Al Martinich, the wise old philosopher of language who sensitized me to this use of attributive adjectives, probably has.