My boycott of Wal-Mart and other, rapacious big-box stores never extended to Borders, and I’m sorry to see it go; it was often the book-end to a Whole Foods visit. But the so-long sale did yield one benefit: a slim volume on martinis. Some purists would suggest that the book could have been even slimmer — say a page or two on the drink’s disputed origins (most at least agree that it was an American invention), a discussion of the absurdity of the just-whisper-vermouth-in-the-vicinity faction, a lament over James Bond’s subversion of the classic drink by subbing vodka for gin and then instructing it be shaken, not stirred, and then a recipe. Just one recipe.
The Martini Book, however, offers “201 Ways to Mix the Perfect American Cocktail.” Apparently anything served in a martini glass deserves the name, and I have no interest in mixing up an Alternatini with vodka, both sweet and dry vermouths, crème de cacao, cocoa powder and a Hershey’s Kiss garnish. But the book did start me thinking about how regional variations on a classic do come about. What if I were to look for something less Big Apple and more Big Hair, for example? Less savoir-faire and more county fair. Accordingly, the following recipes, all based on the same proportions and all variations on a “dirty” martini theme. For the record, all were stirred in a pint Mason jar to promote a more “kuntry” attitude.
2 1/2 oz gin (I used Citadelle)
1/2 oz dry vermouth (I used Dolin in all cases) a scant 1/2 oz. juice from a jar of pickled okra (start with less if skeptical) one pickled okra (or a half sliced on a long diagonal) for garnish
Fill pint jar at least halfway with ice, pour in all liquid ingredients, stir for about 30 seconds, strain into a chilled martini glass. Skewering the okra lengthwise with a sprig of fresh rosemary is both attractive and handy for retrieving it after it has absorbed some gin. There are several brands of pickled okra out there. I used Tabasco’s. Note: In deference to the Lone Star State, I tried this first with Dripping Springs Vodka but preferred it with gin.
The Jolive Martini
You’ll need jalapeño-stuffed olives for this one. Again, proceed as before, being cautious about the amount of juice used. This was the one case where I preferred the bluntness of vodka. Possible mas macho variations include skewering the olive in tandem with a slice of fresh jalapeño. Using barbed wire as a super-Texas skewer, however, is not recommended; you never know where it’s been.
First, purchase a bottle of Old South Tomolives, “since 1947,” a proprietary product that looks pretty much like olives but has a fruitier flavor. Use two of them and proceed exactly as with the okratini in both quantities and procedure. The Tomatini juice works very well with the aromatic gin and vermouth — another reason not to be a martini whisperer.