A martini; photograph by Ralf Roletschek (roletschek.at) via Wikimedia Commons

Phaidon’s Upskill Sessions - How to Make a Really Good Martini

Self-isolation isn’t an end to self-improvement. Use this time to master those skills normal life got in the way of

What are you doing with your time under lockdown? We hope you've found time to improve your life a little bit. That’s why we’ve been excerpting a series of expert guides to culinary tasks that may currently lie beyond your skill set. Here's one you might want to try at the end of the day. 

The martini is a fairly straightforward bar basic but one that many amateur cocktail makers still manage to snarl up. And it's so worth getting it right. The late, great New York barman and proprietor, Sasha Petraske, founder of Manhattan’s legendary Milk and Honey bar regarded the drink as one of a handful from which all others are derived. “Sasha taught that just about every cocktail was a variation of one of five types of drinks: the Old Fashioned, the Martini or Manhattan, the Sour, the Highball, or the Fix,” writes his wife, Georgette Petraske, in her book, Regarding Cocktails

It isn’t actually a very difficult drink to master either; as fellow barman Abraham Hawkins explains, the drink is “total simplicity; just straightforward technique and execution. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that a proper martini is dry, but Sasha’s martini was as wet as I’ve ever seen—a straight 2:1 ratio, and with gin unless otherwise specified.

“At the Petraske bars, stirred drinks are, as a rule, built to 3-ounce liquid volume. You would often see Sasha bent low, inspecting the washlines of each round of drinks that were about to go out. He always said that the end goals were a drink that was as cold as possible ('no such thing as a too-cold drink') and the appropriate water content."


Regarding Cocktails
Regarding Cocktails

“All classic Martini garnishes complement the drink, and a lemon twist, potently aromatic and bitter, has to be applied with a light touch. Once I saw Sasha order a Martini with a twist from one of his bartenders, and the bartender squeezed every bit of oil from the twist over the drink. Sasha tasted it and handed it back for him to taste. All you could taste and smell, he said, was the lemon peel, all the balance gone. He wasn’t mad or mean about it— just teaching, as always.”

Care to imbibe a little of that wisdom. Well, here’s what you need: 1 oz (30 ml) of dry vermouth; 2 oz (60 ml) of gin; and an olive, a cocktail onion, or a lemon twist, for garnish. 

Combine the vermouth and gin in a frozen mixing glass. Fill to the top with ice and stir until the drink is sufficiently chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with the olive, cocktail onion, or lemon twist. 

For more potable knowledge from these guys, order a copy of Regarding Cocktails, the only book from the late Sasha Petraske, the legendary bartender who changed cocktail culture with his speakeasy-style bar Milk and Honey.