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If It’s 5 P.M. It’s Time for a Glorious Martini

By VIN SPARANO | Sep 04, 2019
Courtesy of: Vin Sparano The author indulges his martini passion at a Catskills lodge with a plate of fried baby trout.

At a recent checkup with my doctor, he asked all of those usual questions.

Did you fall down within the past year? Shortness of breath? How far can you walk? Then he started with the alcohol.

“Do you drink alcohol?”

“Yes,” I said.

“How often?”

“Every day.”

“How many drinks?”

One martini at 5 o’clock,” emphasizing the one.

“Vodka or gin?”

“Gin.”

“What kind?”

Now I’m starting to get a little uneasy about this line of questioning.

“Bombay Sapphire,” I answered.

“Isn’t that Bombay Sapphire great stuff?!” His tone immediately changed. “I worked my way through medical school as bartender. Keep it to one Bombay martini a day,” he said. “It’s good for you.”

Now that’s a great prescription! But what about these martinis? How did they become so solidly entrenched in our world? I think it might have been based on publicity. Some great men drink martinis and maybe we want to be like them. “Shaken, not stirred.” Who can ever forget those James Bond words? Bond has probably created more martini drinkers than anyone else in history.

It’s not just James Bond who turned me into a martini drinker. But first let me be clear on one issue. I do not like vodka martinis. In fact, the very first classic martini can be traced back to 1887, and it was mixed with gin ... not vodka. The New York Knickerbocker Hotel claims it invented the martini, but that’s not true. The first martini was mixed by Jerry Thomas, a bartender at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, in 1887.

So who are these great martini drinkers? Here are a few of them: George Burns, Winston Churchill, Humphrey Bogart, President Franklin Roosevelt, Frank Sinatra, Rodney Dangerfield, Fred Astaire. Here are words of praise from some other notables:

H.L. Mencken: “The martini: The only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.”

Norman Mailer: “Bright was the light of my last martini on my moral horizon.”

Jackie Gleason: “A man must defend his home, his wife, his children and his martini.”

George Burns, who lived to be 100, said, “I never go jogging; it makes me spill my martini.”

How can you argue with such great testimonials? The George Burns quote reminds me of the demise of my old friend Norman Dean, a fine English gentleman who actually wore ascots. Many years ago, Norman’s doctor told him he must no longer drink martinis. Gwendolyn, Norman’s wife, became the ultimate enforcer. No more martinis for Norman. Norman died a few months later. Coincidence? We’ll never know.

What goes into a martini besides gin and vermouth? I’ve tried them all: olives stuffed with bleu cheese, cocktail onions, pickled garlic cloves, tomolives and, if you can find them, pickled caper berries. You can also “dirty” your martinis with several drops of olive juice. For the record, when you put cocktail onions in a martini, it then becomes a “Gibson.”

I also have another hang-up. I collect martini glasses, especially ones with long stems. Martinis should be served frosty cold, and those long-stemmed glasses ensure that a martini will not warm too quickly. I always keep gin in the freezer along with my martini glasses, but a word of caution with those long-stemmed glasses. They become very fragile in your freezer and crack easily. For some reason, those long-stemmed glasses also seem to make my martinis taste better. Or at least make me look more sophisticated.

My real name is Bond ... James Bond! And it’s almost 5 o’clock.

Vin Sparano of Waretown, N.J., was a year-round resident of High Bar Harbor for over 20 years. His LBI roots go back decades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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