Those Sex in the City girls started it all a few years back by standing around in their Manolo Blahniks and Jimmie Choos, sipping Cosmos, and since then, the martini craze seems to have taken over the entire country. Every restaurant menu now sports a baker’s dozen options in the category, often concocted with some pretty far out ingredients.
But I can’t even see the word ‘martini’ without remembering my introduction to the species many years ago. Mike and I had invited some friends over for a casual ‘grill out’ supper at our house and they brought along all the accoutrement for making martinis. Not the new fangled tutti fruity kind, mind you, but the classic martini, made the old fashioned way with gin, a touch of vermouth, and a twist of lemon or an olive. Shaken not stirred.
The evening began early and we were all in the kitchen and on the deck by the grill. The hot wings were cooking away, Mike was playing the guitar, we were all singing, laughing, and chopping, and our friend, Jayme, was shaking up martinis. Her then-husband, Jack, and I kept an eye on the wings, Mike kept on strumming, and Jayme kept on shaking and topping off the martini glasses. Nobody much was paying attention, we were just having fun, enjoying ourselves.
Then, all at once, Mike put down his guitar and–I am not making this up–stretched out, prostrate, right in the middle of the kitchen floor, mumbling something about how good the cool tiles felt on his cheek and to please help him get to the pool. Right.
It was about then that we all–well at least 75% of us–realized that we’d been imbibing from a bottomless martini glass, had had no food, and were all pretty well sloshed. Dinner was ready, so those still vertical ate. Those horizontal continued to mumble unintelligibly from the cool tiles.
The Great Martini Fiasco, as we referred to that evening in later years, represented the first–and last–time I partook of a martini for about 25 years. Based on that episode, we made a tacit agreement never to drink another one.
Then a few months ago, that decades-long ban ended at a favorite restaurant of ours in Santa Barbara, called Bucatini. (Italian, yes, but they’ve got a most delicious Vegetable Minestrone that doesn’t have a whisper of a noodle or potato in it along with plenty of hearty meat and poultry dishes on the menu, not just pasta and the pizzas.) I was in the mood for something different and saw on the menu a drink called a Santa Barbara Sunset. It was basically a juiced up vodka martini, made with pomegranate juice and a splash of lime juice.
It sounded refreshing; I ordered one; and it was. Thus endeth the martini embargo.
Then, on a recent trip to Michigan to see Mike’s folks, his two sisters surprised us after dinner the first night with a Pumpkin Pie dessert martini, complete with whipped cream on the rim. At first, I couldn’t get my head around the notion of a pumpkin cocktail in the abstract, but I have to say that in fact it was pretty yummy.
It was apple harvest time in Michigan while we were there, which necessitated a trip to the nearby Franklin Cider Mill for some fresh cider, which we duly brought home and turned into Apple Cidertinis that night. A martini concoction du jour became a theme of the trip. And we enjoyed them all.
Makes 2 cocktails
6 fresh cranberries (optional for garnish)
2 ounces cranberry juice, chilled
2 ounces vodka, chilled
1 teaspoon Chambord
2 ounces Hansen’s sugar-free ginger ale, chilled
2 curls of orange zest for garnish
1. In advance, thread 3 cranberries onto each of 2 cocktail spears or long toothpicks, wrap in plastic, and freeze for an hour or more.
2. In a cocktail shaker, place several ice cubes and the remaining ingredients. Shake and strain into a stemmed cocktail (martini) glass.
3. Place cranberry skewer into glass to garnish and as an icy-cold swizzle stick.
A word of warning: These are tasty. Do not top off indiscriminately. It’s hard to cook a turkey with your cheeks on the cool tiles. Happy Thanksgiving!