Yesterday we spoke on Martini & Rossi and their Rosso vermouth, in particular. In that discussion, we observed that Martini & Rossi had effectively made itself synonymous with vermouth and, indeed, the Martini by its very namesake. Due to M&R’s aggressive marketing started in 1867, the early ancestor of today’s Rosso version was widely available (and likely cost-efficient) in the mixology-crazed circles of London and New York. So, when Harry “The Dean” Johnson published The New and Improved Illustrated Bartenders’ Manual in 1882, a full fifteen years into M&R’s campaign, he included two drink recipes starring Italy’s famed potion.
The Martini has a contested history. Like the Manhattan, it too has supporters and opponents of a flurry of creation stories; notable among them is Professor Jerry Thomas’s Martinez Cocktail, which never actually appeared in a Thomas publication until 1887. Though like the Manhattan, one man owned it, and also like the Manhattan, the Martini underwent a series of modifications in the time between then and now. The two recipes provided in Harry Johnson’s 1882 Bartenders’ Manual were for the Martini and the Bradford à la Martini–two drinks of subtle variation, both using Old Tom Gin, Italian Vermouth (logically, Martini) and a bitters (Boker’s and orange, respectively).
The Bradford à la Martini
- 1.25 oz. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
- 1.25 oz. Martini & Rossi Rosso vermouth
- 3 or 4 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s #6 was used)
Build all ingredients in a mixing glass over ice. Stir well and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a green olive.
Oddly, the original recipe for the Bradford called for it to be shaken, whereas the original recipe for the Martini called for it to be stirred. It’s a gin-based cocktail sans citrus, so stir it.
Neither the Bradford nor the Martini are the “Silver Bullet” that the modern Martini has become. Changing American tastes effectively replaced the sweet vermouth for dry by the time Thomas Stuart published his 1896 book, Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them, in which Stuart “perfected” Harry Johnson’s Marguerite Cocktail and birthed the modern Martini as a 2:1 Plymouth gin to dry vermouth formula with a dash of orange bitters. In The Mixellany Guide to Vermouth & Other Aperitifs by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller, the authors remark on why the Martini became dryer, citing,
The Martini went bone dry when Nazi forces occupied France and Italy, bringing vermouth exports to a virtual standstill. Confronted with open bottles that were months old, aficionados passed the soured vermouth bottle over the shaker instead of pouring in a single drop.
This would appear to be the vital moment in history when the Martini turned the corner and became the dry version so many enjoy today. It has its faults though, and a few have recognized it, as Brown and Miller earlier cite an anonymous writer, quoting,
I’m not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube. I’m talking satin, fire, and ice. Fred Astaire in a glass. Surgical cleanliness. Insight and comfort. Redemption and absolution. I’m talking a Martini.
If he’s talking a Martini then he’s talking Harry Johnson’s original recipes because the Martini and the Bradford, in the ilk of Johnson, truly are satin, fire and ice. Fred Astaire in a glass, then. Bartender? I think I’ll have another.