There are some things that simply shouldn't be messed with. Take, for instance, a recent article where some hot Euro chef was "deconstructing" tiramisu and making it with almond foam and fava beans or something equally ridiculous. Another flagrant example is the current craze that takes the classic recipe for a martini (gin, a hint of dry vermouth and ice) and uses some tarted-up infusion like mandarin blossom vodka that is then shaken with ice to create a "Mandarin Blossom Martini."
Forget that simply shaking alcohol and ice does not a cocktail make. Forget that using vodka and calling it a martini is simply wrong and, according to NYTimes spirits editor Eric Asimov, should properly be called a "vodkatini if you must, but not a martini. Gin and vodka have as much in common hierarchically as a president and a vice president. Vodka can fill in for gin from time to time and might even be given certain ceremonial duties of its own, but at important moments you need the real thing."
And one other thing. There seems to be a penchant developing for using whole olives, pits and all, at certain local establishments instead of the usual pitted olives. Now, I'm not a huge fan of pimento-stuffed olives in my martinis, since they are usually inferior quality olives and taste mostly of vinegar. And we do have a huge selection of very good quality olives to choose from in this town, with olive bars springing up not only in gourmet shops like City Market and upper-level supermarkets like Zupans, but in otherwise pedestrian places like Fred Meyer and Safeway.
But, please, whole olives are meant for eating by themselves. Sticking a skewer in them and plunking them in a cocktail is not only awkward to consume but defeats the purpose of the olive, which is to gently flavor the martini and, in return, to be flavored by the alcohol as it swims in the drink. A pitted olive, because it's hollow inside, can absorb the flavor of the martini and can easily be popped in the mouth with no half-chewed pit sitting unattractively on the table.
So, you bartenders out there, please resist the siren song of the au courant. Some things are best left unadulterated. And, for good measure, here's a recipe for a perfect martini for those who want to know.
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Dave's Perfect Martini
Makes 2 martinis
2 1/2 oz. gin (preferably Boodles, but any good gin will do)
Splash of dry vermouth (around a teaspoon)
Olives (your choice, but we're currently fond of anchovy-stuffed Spanish olives)
Fill shaker 3/4 full of ice. Add vermouth, then gin. Shake five to six seconds and pour into chilled martini glasses. Add olives on a pick. Serve.