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Shaken Not Stirred

Pictured left to right: Chocolate Mint Martini, Gin Rickey, Sidecar

The ruination of the classic martini

It’s sleek and sexy. It shimmers and glistens in its precariously perched glass. Its clear liquid kisses the rim. Unabated, unforgiving, and dangerous, it dares you to slowly take it in. The feel in your mouth, as you savor it for a moment before you swallow, is a moment of ecstasy.

Stump your bartender: Five classic cocktails that aren't a martini

The Sidecar

This cocktail first appeared in Paris and London in the years immediately following World War Two. What follows is the classic French recipe. An “English School” sidecar doubles up on the cognac.

1 part Cognac
1 part Cointreau
1 part lemon juice

Shake over ice and pour into sugar-rimmed glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

The Singapore Sling

Originating at Singapore’s Raffles Hotel, the original did not use club soda.

1/2 oz gin
1 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz sugar syrup
1 1/2 tsp powdered sugar
2 oz club soda
1/2 oz cherry brandy

Pour the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and powdered sugar into a shaker with ice cubes, shake, and strain into a highball glass with ice cubes. Add the club soda, then float the cherry brandy on top by pouring it over the back of a spoon. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a Maraschino cherry.

The Algonquin

Named for the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, where wit and alcohol met, married, and gave birth to Dorothy Parker.

2 parts rye whiskey
1 part dry vermouth
1 part pineapple juice

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Saratoga

Invented in the late 1800s, this cocktail is essentially a Manhattan with a little something extra, and therefore suited to the toney spa and horseracing town that gives the drink its name.

1 part brandy
1 part whiskey
1 part sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice, stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

The Gin Rickey

Named after Colonel Joe Rickey, a DC insider who died in 1903, this is a refreshing alternative to the gin and tonic.

2 oz gin
juice of 1 lime
club soda

Fill a highball glass with ice, add gin and lime juice, and top with club soda. Garnish with a slice of lime.

The martini.

The making of a martini is a true art form. There is a ritual involved. A chilled glass, a shaker of ice, tall slim bottles of distilled liquid, and a variety of classic accoutrements are the necessary items in the dance of the drink. Call it foreplay.

The allure of the martini is undeniable but the creation of this perfect cocktail is shrouded in mystery. Fashioned back in the latter portion of the 19th-century, the martini has a history.

It is commonly accepted that Julio Richelieuin, a barkeep in Martinez, California, concocted the chilly beverage for a coalminer. When the patron inquired as to the name of this new potion, Richelieuin quickly answered, “the Martinez.” However, it is also believed that the martini takes its name from the Martin and Henry rifle used by the British army. They both “shared a strong kick.”

While the true origins of the martini may remain clouded, its resurgence into the world of tasty adult beverages has been fierce. The martini is more than just a staple on a happy hour menu, it has transformed into an iconic cocktail. Martini lists reign supreme.

Multitudes of beverages have passed over parched lips in the course of decades past. Like cinema and fashion, the cocktails that were consumed often define generations.

The 1950s and 1960s poured Planter’s Punch and Blue Hawaiians. The 1970s stirred up Harvey Wallbangers. The 1980s managed to shake up tropical infusions aptly named “Sex on the Beach” and “Tequila Sunrise.” The 1990s revived the martini.

The 2000s ruined the martini.

The old adage “don’t mess with perfection” seemed to escape the mixologists of the last decade.

Gin, dry vermouth, an olive or a twist: If only it would have stopped there. Alas, boredom struck and instead of creating a wonderfully new and completely unique cocktail, the martini list became an outlet of laziness.

A recent tour through both the local martini bars of Buffalo as well was the World Wide Web yielded scads of so-called martinis. One prominent Buffalo eatery boasts over 70 variations of the classic cocktail.

Today’s martinis may capture your imagination even if they turn your stomach and send your palate packing. The advent of flavored vodkas has made the job almost too easy, hence the lackadaisical nature of the martini list. Orange, grape, pomegranate, and espresso vodkas are just a pour away. Garnishes along the lines of candied orange peels, cucumber, coconut, Hershey’s kisses, asparagus, and peanuts abound.

Goofy names seem to be a requirement that accompany these off-the-wall cocktails. The “Crazy Cow” takes the cake. With equal parts of chocolate vodka, coconut rum, and Irish Crème liquor, the only thing missing is the milk. Upon toasting with friends, forego the obligatory “Cheers” and just say, “Moo.”

Snicker’s bars satisfy. The same may not be said of a “Snickertini.” There is a laundry list of liquor needed to create this specialty drink. Baileys, Amaretto, caramel-flavored vodka, chocolate liqueur, and heavy cream are shaken together to create the milkshake of martinis. This decadent delight isn’t complete with out its caramel sauce garnish. Whipped cream is optional.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any sweeter then this, pull up a stool and order yourself a “Cotton Candy Cosmo.” The deliriously pink beverage turns toxically sweet as it is meticulously poured over a puff of spun sugar. Molly Ringwald would have loved it.

Less like a drink and more like the title of a book, the martini know as “Blood and Sand” will make you weep (after you wake up the next morning). It is constructed with equal parts scotch and cherry brandy, finished with a splash of orange juice and a drop of sweet vermouth.

Among the oddest of all creations is the “Tomato-Politan Martini.” Considered to be a savory beverage by its founder, the list of ingredients reads like a witch’s brew. Tomato juice, green pepper habanera hot sauce, lemon juice, pickle juice, and a splash of vodka are shaken together. The goal of this potion is currently unknown.

Long gone are the days of the age-old debate of vodka versus gin, olive versus twist. Nowadays, reading a martini list is akin to leafing through Homer’s Odyssey. Perhaps it’s time we put away the shakers and reminded ourselves that anything presented in a martini glass is not a martini!

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