Ever try a pomartini? A cosmopolitan? A tangerini? Of course not; you’re a man, with better cocktails to drink, beautiful women to impress, and very important places to scratch. Still, just because you understand the righteous value of the true, pure martini doesn’t mean brightly colored sugartinis are pointless abominations; columnist Luke McKinney explains the hidden value of the frou-frou drinks. Hint: The hidden value leads to the bedroom.
The Martini is one part dry vermouth, five parts gin, stirred with ice, and the greatest cocktail of all time. You can add olives or twists or even change the ratio, but you simply can’t argue with sheer fame. (I could use any number of famous quotes but the whole point of a drink is to improve your own thoughts.) Unfortunately celebrity attracts cheap cash-in attempts, and the Vodka Martini is a clumsier copy of the real thing than Frankenstein’s monster: the same basic shape, it even sounds similar, but the ugly thing has no soul at all.
In drink soul means spirits. Gin is a sophisticated botanical taste, vodka is pure water and alcohol. Gin is named for the juniper berries blended with an range of herbs and spices, vodka actually means “little water” and synesthetically tastes like that sounds. Finally, gin’s taste comes from an often centuries-old recipe while vodka’s taste is a quality control problem, because real vodka isn’t meant to taste at all. (Note: Acai Berry Chocolate Pomegranate rubbish doesn’t count as vodka, it’s flavored paint thinner.) A few brave companies like Zubrowka and Zalodkowa are bucking this flavorless trend, but real vodka still calls taste an “impurity” and acts accordingly.
The result is the difference between development and demolition. The Martini is a truly constructed cocktail, balancing tastes against each other to raise the result above the sum of its parts. The Vodka Martini breaks down even vermouth’s flavor with more raw alcohol, and you might notice that people don’t drink raw vermouth to begin with. Even James Bond demands the abomination be shaken not stirred, making this the only time 007 and Dorothy in The Wizard of Ozhaving things in common: they both add water to horrible things in order to defeat them, and they both feel guilty about it. Shaking instead of stirring heavily dilutes a drink and adds a load of bubbles. Though 007 still gets credit for calling it a Vodka Martini, a.k.a. “NOT a Martini.”
A bartender asking “Gin or Vodka” is like a friend asking if you’d prefer your date have “ovaries or testicles?” — people are allowed to like it either way, but you’d hope they know which you prefer by now. The Vodkatini is to the Martini what South Africa is to Africa — it’s something else shoved into the general area later by adding new things which weren’t originally there, and these latecomers did a lot of damage in the process. The vodka-vermouth mix was originally called the Kangaroo. That’s a much better name, because it’s upside-down compared to the real world and I wouldn’t put one of those in my mouth either.
Which is why the modern “Martini” lists dig even further, going down below the zero-skill of adding vodka’s non-flavor to a drink, and into the negative zone of hiding it altogether. Appletinis, Razberrini, Lychini, they sound like a teenager texting their way through a greengrocer’s. They also don’t use vermouth, which you might notice means they’re not even pretending to make Martinis. Instead of alchemizing real tastes, they bury the alcohol under a brightly-colored sugar carpet like an alcoholic landmine: the targets don’t even know it’s there until they can’t walk any more.
And that’s a good thing.
Thousands of people enjoy these confections because the first and only lesson of alcohol is that if someone enjoys a drink, then that’s a good drink. If they’re cheerfully sipping a Pink Girlbubble while you clutch a classic and glare then they’re better at drinking than you. Enjoying it is the whole point, and this rainbow of imposters defends the genuine article. The spectrum of sugary drinks is a barrage of defensive flares launched by the Martini: ridiculously brightly colored distractions intended to keep the easily distracted away from important targets. And it’s not the first time this has happened. The Cosmopolitan was created by bartenders sick of mixing Martinis for people who clearly didn’t like the taste but loved to be seen holding Martini glasses.
Take a moment to appreciate that. The Martini is so cool that even people who hated the things wanted them as a fashion statement. And if your lady wants to get enjoyment by just holding a long thing in her hand on a night out, that’s a habit you want to encourage. It’s such a masterpiece craftsman invented whole new drinks to defend it from being diluted by the masses. And those mere side-effects went on to be famous, sexing around the city and even infiltrating MI6.
Which makes the new name of “Vodkatini” a defense of the original drink instead of an offence against it. The portmanteau means it’s no longer even pretending to be a real Martini. And if it’s a horrible-sounding word, a mismatched kludge of something else with unsuitable harshness shoved into it, well, since that’s what the drink actually is it becomes the perfect name. It even makes the world better for people who don’t drink them, as they’re no longer be insulted by well-meaning bartenders asking whether you want a real Martini or not.
So the next time you’re blending gin and vermouth, and a friend orders a Raspberry Chocolate Obsceni, remember that you’re both enjoying yourselves. And that you’re enjoying yourself even more.
(Note: If you think cocktail names shouldn’t be capitalized in a drinks column, you’re the one making a mistake. If ridiculous places like Liechtenstein can get a capital letter, then as far as I’m concerned an Old Fashioned gets two. I know which has made more important differences to more people.)
Luke McKinney knows booze & video games, and three other things it would make you weep to hear of. Enjoy his previous column, Romance Killers: The Most Unromantic Video Games.