We have been reading recently of some mysterious happenings to customers of the Blue Martini bar in North Naples. In fact authorities and cafe management are investigating as this column is being written.
My experience with the martini is that the person drinking it should be investigated--and I am one of them.
No question there is a mystique connected with the martini. No less an authority on mystique and martinis, James Bond has typified the type of person who drinks them, but only if they are “shaken, not stirred.”
W. Somerset Maugham, on the other hand, wrote that “martinis should always be stirred, not shaken.”
Another authority, H. L. Mencken, was quoted as saying that the martini was “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” This, despite its name and the popularity of the imported vermouths and gins (and vodkas) used to make it.
The dictionary defines the martini as “a cocktail made of gin or vodka and dry vermouth.”
How could such a simple concoction, the drink seen so frequently in the movies as the mark of the sophisticated lady or gentleman, at the same time be described as lethal and mind altering?
Well, just ask the people who enjoy martinis. Ask me and I can tell you stories that would make you dizzy - almost as dizzy as the martini itself.
I don’t remember when I tasted my first one, but then again, I don’t remember many of the martinis I have tasted since.
I do remember some of the consequences of drinking “tee many martoonies.”
I remember the time shortly after I was released from active duty in the Navy when I made my first trip to Europe. My first stop on the continent was in Paris. One evening I walked into a bar near The Madeline and ordered an extra dry martini. I watched in horror as the bartender poured from a bottle of Martini Rossi Dry Vermouth and shoved it over to me. Too embarrassed to protest, I dutifully sipped on it as others at the bar started to snicker. The bartender came back and poured gin and vermouth into another glass, exclaiming that this is probably what I wanted. The snickers turned to guffaws. Vive La France!
On another occasion, this time in Chicago, I ordered an extra dry martini. The bartender poured gin in a cocktail glass and then removed the cork from a vermouth bottle and passed it over my glass. When I said I really wanted a little bit of vermouth, he actually became indignant and told me that he had that same bottle of vermouth since World War II. I did apologize for negatively affecting his profits as I left the bar without a tip. No wonder the atomizer became so popular for spraying the least amount of vermouth.
If martinis can bring out the worst in the person who mixes them, then it is no wonder that the poor people who drink them - I mean like me - sometimes behave just a bit peculiarly.
I can site many examples from my own experiences.
There was the time when I was living in Washington, D.C. and stopped at The Mayflower Hotel with a friend for a martini. They had a gimmick whereby they sold martinis by the pound. The waiter would bring an apothecary scale to the table and ask you to select the number of ounces of gin he should pour into a glass container. He then would use the appropriate weights to measure your drink. Getting home that night was quite a trip, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Somewhere along the way - I don’t remember when or why (sound familiar) - I switched to vodka; perhaps it’s not quite as good, but certainly in my case less lethal and reputedly undetectable on your breath. It reminds me of the boss who cautioned his salespeople that if they must have a “two-martini-lunch” that they be sure to drink gin. It is bad enough, he would say, if our clients think you’re drunk, but far better than if they think you’re stupid.
Yes, martinis are addictive - but they taste so good. As someone once said, “Martinis are like the bosom of a woman, one isn’t enough, but three is too many.”
Stupid drunk is one way to describe the consequences of drinking martinis. Could that by any chance account for the strange actions of those who don’t remember leaving the Blue Martini?