Online Edition: Issue I Volume I 15.NOVEMBER.2000 ENTERTAINMENTS:

The Martini Gospel according to McShane

Christmas draws near and tensions mount. Both in-laws and outlaws are planning to invade our homes. How do we cope?

I have found that mixing and drinking the perfect martini has proven to be an excellent personality adjustment regime. Sometimes it can be a preventative medicine to be taken ‘before’. On other occasions it’s best taken ‘after’. Sometimes it works best both before and after. I leave it to you.

So here we go – the good news on the martini.

A couple of days before the jolly times draw nigh trot down to your local liquor store and buy two bottles of gin. The first one can be full of gin manufactured by throwing a bag of herbs into whey alcohol. This purchase fulfils your obligations to local industry. The other bottle should be a high quality imported brand, preferably 40% alcohol, which will fulfil your obligations to your life style.

The ‘crystal’ type, which comes in a blue velvet bag, makes it easier to handle the frozen bottle. It also prevents the ‘icy fingers’ syndrome which can prove counter-productive when the martini is used as an aid to seduction.

Also buy a bottle of high quality extra dry vermouth. The French vermouth produces a more floral martini while the Italian mix is more herbal. It’s up to you.

When you get home put the cheap gin on the sideboard for gross people to turn into soft drinks. Then hide the quality gin in the back corner of the freezer for 36 hours. Also freeze a plain cocktail shaker – ideally the stainless steel model with the built in ice-strainer under the measuring cap. Then freeze the required number of classic martini glasses. (A generously filled regular drinking tumbler delivers instant oblivion. In some cases this may be a useful strategy.)

Refrigerate the vermouth, but don’t freeze it. Unlike the gin, vermouth will freeze solid.

When it’s time for medication, gather together a tray of large ice-cubes, (small ones melt too quickly) a lemon, a peeler, and a saucer of olives, which should be green for an ‘environmental martini’, black for the ‘indigenous brand’. Peel two slivers of lemon rind per glass.

Now mix each martini, quickly but without rushing, repeating the process for each serving.

Fill the shaker about two thirds full with ice cubes, then fill the measuring cap with vermouth and pour it over the ice cubes. Put the cap on and gently rock the shaker until the vermouth has had time to coat the cubes. Vigorous shaking chips the cubes and dilutes the martini. Pour off the residual vermouth and hand it to someone not sufficiently mature to experience the perfect martini. Otherwise drink it yourself, as a palate cleanser or whatever other feeble excuse comes to mind.

Take a martini glass from the freezer. Measure the amount of gin required by pouring it into the glass and then into the cocktail shaker. Handle the glass only by the stem. Gently rock the gin in the shaker.

Roll both lemon peels between the fingers – to get the oils running – and wipe the outer side of the first peel around the rim of the glass. Chuck it away, or put it in the compost if you are mixing an ‘organic martini".

Drop the second piece of peel into the bottom of the glass.

Give the shaker a final gentle rock. Pour the martini into the glass and serve – with the olives alongside as a nibble – continuing

to handle the glass only by the stem.

Then sit down, relax, and drink a frozen cloud.

Once mixed you can store several glasses, or even a pitcher, in the freezer. Take as needed to relieve the stress, before, with or after food.

Some begin with a solemn toast to the Queen Mother. Evidently her guests know she is about to enter the Clarence House drawing-room when a footman enters and prepares her martini – reputedly about the size of Morris Minor hub-cap. Such good taste demands respect.

It may be unwise to serve this drink where sexual harassment charges are a possible outcome. Dorothy Parker observed of one of her friends that "The first martini puts her under the influence. The second puts her over the limit. The third puts her under the host."

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