Bailiff: All rise, for the Honorable Lance Mojito.
Judge: The People vs. Vermouth: Ms. Vermouth, you have been accused of ruining martinis in the state of California, as well as all over the world. What say you?
Defense attorney: Your honor, the defendant pleads “not guilty.”
Gasps from the crowd.
Judge: Very well. You may begin your opening statements.
Prosecutor: Your honor, and ladies and gentlemen of the jury: The defendant looks innocent enough in her pretty green bottle. She even has a fancy European name, and a noble pedigree. Why, then, has she spent so many years destroying perfectly good martinis?! Here in the United States, we know that her place is to be merely pointed at the glass, and perhaps waved over the noble clear spirits within. So I ask all of you: Will you allow this corrupted wine to continue to worm its way into the vodka and gin of decent Americans?!
Judge: The defense may counter, but I will warn you: We won’t tolerate a media circus like the one we had during The People vs. Orange Juice.
Defense attorney: Understood, your honor. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what you see before you is not a monster. In fact, I would argue that she’s delicate wine, and needs to be treated delicately. Sure, you could argue she’s been fortified with brandy, but that’s no reason to think of her as a hardened criminal! I intend to show that vermouth is merely a victim of mistreatment and slander.
Murmuring in the crowd.
Judge: Order, order in the court! Would the prosecution like to call a witness to the stand at this time?
Prosecutor: I would, your honor. I call Mr. Tito Goose to the stand.
Bailiff: Do you swear, yadda yadda yadda?
Tito Goose: I do.
Prosecutor: You claim to be the victim of shoddily made martinis, costing you lost money and ruined experiences, do you not?
Tito Goose: Yeah. Half of the time, when I order a martini, it comes out tasting funny. That’s when I start to suspect vermouth was involved, and sure enough, every time.
Prosecutor: Do you see the culprit in the courtroom?
Tito Goose: Yes, it’s that green bottle with the screw top and the white label.
Prosecutor: Let the record show the witness pointed at the defendant. No further questions, your honor.
Judge: Does the defense wish to cross-examine?
Defense attorney: I do, your honor. Mr. Goose, how do you order your martinis?
Tito Goose: (Brand name vodka) martini, dry, blue cheese olives, generally.
Defense attorney: So you will put moldy cheese into your vodka, but you have a problem with vermouth?!
Prosecutor: Objection, your honor!
Judge: Sustained. The witness’s personal tastes are not on trial here.
Defense attorney: OK, well, sir, are you aware that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a martini as “a cocktail made of gin and dry vermouth?”
Prosecutor: Objection! The vodka martini has been long established and far outsells the gin martini! Also, the dictionary isn’t known for its cocktail information.
Defense attorney: Your honor, I am merely trying to establish the semantic confusion that leads to my client’s mistreatment.
Judge: I’ll allow it, but tread carefully.
Defense attorney: Were you aware that the “dry martini” is a specific cocktail containing 1/2 an ounce of vermouth, to 2 1/2 ounces of gin?
Tito Goose: That can’t be right. That doesn’t sound dry at all.
Defense attorney: Well, it’s certainly dry compared to the original martini, which contained a full ounce of vermouth.
Shouting from crowd.
Judge: Order! Order in the court! Where does the defense get its proof of that?
Defense attorney holds up a copy of Imbibe! by David Wondrich.
Defense attorney: Right here, your honor, and in many other tomes of bartending lore, which if the witness had bothered to peruse …
Prosecutor: Objection! The witness is not an industry professional and cannot be expected to read nerdy manuals on drink history!
Defense attorney: No further questions, your honor. The defense calls to the stand Mr. Will Shaker. Mr. Shaker, what is your profession?
Will Shaker: I tend bar.
Defense attorney: How long have you tended bar?
Will Shaker: For several years now.
Defense attorney: So you’re a pretty good bartender by now, I would imagine.
Will Shaker: Yes, sir, I like to think so.
Defense attorney: Well, then, where do you store the defendant at your establishment?
Will Shaker: We keep our vermouth in the well for easy access, like most bars. Some keep it on a shelf.
Defense attorney: On a hot, dusty shelf, with the common spirits?! Or in a well?! Tell me you at least put the vermouth in the reach-in cooler at the end of service.
Will Shaker: I’m supposed to refrigerate vermouth? My bar manager never told me that.
Defense attorney: Vermouth is a wine—fortified with alcohol, yes, but still a wine. It will spoil and oxidize over time. When was the last time you tasted your vermouth for freshness?
Will Shaker: I never thought to taste it, honestly.
Defense attorney: There you have it, ladies and gentlemen—gross mistreatment of the defendant!
Will Shaker: Well, I didn’t know!
Defense attorney: It’s not your fault alone; my client is mistreated in nearly every bar in the country, it seems. How do you make a dry martini?
Will Shaker: Well, I pour a little vermouth in the shaker, then a lot of vodka, and then I shake and strain it. I add olives or a twist of lemon, or an onion for a Gibson.
Defense attorney: Are you aware that shaking a drink adds air, making it effervescent? The ingredients in vermouth, which often include citrus peel, coriander, marjoram and many other herbs and spices, then taste more bitter and astringent—and just, well, off. Really one shouldn’t shake vermouth at all.
Will Shaker: But my guests like their drinks “extra cold,” and the only way to get them that way is shaking them!
Defense attorney: Yes, well, have you ever thought of asking the guest if they even want vermouth in their vodka? Asking specific questions can avoid situations like the ones that have left my client in her current predicament.
Will Shaker: They sometimes say “just a little,” so I rinse the shaker with it and dump it.
Defense attorney: Well, next time, try rinsing the serving glass, to avoid aeration. Might I also advise recommending to guests who don’t care for vermouth to simply order “vodka, up, olives,” but only if they can do so respectfully and not like a jerk? No further questions, your honor.
Prosecutor: The prosecution calls Mr. Spike Easy to the stand. Mr. Easy, you refrigerate your vermouth, no?
Spike Easy: We refrigerate our whole selection of craft vermouths, the defendant and all of her cousins.
Prosecutor: How do you make a martini?
Spike Easy twists his mustache and grins.
Spike Easy: With two parts gin to one part vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters. Lately, I have been using equal amounts of gin and vermouth, with some housemade decanter bitters.
Prosecutor: Well, how do you make a vodka martini?
Spike Easy: Vodka martinis weren’t popular until the James Bond movies and their sponsorship with Smirnoff. We would never serve vodka in our bar.
Defense attorney: Objection! This is defamation of my client by association with hipsters!
Defense attorney: Your honor, I request a recess to bring experts to the stand to give vermouth a better name.
Judge: Recess granted.
Until court reconvenes, please try a few of these recipes to find out whether your favorite martini is really your favorite martini.
“ORIGINAL RECIPE” MARTINI
2 ounces of London dry gin
1 ounce of dry (French) vermouth
Dash of orange bitters
Stir, serve up; lemon twist, pickled hazelnut optional
2 1/2 ounces of London dry gin
1/2 ounce of dry vermouth
Stir, up, with olive or twist; add a cocktail onion for a “Gibson”
1 1/2 ounces each of dry vermouth and gin
Dash of orange bitters (optional)
(Feel free to switch dry vermouth for Lillet or Kina or Italian vermouth—or any other fortified wine)
Stir, up, twist
Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The author confesses to being like Will Shaker for many years, and tries hard to not be too much like Spike Easy.