Dry Martini and Dubonnet

This, certainly the most famous cocktail in the world, is not required to have capital letters, since a court judgement decreed that it was so well-known internationally that it was a commodity in its own right. Essentially it consists of gin and dry vermouth but, as whole books have been written about it, the subject is complex.

In the 19th century, a ‘Martinez’ cocktail was made in the U.S. With gin (the sweet type) and vermouth. In the 1860s, it has been established. Martini & Rossi were not exporting their dry vermouth to the U.S., although Noilly Prat was. However, as John Doxat relates, the barman in tfie Knickerbocker Hotel in New York in the pre-1914 period, was a man called Martini de Arma de Taggia. He made a popular drink with Martini dry vermouth; Doxat thinks that the drink was named for the man, not for the vermouth. What is certain is that the original mixture seems to have been either half and half or at least only a little more gin than vermouth. Between the wars, the drink became ‘dryer’ – in other words, the proportion of gin was increased. After World War II, very little vermouth began to be used and there has since grown up a ‘mystique’ of spraying the glass with a little vermouth or rinsing it with some and tipping it out. It is also claimed that certain vermouths – even if they are eventually tipped out of the mixing jug – have a profound effect on the ultimate mix.

A gin martini, with olive, in a cocktail glass.

This seems reasonable, but it still perplexes me that the ability to make a dry martini appears to be something of a status symbol in certain groups of society: if people want a drink that is virtually straight gin (one would have thought more attention might be paid to this), with a hint of other flavouring, then why are they not able to make their own mix and leave it to others to concoct their version of something refreshing and able to tone up the palate? As for those who stand around drinking such a basic mixture for an hour or more, I admit that I cannot understand why they do – other drinks would either be more immediately stunning or more interesting. It is also worth noting, for those who do enjoy one or two drinks of this kind before a meal, that the palate will have been dulled for anything delicate as regards wine. A robust and fairly middle-grade wine is the only thing to follow, unless you have a ‘blotting-paper’ course at the beginning to revive the palate (and sober up the drinker). However, it is useless to deny that the dry martini is made – and endlessly discussed – all over the world, so it must have some charm that has so far eluded me.


A well-known French aperitif, wine-based and flavoured with herbs. It was evolved by Joseph Dubonnet, a Paris wine merchant, in 1846. Today it is made at Thuir, in the south-west of France. The best-known type is pinkish red, but there is another, known as Dry Dubonnet, which is pale gold and dryer. Can be drunk neat, in mixes, or with soda.

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13. December 2011 by admin
Categories: Wine Dictionary | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Dry Martini and Dubonnet


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