A Classic drink with its own day
While there are many cocktails that are considered 'classic,' it may be the martini that is best suited for this title. Ernest Hemingway may have said it best in Farewell to Arms, when he made this reference to the sophisticated drink: "I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They make me feel civilized."
The origins of this gin-based beverage are as varied as the selection of martinis in which we may imbibe—but there is no mystery as to its recipe. Traditionally, a perfect one is made with equal parts gin, and sweet and dry vermouths, stirred and strained over ice into a well-chilled eponymous glass (despite James Bond's popular admission, the classic is stirred—not shaken but who are we to argue?). A dry martini has less sweet vermouth; a wet has more.
Now let's talk garnishes...add a green olive, unstuffed or stuffed with temptations such as pimento, bleu cheese, garlic, citrus or even jalapeños. Make it "dirty" with some olive brine. Instead, add an onion and you'll have a gibson; then stir in some lime juice and call it a gimlet. Or perhaps a citrus peel (twist) or orange bitters are more your style. Less traditional garnishes might include pickled green beans or carrots or even anchovies. When it comes to martinis, I prefer to stick with tradition but a special wedding last summer called out for a custom cocktail so the "Summer Thyme Martini" was born. With a splash of fresh organic lime and Meyer lemon juices and a thyme garnish, it was a big hit!
If you're looking for tools of the trade, Saveur magazine offers some helpful sources for some attractive and useful ones.
If gin is not your preference, you can replace it with vodka in any of its many flavors and then garnish as you choose. Just know that your vodka martini gets its namesake only from the shape of its glass and has no other relation to its very distant cousin.
So let's raise a [martini] glass during tonight's happy hour, and celebrate its special day!