August 25

Martini

Today is <strong>National Martini Day.</strong> Martinis went out of vogue in the 1970s, when everybody started drinking wine. But they're too good to be kept down, and a new appreciation formed in the 1990s. In New Orleans, the Bombay Club kept the flame alive and continued to glorify the drink, putting some real effort into making them well. Martinis are so popular that the name has become a synonym for cocktail. Anything served in a slant-sided martini glass is now called a martini. Some of these aren't even drinks. Seafood martinis--shrimp, crabmeat, lobster, or crawfish in a martini glass with some kind of cold sauce--are especially popular. The original martini, according to a number of sources, consisted of gin and white vermouth, stirred with chunks of ice. . .

Days Until. . .

Coolinary Summer Specials End 6

Roots Of Creole Cooking

On this date in 1718, several hundred French colonists showed up in Louisiana to secure the French claim to the territory. Many settled in what was soon to become New Orleans. They wanted to eat food like what they had in France, but had to make do with the local vegetables and animals. A new cuisine was born.

People We'd Like To Drink With

Sean Connery was born today in 1930. His order of a "vodka martini, shaken, not stirred" in the James Bond movies altered the classic martini recipe forever. Gin was the original spirit component of the drink. The "shaken, not stirred" aspect may seem like pure perfectionism on the part of the Bond character, but it recognizes a decline in the quality of ice. If you have good, really cold, pure, hand-cut ice, a martini should definitely be stirred.

Food Calendar

Today is National Martini Day. Martinis went out of vogue in the 1970s, when everybody started drinking wine. But they're too good to be kept down, and a new appreciation formed in the 1990s. In New Orleans, the Bombay Club kept the flame alive and continued to glorify the drink, putting some real effort into making them well. Martinis are so popular that the name has become a synonym for cocktail. Anything served in a slant-sided martini glass is now called a martini. Some of these aren't even drinks. Seafood martinis--shrimp, crabmeat, lobster, or crawfish in a martini glass with some kind of cold sauce--are especially popular. The original martini, according to a number of sources, consisted of gin and white vermouth, stirred with chunks of ice, strained into the famous glass, then garnished with an olive. The proportion of gin to vermouth was between 50-50 and 75-25. The large presence of vermouth in the early martini is confirmed by something obvious: vermouth is the primary product of the Martini and Rossi company, for which the drink is named. The vogue now is for dry martinis, the vermouth component approaching zero. I've seen menus that say their dry martinis are made with gin shaken with ice in front of a bottle of vermouth, or some such joke. But I think the taste of vermouth is essential to the drink--more so than the olive.

Deft Dining Rule #854

If you don't know what brand of gin makes the best martinis for your palate and why, you're just drinking them for the aftereffects.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

A martini without vermouth is like gumbo without filé, fish and chips without malt vinegar, smoked salmon without capers, a roast beef poor boy without mayonnaise, Champagne without bubbles, barbecue without dry rub, escargots without garlic butter. . . [This might go on for hours. Let's stop now.--Tom.]

Food On The Air

This is the birthday of television cook Rachael Ray, born today in 1968. The first time I saw her on television, I thought it was a cooking show for kids, starring a teenage chef. She was around thirty then. She still seems like a teenager on the tube, which probably explains her success.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. Louis IX, the king of France from age eleven (1226) until he died on this date in 1270. He was in the thick of the Eighth Crusade, was captured, and had to be ransomed. St. Louis Cathedral and the city of St. Louis, Missouri are both named for him. He's the patron saint of that city and of New Orleans. He is also the patron saint of distillers, which strikes me as very appropriate, given his New Orleans connection.

Kitchen Accidents Through History

Today in 1857, a Chinese cook was blamed for burning down the Gold Rush town of Columbia. Chinese immigrants had already established their cuisine in California, but this was a setback, because the town banned all Chinese after the incident. Too bad. The guy made an unforgettable moo goo gai pan.

Food And Drink In The Movies

Today in 2006, a movie premiered with the name How To Eat Fried Worms. The same day, another film called Beerfest hit the screen for the first time. How interesting. Paired food and beverage movies.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Hogjowl Creek runs eighteen miles through the hills in northwest Georgia, twenty-five miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It cuts a 300-foot-deep valley (also called Hogjowl) as it runs from the most remote headwaters of the Tennessee River. This is horse and diary cattle country, with vast grazing fields. If you get hungry, travel ten miles north to the well-named Cross Roads restaurant, not far from the Chickamauga Civil War battleground.

Edible Dictionary

Rob Roy, n.--A cocktail made with a jigger of Scotch whisky, a generous half-jigger of sweet vermouth, and a dash of Angostura bitters. It's most often shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass, but some people like it on the rocks. There are two variations in the standard recipe, both of which involve the kind of vermouth used. A dry Rob Roy--which is rather uncommon--uses dry white vermouth instead of the sweet, red kind. A "perfect" Rob Roy employs a combination of both varieties of vermouth in equal amounts, still adding up to about an ounce total. My late radio colleague Bill Calder was always making a fuss about bartenders who didn't know how to make a perfect Rob Roy.

Food Namesakes

Hal Fishman, who was a television news anchor for many years in Los Angeles, made his very first appearance today in 1931. . . Lise Bacon, who held a number of high offices in Quebec and nationally in Canada, was elected to life today in 1932. . . Janet Chow, who came in second in the Miss Hong Kong contest in 2006, was born in Canada today in 1983. . . Captain James Cook sailed from London on his first expedition today in 1768. Read this department daily and learn where he went on this and other voyages. He's the most-mentioned person here.

Words To Eat By

"Happiness is finding three olives in your martini when you're hungry."--Johnny Carson.

Words To Drink By

"All the charming and beautiful things, from the Song of Songs, to bouillabaisse, and from the nine Beethoven symphonies to the martini cocktail, have been given to humanity by men who, when the hour came, turned from tap water to something with color in it, and more in it than mere oxygen and hydrogen."--H.L. Mencken.