Don’t Call That Swill a Martini!

Richard Thompson Ford
4 min readApr 21, 2022

The Martini Manfesto: Part 2.

pour yourself a real martini and read Part One here.

Credit: “bhofack2 — Getty Images”

In a society plagued with aggressive marketing and deceptive advertising, it’s inevitable that some will try to exploit the good will surrounding a respected name to peddle inferior products. Hence, almost every manner of alcoholic concoction, and even many non-alcoholic drinks, have been restyled as “martinis.” There are espresso martinis, chocolate martinis, passion-fruit martinis, apple-tinis, tequila-lime martinis and of course, the ubiquitous, vodka martini. Many of these bastardizations are downright undrinkable. Some are certifiable health hazards, so cloying and treacly that they liable to trigger a diabetic reaction. Some are palatable and should simply be renamed (a “tequila-lime martini,” — yes, I’ve seen it called this — is a fraud but traveling under its rightful title of Margarita, it is one of the world’s great cocktails.) But all such false martinis are insults to the original. They should be as distasteful to any American proud of her nation’s cultural heritage as a bottle of cheap, artificially carbonated American “champagne” is to a citizen of France.

Given the prevalence of such hazards, we must forbear smaller transgressions. Vodka “martini” drinkers are lost but given patience and a healthy dose of gin and vermouth, many may yet find their way. Be gentle with them. Graciousness and good humor are even more in order with respect to the gin martini drinker who makes minor errors. A “dirty” gin martini is a debased martini but infinitely superior to one made with stale vermouth, crushed ice or vodka. A Vesper martini, (which, as James Bond fans will know, contains gin, vodka and Kina Lillet or some similarly herbaceous and bitter vermouth) is an admirable innovation if one is running short of gin (and, by whatever mistake or misfortune, happens to have vodka on hand.) A martini garnished with cocktail onions is, strictly speaking, a Gibson and should only be served on Halloween, when risqué flourishes are to be expected. Still, all of these are admirable tipples when one gets the essentials — gin, vermouth, stirred or for the love of God at least not shaken into a slush — right.

I’ve heard it said that some Martini drinkers occasionally can be pedantic. Heaven forbid…

Richard Thompson Ford

Professor. Lawyer. Dilettante mixologist. Amateur sartorialist. Watch geek. Author of Dress Codes: how the laws of fashion made history.