James Bond heresy? 'Shaken not stirred' is WRONG!

Classic cocktails are making a comeback. And Tammy Coxen (www.tammystastings.com) is here to tell you that James Bond got it wrong.

I recently attended a class Tammy held, at the hip Ravens Club in Ann Arbor. About a dozen attendees learned to make a martini, Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, and more obscure drinks.

Although I tended bar for many years, the craft has changed. Many bars are taking as much care with the ingredients of their drinks as the chefs do with food, experimenting with recipes, making their own syrups and mixes, and paying attention to the visual presentation as well.

Me, when I tended bar, I got by on a few stock tricks. Whenever someone ordered a Manhattan, I'd say "That will be $24 worth of beads and trinkets," and see who got it.

Whenever someone wanted a foo-foo drink - my name for a fruity concoction - if I didn't know how to make it, I would fake it. No one was ever the wiser.

Vodka and fruit juice tastes pretty good no matter what you call it.

When I made a martini, I had my own measuring standards for pouring vermouth. A regular martini got a splash. For a dry martini, I would put a few drops in the martini glass with ice cubes, swirl it around, and dump it before adding gin.

Extra dry or "bone-dry" martinis were merely made in the presence of a vermouth bottle.

Not Tammy. She teaches correctly that a classic martini was made with 3 parts gin and one part dry vermouth. She also added orange bitters, a variation I did not know.

"Bitters" are concentrated concoctions of fruit, spice, and/or herbs; the most well known is Angostura brand. Tammy has a collection of bitters featuring flavors from chilé to chocolate.

James Bond got it wrong by insisting that martinis be shaken.

Tammy showed us that shaking a martini changes its character, and not in a good way. First stirring her martini in a cocktail shaker, she poured it carefully to demonstrate that it was crystal clear. Then with the same ingredients she shook it vigorously.

The drink was cloudy, cluttered with ice chips and air bubbles.

Martinis should be served ice cold, so Tammy recommended serving just a two ounce drink in a very small goblet, like a "mini-me" of the martini glass commonly used to deliver up to 5 or 6 ounces of alcohol. Tammy says "if you want a bigger drink, just make a second when you finish the first."

Cocktails traditionally had four components: spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. With usage, the meaning of "cocktail" broadened to include any mixed drink, so when people wanted a classic cocktail they asked for an "old fashioned" cocktail - thus spawning the drink we now call an "Old Fashioned."

Tammy demonstrated two versions, one with muddled fruit that I used to make, and another without fruit, flavored with the oil of an orange peel. Tammy showed us the correct way to peel a piece of orange, and even to heat it with flame on the fleshy underside to bring the oil to the surface on the top.

Today, a wide variety of mixed drinks are called "martinis." Go to a "martini bar" and you'll be given a menu listing perhaps a dozen foo-foo concoctions, with colorful names and equally vivid presentations.

Most will feature vodka, not gin - heresy to a true martini lover.

When I was still young enough to get carded, and didn't drink anything more sophisticated than a pina colada, a friend took me to the "Persian Aub Zam-Zam Room," in the heart of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, for my first martini.

Behind the bar was owner-bartender Bruno Mooshei. He carefully filled two chilled goblets with Boord's gin and Boissiere vermouth - in a ratio, he always insisted, of "1,000 to 1" - and placed them before us.

It was pure liquid gold.

As I sipped happily, I told Bruno "This is perfect." He smiled and said, "The martini, my friend, is the Rolls Royce of drinks."

Stirred, not shaken, of course.

Tammy Coxen's Classic Martini

1 1/2 oz. gin (she used Beefeater which is also one of my favorites)

1/2 oz. dry vermouth (she used Vya)

2 dashes orange bitters (she used Regan's)

1 lemon twist (she used a lemon)

Stir all ingredients except the lemon twist in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the twist.

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation.

He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine.

He can be reached at: nroumel@nachtlaw.com

Published: Thu, Oct 6, 2011