Introducing… The Alphatinis!

Classic and Dry Martinis

Classic and Dry Martinis

Whew! It is HOT out there. Care for a cool drink?

How many times have you perused a restaurant’s bar menu–usually featuring a number of signature cocktails ending in -ini–picked something that sounded great and then, well, been kinda disappointed by that first sip?

Aside from the fact that it’s better to judge a drink after 2 sips, just to make sure you’re tasting the cocktail and not residue from other things you’ve tasted, it’s a shame when a cocktail doesn’t live up to its name or hype.

That’s what this new series is all about: creating cocktails that are as pleasing to your mouth as your mind. 26 such cocktails, to be exact, one for each and ever letter of the alphabet (yes, even X, Y and Z).

But that all starts next week. For this week let’s just get some basics out of the way.

The original martini, way back in the late 1800s, was comprised of gin, sweet vermouth and bitters. By the early 20th century dry vermouth had replaced the sweet and it became the drink that carried us through until mid-century when the James Bond phenomenon (yes, really) turned the tide to a vodka-based cocktail.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of a dry martini–it’s all alcohol, no mixer, and I prefer to cut the alcohol with something non-alcoholic in the name of balance. The sweet vermouth version, though, that one I kinda like, though it’s not nearly as sweet as some of the ones we’ll be trying out over the course of the series.

Original Martini

1.5 oz Gin
1.5 oz Sweet Italian Vermouth
1-2 drops of Bitters

Combine with ice in a mixing glass and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a twist or orange or lemon.

Classic Extra Dry Martini

3 oz London Dry Gin or Vodka
1/8 oz Dry French Vermouth

In a mixing glass, pour the vermouth over the ice and then strain it off. Add the gin or vodka, stir until chilled and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a small onion. To make it dirty, splash in a bit of the brine from the olives and give it another swirl with the garnished stick.

The dry martini is still too dry for me, though a dirty martini is slightly more palatable than it used to be. If you like your drinks crisp, clean and subtle give the dry version a try. If, on the other hand, you like your cocktails rich and a little sweet–I’d almost call it a meaty flavor, but not really; think of it the way a good red goes with a really good steak–give the original a try.

And next week we starting with our A-game. What will it be? You’ll just have to come back and find out. But! If you have any requests for the rest of the Alphatini series–either from a past experience that could have been better or you just want to challenge me–most of the upcoming ‘tinis have yet to be designed, so let me know what you want to see!

50 Shots of America–Indiana


The Hoosier State became the 19th state of the Union on December 11, 1816. It was in their constitution that the first state-funded public schools were called for, even if it took over 30 years to follow through with the plan.

What is a Hoosier? I still don’t know, I’ve read so many possible explanations. But Abraham Lincoln (moved there when he was 7), James Dean and David Letterman are examples of famous ones.

When I think Indiana, I think Indianapolis and the Indy 500. It’s the largest single-day sporting event in the world and just underscores the state’s place as the “Crossroads of America.” Cars, highways (more per square mile than any other state) and manufacturing that has fared better in these times of auto-industry downturns and upsets due to specialized skill centers in smaller towns are all part of what keep Indiana moving fast.


The Quick Shot

1/2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Melon Liqueur
1/2 oz Sweet Vermouth
Tonic Water

Combine gin, liqueur and vermouth over ice and shake like your rushing down a court towards witness a beautiful 3-point shot. Strain into a cordial glass and top with tonic water.

Melons and grapes are two of the state’s top crops (behind feed-corn and soybeans) but as much as I wanted to use Pepper Vodka to give the drink some speed it was just too harsh so we went with a gin base–it’s got its own version of pep. The tonic water helps bring out the different flavors the same way salt enhances a sauce.