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Ask the bartender: More on martinis

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Sean Kenyon knows how to pour -- both drinks, and advice. A third-generation bar man with almost 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can find him behind the bar at Steuben's Food Service and here every week, where he'll be answering your questions. Read his opinion of vodka here; keep reading for more on martinis. Q. Your column last week got me thinking about martinis. I'm a proper gin martini girl myself, but what are your thoughts on shaking vs stirring and vermouth?

A. Yes, let's talk about martinis.... First, the only true martini contains up to three things: GIN, dry vermouth and, if you are talking classic martini, orange bitters. (Note: Chilled vodka in a cocktail glass is NOT a martini; it is a Silver Bullet or a Vodkatini.)

With a classic martini, stirred is the only way to go: It will chill the cocktail while allowing the ingredients to shine. Shaking will dull the flavors and make for an over-diluted cocktail. The "rule of thumb" for stirring versus shaking cocktails goes as follows: If a cocktail contains only spirits, stir it. If it contains juice and/or sugars, shake it.

Next, vermouth is a very important ingredient. Winston Churchill and company made the world fear the spirit with phrases like "wave the bottle around the glass," etc. Quality vermouth is excellent (consider a brand like Dolin) and can be consumed alone on the rocks with an orange twist.

I guarantee that most of the vermouth you have tasted in your life has gone bad; it is an aromatized and fortified wine and has a shelf life of about fourteen days if stored warm. I always store mine cold. Most bars have had their one bottle of vermouth on the shelf for months, if not years, and should throw it away.

My advice? Don't fear the vermouth. Give a classic gin martini a shot -- it's an amazing cocktail.

Classic Martini 2 oz Gin 1 oz French Vermouth 2 dashes of Orange Bitters (optional but recommended)

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass. Stir to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist or cold olive.

Cheers! Post your questions for Sean Kenyon below, or write bartender@westword.com.

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