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.
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