Sunday, March 01, 2009

Dubya: Hands Off my Martini!

No, not that "W". The other one, the hotel chain.

I recently had opportunity to attend a free (as in, paid for by entity other than myself or my family) evening event at the posh W hotel in Seattle. My previous (and only) experience with said establishment was a brief stay 4 years ago, sponsored by a large on-time retailer. That was a good experience resulting in 2 good things, one being my employment at the sponsoring company. The room was positively futuristic, ambiance good: all in all a nice stay.

So I had reasonably high expectations regarding libations to be offered at this company-sponsored event.

Unfortunately, execution was solidly sub-standard (unless there is a city ordinance that mandating company parties being required to consist of bland food and improperly prepared drinks? I may have missed a memo). Food was slightly below standard conference grub, which I find lacking for an evening event, especially for hotel chain of this caliber. But I can swallow that, with proper liquid accompaniment.

Which takes us to the real pain point: they killed my favorite drink, Martini. Not in a way of, say, stabbing it, or by brutal neglect, but by drugging and manhandling it; poisoned and shook to death. I'd call Booze Protective Services if such an agency existed (maybe in Vegas?).

The first offense was using vodka instead of gin, without asking me. There may be situations where this substitution needs to be done: who knows, maybe the desert island you were marooned on just has no gin to be found. But before committing this faux-pas, please be so kind as to ask me first. I would probably rather enjoy one of many vodka-based drinks, some of which can compete favorably with gin-based ones.

The second one, the more serious of mistakes (and I argue worth "2 strikes", enough for 3 strikes + out verdict) was the brutal handling of the resulting combination. I mean, loading vermouth, vodka and ice in a shaker is one thing; but vigorously shaking it is akin to shaking your baby, causing brain damage. What the poor shot of Grey Goose vodka had done we may never know, but punishment can't fit the crime. I felt like grabbing the shaker from perp when this was happening. It may be that you can't shake vodka to spoil it -- perhaps that's the excuse -- but it would be pathetic if a professional bartender thought James Bond quip about "shaking not stirring" has relevance to martini making. No, it's a joke. Subtle one, but one nonetheless.

So, from now on: W, back off, slowly, and hand me that shaker. And hand me your cocktail-concocting badge, and leave martini-making to others. Call me a snob, but there are certain things professional are not to do. What next? Put ice on red wine glasses?

ps. I recently learnt that experts recommend Plymouth as the gin for martini, followed by Noilly Prat for vermouth. After tasting these, I concur. It does taste like the ultimate combination. And this although I thought I liked Bombay Sapphire the best. You live and learn -- while others will do too (martini is a somewhat robust drink after all), you might as well try the best; price for these is no higher than for most quality alternatives. And for locals, yes, Washington State Liquor Stores carry both.

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