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The Crimson Hour: Martinis for a Natty Weekend

In our first entry, we kick-off rivalric competition with a classic snoot of gin and wermut.

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When fans' feet on the pavement quicken toward the gates, we cease to measure the length of the day with clock. Their ticks and tocks now distend ever more noiselessly until we count beats and rhythms in pitches and swings. We frame periods in innings and recover a more intimate acquaintance with beginnings and endings, with the origin of finitude. This is the hour for hushed vitality, for precise attention, for active sensation—sight, sound, touch, but most of all smell and taste. This is the crimson hour. (Yes, shameless repurposing of this.)

We all know that this season will be a slog. The Phillies are going to lose a lot, probably 60% of the time, if not more. And we cannot expect that the games will contain much beauty or virtue. David Buchanan's panicked heave into the field level boxes reveals the universal in the particular.

Nevertheless, we can relish the baseball we have rather than mourn the baseball we don't. We together can savor the 2015 season with a little liquid creativity. A shot, a shaker, a shooter, and a jigger will engage the senses. Let us not feel less in order to evade the course of this pretemporally lost season, but feel more in more diverse ways. With cocktails we may telecommiserate and telecelebrate. With cocktails we shall toast to fanatical endurance and to the Alexandrine, the coupletted rhyme interrupted, to the once and future kings of MLB.

Thus begins a weekend series here at TGP. I will be providing a cocktail for each weekend series the Phillies play. The article will include my personal recipe for each cocktail, some of which will be classics, others recreations of others' inventions, and still others the results of my own dalliance. Along with the cocktail I'll tell its story and relate the cocktail to the games at hand. I'll be drinking these as I watch the games and I hope you'll join me.

We embark with the simplest and most elegant cocktail: the Martini. We'll never know how the Martini originated nor whether it has one origin—like the universe—or many—like calculus. We only know that it was created in the second half of the 19th century somewhere in the northwest hemisphere of the Earth. Because the Martini became a standard American drink in the middle of the 20th century, it is often taken for granted that it was invented here: either around San Francisco or New York. And to be sure, some similar cocktails, like the Martinez, were invented here. But the Martini might well have been invented in Italy and derived its name from the vermouth (Martini & Rossi) that was used to make it.

Whatever its origins the Martini has become the form of cocktail instantiated. It appears on the scene as the Ur-cocktail, having now given birth to untold gross epigones. Of course, this is not to say the original remains the most popular cocktail. The eruption of cocktail culture in the US has led to ever fancier and more disguised delivery mechanisms of alcohol. But as Food52 puts it: "No matter how much Earl grey syrup and hibiscus are swizzled into coupe glasses, though, there are some cocktails that cannot and will not ever go out of style." Although one should only drink a Martini if one enjoys alcohol and the pleasure of waiting for the complex flavors to settle on the tongue after the alcohol has slid down one's throat, one should also have the temerity to dismiss the fruity and the sweet every once in a while in order to bask in the slightly less ephemeral.

The Martini bears no special relation to this weekend's match-up. It just seems the right place to start this series of posts. It is a classic, easy to make, and sets the tone for how we might collectively enjoy this aimless season. A martini is both bitter and fragrant with just a hint of sweetness, a perfect palette for 2015. Nothing savors like a Martini, and we need more coaching in savoring now than we have in a long time. What's that? The over-under on runs scored by the Phillies the next three days is 2? That's fine. [sip] Perhaps Galvis will make a spectacular sliding play in the hole. [sip] Or Hamels will match Fister strike for strike. [sip] Or Utley will drive in both runs with his first home run of the year. [sip] I don't give a jot for wallowing in the outcome. Drinks always end drunk and games eventually lost. But let me absorb the moments.

Equipment: Martini Glass, Mixing Glass or Shaker, Spoon (preferably a cocktail spoon)

Ingredients: Ice, Gin, Dry Vermouth, Lemon Twist


1.     Put shaker and martini glass in freezer. Let them get very cold.

2.     Fill shaker with ice.

3.     Pour 2 oz. Gin and ½ oz. Dry Vermouth in shaker. Gin should smoke from cold.

4.     Stir briefly. Avoid breaking up the ice.

5.     Place lemon twist in martini glass.

6.     Strain and pour into martini glass.

That'll make you a proper single martini. I prefer the lemon twist because it adds a hint of sour flavor to the cocktail and the lemon aroma sets off the botanicals in the gin. I guess you could use an olive, but I'd rather just eat them on the side. Notice the 4:1 ratio of gin to dry vermouth. That is the perfect ratio. And I need to explain something. Martinis have dry vermouth in them. Some dilettantes think gin becomes a martini by waving the vermouth bottle around the gin or by allowing sunlight to pass through the vermouth bottle and onto the gin. Are you an alchemist? Or a character in a JK Rowling kids book? No? Then you have to put the vermouth in the gin. Otherwise you are drinking a gin neat or, sigh, gin on the rocks. (Take that, W. H. Auden.)

I have recently fallen in love with the Botanist Gin, which my wife and I discovered on our honeymoon to the Isla of Scotland. It is steeped by Bruichladdich Distillery, known for their craft scotches, and contains 22 local botanicals. I highly recommend it. As for vermouth, Noilly Prat has been the vermouth of choice for a very long time. But there are many good dry vermouths to be found. They are all distinct and will bring something special to your martini. Currently, I'm still working my way through a bottle of Martini & Rossi from our wedding. It does the trick.

And now a toast:

Here's to a Cole Hamels changeup that fades from sight. Here's to a Ryan Howard bomb sent deep into the night. Here's to Ben Revere tumbling onto the plate. And here's to Chase Utley clones: may they forever procreate.