The dry martini has a strong claim on being the world’s most renowned cocktail. And with good reason: Whether the occasion demands a brisk refresher on a summer afternoon, a bold accompaniment to a business lunch, or simply something cold and tasty to get drunk on in the evening, there’s no finer tipple. Here's another truth: People who love a good martini usually have no shortage of reasons for why most people make martinis wrong.
But it's the glass that's actually the problem.
The martini glass, also known as the cocktail glass, has been with the martini since the beginning. And bartenders and dilettantes who insist to this day that it’s the only way to serve the famous cocktail maintain that it fundamentally changes the taste and caliber of the drink. They’re wrong. Let’s break it down.
First of all, the martini glass is ridiculously easy to break. That long stem and wide brim make it hard to pick up and place back down again smoothly — especially after your first few martinis. Serve someone a martini glass at a party and you’re all but guaranteed to be cleaning up shattered glass by the end of the evening. Drink one at a bar and you’ll be walking around so carefully that you won’t be able to concentrate on anything but not breaking the class. Add to this problem the fact that a martini glass is an expensive specialty item and your bank account will wince at the thought of the long-term cost.
To get around this problem most bars have switched over to “stemless” martini glasses — the same tops with chubby flat bottoms. This is even more ridiculous. The entire point of the martini glass’s long stem is that holding the glass won’t warm the martini — and almost every martini lover in the world will tell you that the martini’s temperature is its most important quality. Drinking from a stemless martini glass takes away the only real advantage of the glass to begin with and still has most of its glaring problems.
Drinking a martini in a tumbler or a rocks glass warms the drink in a similar way. But here’s the big difference: you can fill a tumbler or a rocks glass with ice, keeping the drink cold the whole time you drink it. Some martini fans argue that the melting ice will begin to dilute the cocktail and water it down disagreeably. Addressing this complaint in his great drinks bible "Everyday Drinking," Kingsley Amis offers this counterpoint: “It is more important that a cold drink be as cold as possible than that it should be as concentrated as possible.” In other words, the coldness of the ice in the tumbler outweighs the warmed purity of the cocktail glass.
At this point the martini glass is at best an affectation — a way to look fashionable while sipping a classic drink. But it’s not so fashionable to tip your glass just a quarter of an inch and have it start spilling all over your shirt or the table, nor is it so fashionable to set your glass down slightly too hard and see the whole thing crack or shatter in your grip. So skip the tradition. Shake or stir your gin and vermouth and pour it straight into an ordinary drinking glass over ice. Your palate (and tie) will thank you.