World Martini Day

This essay was first published on TEDxCanberra’s blog.


Every 19 June there is day that any think­ing per­son can raise a glass to: World Mar­tini Day.

There is no other cock­tail so evoc­at­ive in the mind.

Even non-drink­ers can feel trans­por­ted by its his­tory, glam­our, allure and danger.

Iron­ic­ally per­haps, for it’s the simplest of cock­tails to con­struct: gin or vodka, some dry ver­mouth, stirred over ice and poured over a gar­nish into a chilled cock­tail glass.

Yet in those seem­ingly simple ele­ments so much can go wrong, and for many it never lives up to its repu­ta­tion.

Unlike any other drink, the Mar­tini is a cul­tural icon. It evokes a time and a place and is firmly rooted in pop­u­lar cul­ture. How many movies has it starred in as a prop to sig­nify some­thing about the char­ac­ter?

IMG_9682Born in the USA, it cap­tures that nation’s unabashed ambi­tion and bold­ness and has been a clas­sic in its rep­er­toire of social encoun­ters since its birth. From the White House to Madison Avenue, from movie stars to lit­er­ary giants, from des­per­ate house­wives to gum­shoe-detect­ives down on their luck, the Mar­tini served as a source of solace, inspir­a­tion and cel­eb­ra­tion.

Gin, Vodka, Shaken, Stirred or Dirty, the Mar­tini has been part of the exist­en­tial West­ern nar­rat­ive of per­sonal highs and lows for nearly 100 years.

Its inher­ent danger is recog­nised, and in that lies its thrill too. It is seduct­ive, both in its eleg­ance and its prom­ise.

To drink a Mar­tini in com­pany is to be elev­ated, to be engaged in ideas, to lever­age its potency to aspire to be a bet­ter per­son.

To drink a Mar­tini by one­self is to engage in an inner dia­logue, to tap the reflect­ive part of your being, and to step out of time for just a moment.

For the Mar­tini is tran­si­ent: after 15 minutes it’s just a glass of warm booze.

IMG_1382There’s never been a bet­ter time for a Mar­tini drinker to be alive. The craft spirit move­ment around the world, and espe­cially here in Aus­tralia, has pro­duced hun­dreds of fine-grade hand­made gins, vodka and ver­mouths for us to enjoy.

Many are pro­duced by solo, pas­sion­ate craftspeople and small teams with a com­mit­ment to sus­tain­ab­il­ity, place and mak­ing a sin­gu­lar expres­sion in a bottle. These won­der­ful new products offer up an infin­ite range of per­muta­tions of the Mar­tini.

And there’s more: no two Mar­tinis are ever the same, not even with the same ingredi­ents. Like some cos­mic touch­stone, the cock­tail is infused by the mood, the place, who’s made it, the frame of mind you’re in, the com­pany.

It all some­how shapes your exper­i­ence of it. You don’t drink a Mar­tini, you have a con­ver­sa­tion with the spir­its and gain some per­spect­ive as a res­ult.

But at its finest, a Mar­tini tran­scends its ingredi­ents and its craft, and pos­sess the crys­tal pur­ity of stars on a Winter’s night.

So it is fit­ting that we cel­eb­rate a cock­tail that is so much more than the sum of its parts and so inspir­a­tional each year: The Mar­tini.

You can watch my TEDxCanberra talk on the Cultural History of the Martini here.