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The Finest Martini Ever Made

The legend of the 10-minute Martini

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Perhaps no other cocktail--some even argue that it is even a cocktail at all--has generated more debate across the bar than the Martini. Shaken or stirred? Vodka or gin? Olive or lemon peel? These argumentative questions are forever ingrained into imbibers of what most agree to be the king of all spirit concoctions. Entire books have been written on the subject. While there is no doubt that there are many ways to make a Martini, spirits enthusiasts agree that the drink has evolved over time to suit the tastes of the population it has served. To most, the most common topic of debate seems to be shaking versus stirring. While both have pros, the also have cons to their method of creation.

I, too, have engaged in the debates. I have spent hours testing different methods to determine the best. Then I chanced upon a bartender in Boise, Idaho who had made what I consider the perfect martini. And it is neither shaken, nor stirred. It is marinated.

Pat Carden, an old school bartender who would never dare shake a martini, discovered the preparation by accident over 20 years ago while bartending in California. A guest ordered up a martini but needed to step out for a few minutes as Pat had poured the ingredients into the mixing glass but had not stirred it yet. To save the drink, he put it in ice and when the guest returned much, much later Pat offered to make him another drink. The man, however, insisted he have the one Pat put in cold storage. Expecting it to be watered down from sitting in ice for over 20 minutes, the man was surprised to find it was the smoothest martini he'd ever tasted.

At his bar in Petaluma, California, Pat would have clients call ahead at the north end of Marin as they commuted home from San Francisco. It took them approximately 10 minutes to arrive and the name stuck. Pat's Martini has gained popularity in every city he has tended bar. In Boise, it has won the city's Martini Mix-Off for two years in a row.

His process is simple. In the cocktail shaker is put ice, gin and vermouth. The whole thing is then sunk into an ice bucket and left to sit for 10 minutes. No stirring, no shaking occurs. Pat believes that the secret lies in basic physics. As molecules of liquid chill, they descend in a suspension displacing the molecules below and causing a very slow stirring, a marinating if you will. I've witnessed the process many times and I believe that because the ice is well below freezing, the alcohol does not melt very much of it inside the shaker. Much like making ice cream the old fashioned way, the salt--in this case the alcohol--keeps the whole concoction cooler than 32 degrees when combined with ice. Almost every time, the shaker is pulled out of the ice encased with surrounding ice cubes, a sign that the whole thing is much colder than freezing and dangerously tempting to touch with your tongue, especially after about 30 minutes worth of his Martinis.

"Shaking a Martini is like slam dancing," Pat says. "The partners, in this case the gin and vermouth, never really get close. Stirring a martini is like a waltz. The partners are closer and there is a hint of romance. But the 10-minute Martini is a very slow and romantic dance through the ice. The partners relate to each other in an intimate manner resulting in marriage."

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