Somewhere in the Smithsonian Institution’s presumably vast storage and archives is a makeshift and yet impressively elaborate gin still. It’s actually a prop, donated to the Institution by 20th Century-Fox after the finale of M*A*SH.
Those who remember the show, a comedy-drama that followed the shenanigans and struggles of doctors and nurses working in a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War, will remember that still well. It was a beloved fixture of protagonist Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda)’s tent, haphazardly fashioned out of various military equipment. His gin drink of choice? The martini — but not just any martini. “I’d like a dry martini, Mr. Quoc, a very dry martini,” he says in one episode, attempting to order at a bar. “A very dry, arid, barren, desiccated, veritable dustbowl of a martini. I want a martini that could be declared a disaster area. Mix me just such a martini.”
If anyone knew how to make the best of a bad situation, it was Hawkeye Pierce, a renowned surgeon who practiced extraordinary medicine — and who seemed to believe that the cure for everything else was a healthy dose of gin.
If you are partial to a dry martini …..The dryness is determined by the amount of vermouth — the less used, the dryer the cocktail. Hawkeye’s own recipe for a perfect martini: “You pour six jiggers of gin into a glass and then you drink it while staring at a picture of Lorenzo Schwartz, the inventor of vermouth.” (Though, sorry Hawkeye, the inventor of vermouth was actually Antonio Benedetto Carpano. But hey, he was a brilliant doctor, not a historian. We’ll forgive him for his lack of a fact check.)
I’ve said it before, and I say it again: the secret to a fine cocktail is its garnish. The beauty of an olive martini is that its garnish is hearty enough to essentially make it a drink and a snack, the perfect pre-dinner drink to whet the appetite.
The kind of olive used is key. Forgo those little pimento-stuffed, mushy numbers and up your olive game. The meaty, bright green Castelvetrano olive pairs especially well with botanical-rich gin. (Hint: opt for an olive soaked in brine instead of oil, as the latter can result in an oily, unwelcome film on top of the drink.)
My personal favourite martini olive, however, is the almond stuffed variety. It’s the perfect transition of textures: the liquid of the martini itself, the softness of the olive meat, and the crunchiness of the nut within. You may find yourself throwing a few extra in the glass, turning this classic cocktail into a drink and a meal.
Ingredients & Method
In a shaker or mixing pitcher, combine:
7-8 ice cubes
1 dash vermouth (less than ½ oz — just enough to make the ice crackle)
3 oz gin
½ tsp olive juice
1. Shake or stir as desired. Let sit for approximately two minutes, allowing the ice to chill the alcohol.
2. Spear several olives onto a toothpick and place in a martini glass.
3. Strain the liquid into the glass.