Cocktail College: How to Make the Perfect MartiniVinePair
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The Martini has an important role in drinking culture and is beloved by many. It’s James Bond’s drink of choice, the classic cocktail emoji, and host Tim McKirdy’s favorite cocktail. In this episode of “Cocktail College,” McKirdy is joined by John Clark-Ginnetti, owner of 116 Crown in New Haven, Conn., and a Martini connoisseur.
Clark-Ginnetti makes sure every customer who is served his Martini at 116 Crown has an experience that indulges all the senses. He shares his personal preferences on how to make the drink and what he thinks makes the combination of gin and vermouth so special. Clark-Ginnetti even teaches cocktail culture at Yale University — so, rest assured, his opinion is one you can trust.
Tune in to learn how to make the perfect Martini.
MAKE JOHN CLARK-GINNETTI’S MARTINI
- 3 parts Plymouth Gin
- 2 parts Boissière Dry Vermouth
- Garnish: lemon peel
- Add all ingredients to a mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir until chilled.
- Strain into a chilled Martini glass.
- Garnish with a lemon peel.
CHECK OUT THE CONVERSATION HERE
Tim McKirdy: John Clark-Ginnetti, thank you so much for joining us today and welcome to the show.
John Clark-Ginnetti: Thank you very much. Happy to be here.
T: I’m excited about this one. I’m a huge Martini fan, so this is a big episode for me. I really can’t wait to break down the cocktail with you.
All cocktails start with a great story. Cocktail history is documented by people who enjoy a liquid libation and they don’t let facts get in the way of a good tale. So, can you tell us what are some of the most recognized theories behind the genesis of the Martini? What’s the one that you believe?
J: I will tell you the truth: Of all the commonly dispensed versions, I believe almost none of them. I think this is one of the drinks that is so ubiquitous, fraught with differences, and bandied about for years on bar stools, at tables, and restaurants in epicenters of the world, there’s almost too much motivation by interested parties to ever settle on one true beginning for the Martini. It cannot be one.
I mean, we can’t even agree on whether or not we’ve been visited by aliens. That seems to be a pretty straightforward one. So I don’t know if we’re ever going to come up with who had the brilliant idea to put gin, vermouth, and a lemon peel together to make what I would call the most classic, most delicious drink ever.
T: I think it is an otherworldly cocktail. Is the fact that, if I go into my phone to text you, search for the cocktail emoji, and the Martini glass comes up, is that a sign that this is the most iconic cocktail in the world?
T: You’re hesitant there?
J: I’m not an avid emoji user. I have three or four and I’m very sure that I’m using them wrong. But, I think [the emoji] certainly points to the fact that it’s the most thought-of drink. Part of that is just because of the physical stature. It’s got its own glass. Once you get to that, you’ve reached a certain point. It’s like when you can just go by your first name.
T: Madonna. Cher. Martini.
JAMES BOND AND THE MARTINI
T: Bond, James Bond. That’s a nice segue there. Building upon that iconic status, you do have this conversation that I think, within the bar world, is not even an argument anymore — shaken versus stirred. Even outside of the bar world, I think most people know that is an error. I’m not sure that everyone knows why that is, though. Let’s start by breaking that down.
J: I tend to see some charm in it as well. I don’t think it was intentional — I don’t think Ian Fleming said, “I’m going to sew this little mistake into the rug because everything else is so perfect.” Everybody makes mistakes.
As a Bond fan, one of the cool things that we’re seeing in some of the more recent Bonds is that he’s fallible and he’s been made to be a little more human. But there is no reasonable argument to be shaking vermouth, ever. I wonder if the statement is true that pretty much everyone knows. I think everyone has heard it, but I don’t think they’re really believers.
I am a huge advocate of a Martini being three ingredients and three ingredients only. I don’t think that olives belong in it. I don’t think that vodka belongs in it. I certainly don’t think that espresso or peanut butter belong in it. I’m also not so in love with myself that I’m unwilling to concede that there is going to be some degree of the population that believes everything that comes in a v-shaped glass with a stem is going to be a Martini. I’m sure there’s somebody with a wall of Bond posters and collectibles that is going to shake their Martini, gosh darn it, no matter what you say to them.
The other interesting part about the Bond legacy is that, while the Martini is the most understood, agreed on, and ordered drink by Bond, throughout the years he has segued and had some Vespers. He’s getting a little less uptight.
T: As the advertisers come in, he’s partial to a Heineken these days and whatnot. You mentioned that vermouth should never be shaken, in your opinion. Can you tell us why that is?
J: It’s actually very striking that this comes with the Bond conversation. For me, principally, it’s a matter of looks. I subscribe very profoundly to the idea that all of the senses should be engaged when enjoying a drink or food. That’s why I think that the lemon twist is so important to the Martini.
When that glass rises to your face, before it even gets near your nose, that lemon just serves to wake up the senses and say, “Get ready for something delicious.” By the same extension, when you’re shaking wine — which is what vermouth is — it doesn’t look very good. A Martini should always be crystal clear. It should almost look innocent. It should look like spring water. There should be that wink of vermouth when you look at it.
As somebody who’s been staring at beverage alcohol for 20 years, sometimes my younger employees are struck when I can tell that they’ve added a little bit of vodka into their soda, just by the viscosity. I might be taking things too far when I analyze a drink, but nine and a half out of 10 times, the drink I’m analyzing is either one that I’m going to drink or one that I’m going to serve.
I think taking that editing eye to it is important. Much like you wouldn’t put your Châteauneuf-du-Pape on a paint mixer before you drink it, you shouldn’t be shaking your Martini, right?
T: Well, I’m sorry to say that they’re doing it in “Succession.” But yeah, you shouldn’t be, of course.
J: There’s no point to it. You’re not trying to aerate the drink. You’re not trying to introduce citrus to the drink, especially when being enjoyed by a guy who’s wearing an Omega, Brioni suit, and packing a Walther. No shaking.
T: I was probably wrong earlier in saying that everyone knows not to shake, but I do think we’ve put that to bed as to why we shouldn’t be doing it.
This cocktail is going to be very different from most of the ones that we’re exploring in this series in that there is no one fixed recipe. The Martini is so personal, which is what I love about it. I find, maybe the more interesting conversation to be about the ratios. Again, there’s this amazing tie-in to history. Can you tell us about some of the more recognized ratios? Maybe some of them have a cool backstory? What’s the one that you personally go for yourself?
J: I think that the ratios are much more up for debate than anything regarding shaking or stirring. As the person who is stomping my feet and lighting a match over the proper way to make this, I always have to concede that the Martini that I serve, technically, is a Gin French. The ratio has more vermouth than would be counted on by your average Martini imbiber. That said, I think the only responsible way to understand the Martini and really be a student of it is to investigate what the fans have to say about the drink.
If the Martini was a baseball player and was being inducted into the Hall of Fame, there are stats. You’re standing on this stage because you hit this many home runs. You committed this many errors. For that, you get a reason to stand on the stage. There’s going to be something written on the plaque that’s going to be hung on the wall and acknowledge that those numbers got you the right to have that place. I think that’s really where the debate comes in with the Martini.
Shaking gin and vermouth will not get you onto the stage. Off brands will not get you onto the stage, or if there’s no attention paid to ingredient quality. The Apple Martini is never going to be part of the Cocktail Hall of Fame. Once those attributes are satisfied to get you onto the stage, it’s really about what gets written on the plaque. That, whether it be baseball or Martinis, inherently goes back to the fans.
Some of the best literature that’s been written about the Martini is always talking about how there are the senses — the smelling of the lemon, the fact that it needs to be ice cold — but what happens afterwards is where I always find the poetry. In the class that I teach at Yale College with Dr. Jessica Spector, when we talk about the Martini, the title of that day’s course is “The Martini Is Civilized.”
I like to read from “The Sun Also Rises.” Hemingway is choosing Martinis to set a mood. They’re talking about how, “It’s good. Isn’t it a nice bar?” You could be hoisting a Heineken. You could have an ice-cold beer. But, the fact that they’re having Martinis is in there for Hemingway to set the understanding of what’s trying to be achieved by both parties sitting there.
As you said, the Martini is going to be different from anything else that gets discussed on your show. When the Martini is in a book or on TV — I hate to keep going back to Bond, but I’ve made this case in the class — you have to ask, “Why is Bond drinking a Martini?”
My theory is that he needs to be civilized because he’s a murderer. He is a mass murderer. He’s an assassin. He’s probably killed more people than any of the horror villains. Bond’s got the Freddy Kruegers of the world beat by the thousands. How do you take this horrible person and temper him into somebody who’s doing it for the honor of sovereignty? Everything else has to be that. He has to be well dressed. He has to have an Aston Martin. When you consider the drink, he has to have a Martini.
HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT MARTINI
T: At the beginning there, you talked about your preferred serve being the Gin French. In terms of technical build, what are we looking at there, gin to vermouth? On top of that, given how we’re speaking about this being a very personal drink, do you actually have a standard serve at your bar that you’re teaching your bartenders? Are you saying, “OK, unless someone says anything, this is the way that we’re going to serve them?”
J: We have a menu, and when somebody orders a Martini — as you said, it’s a personal drink — the first question that’s asked is, “Do you want our Martini or would you like something else?”
In the case that they’re ordering from the menu — that’s, of course, what I prefer, because I like them to be buying what we’re selling — the thing that also figures into that is the brand. If you were to look up the Gin French, you’re going to get three parts gin to two parts vermouth. Now, there’s nothing in there that calls for a brand.
As we know, gins and vermouths both can taste very different. This is one of the reasons that I felt comfortable calling ours the Martini, because I thought that the Plymouth gin, the Boissière dry vermouth, and the lemon twist conveyed more of a Martini taste and feel. Again, the origin of this is so dubious that we’ll never get there. We came to that combination by reading through countless great books about the drink, tasting that, and, honestly, hearing from other people who were tasting it that said, “Yeah, this is the Martini that we want to sell. This is what we’ve been reading about. This is the feeling. This is the taste. This is the look. This is the smell. This is a Martini.”
If you’re not accounting for those brands, it’s really hard to qualify that. If we were to make this with something with a much more juniper-forward flavor, the ratios would change. Then, in my mind, it wouldn’t be a Martini.
T: I love that you do have it on the menu as well, because that’s how I like to start a night. If I go to a cocktail bar full of proprietary drinks, I feel like a bit of an asshole ordering a Martini, but that’s how I love to start the night.
How important is it, even if you don’t have it on the menu, just to have a house spec so that, when that situation arises, unless someone has their preferred way of it being served, that everyone at your bar is making it consistently?
J: I think it’s incredibly important. If you open a bar, you’re going to be making them. It’s not something that’s never going to get ordered. It’s the same as a Manhattan. You can leave it off your menu, but you’re going to be asked for it. There should be a house spec because it’s going to become part of your identity.
There’s two sides to every bar. They serve good drinks. They don’t serve good drinks. Once they serve their drinks, that’s going to be one that you’re measured on. Whether or not it’s on the menu or not, if you have three different bartenders making it three different ways, that’s an issue.
Somebody who knows about restaurants as intimately as you do, knows that consistency is of the utmost importance. People come back because they had a good experience. No one is showing up because the last time they came it was garbage. They might show up despite that, but they don’t show up with that in mind. It’s incredibly important.
In fact, my favorite uncle talks about his days bartending. I cringe when he tells the stories from time to time. He talks about how he would make up a pitcher of Martinis and a pitcher of Manhattans and just shove them in the ice. He was playing catch up. These are the good old restaurant war stories where somebody walked out or hurt their foot, and you had to make drinks for 1,500 people. At the very least, though, if he was making 10 gallons at a time, at least they’d all taste the same.
T: Every Martini he served that night might have been consistently bad, but they all tasted the same, which is good. You’ve got to be consistent.
J: Yeah. They could have been dog water, but they were all dog water.
T: That’s pretty good. I would say that that’s actually a better indication of a bar, that I know what I’m going to get. If I go to a local bar and I know that their draft beer is lousy, I’ll get a little bottle of Modelo. I don’t want it to be great one day and then the next day, the line’s rubbish. The beer’s got no head. If you know what you’re getting, I think we like that as humans. I think that’s important here.
J: That was the argument for bar tools 20 years ago. I would hire people and they’d say, “I can eyeball two ounces. I know how to pour an ounce. I don’t want to use the jigger. What are you talking about?” I had a guy, when I was doing my first training 14 years ago, say, “Did you ever use a jigger?” I said “No, and I know the drinks were inconsistent. So we’re going to do that here.”
T: Exactly. I think it’s those small incremental changes that all combine to really up the quality.
I want to talk about the specific ingredients now. I have a confession to make: I got into Martinis via the New Western style of gin, if you want to call it that. I actually got into it through a Japanese gin that was very light and more citrus-forward. For the longest time, I’d been put off by the flavor of juniper, but that’s a horror story going back to my kitchen days, for a different time.
How do you feel about New Western gins versus the classic London Dry? Of course, you’re using Plymouth, which I would say falls in between, somewhat. Maybe it’s a little bit more New Western. What are you thinking about within those three different styles of gin?
J: I’m always an advocate for progress and change, so I don’t think that something is so sacred that it should never be touched or messed with. Nothing’s above reproach when it comes to that.
I don’t think that all gins, regardless of where and when they were founded, are going to be in a Martini. In my mind, the Martini is the brands and proportions that we use at 116 Crown. Again, I love any sort of progress. I’m not even that opposed to people calling it a Martini if it’s got a spicy green bean in it. If that’s the expression that you’re looking to make, then good on you.
I am consistently mesmerized when I see the expressions that people are putting on gin. Gin sort of lends itself to that as well. As long as it’s got some juniper, anything else goes. That almost has a nod to the culinary world, where sometimes it’s hard to judge creativity because you don’t know where the lines are. You can say, “This is a gin because it has juniper, but then we’ve done all these other things to it. So, this is our expression of gin.”
You could see it in molecular gastronomy. You might order a strip steak and get a bowl of tapioca bubbles, but they were filled with gravy and redolent of steak. You could grin and understand the sometimes comic message that the chef was trying to get across. I see that very much when it comes to the newer expressions of gin. If you have something coming out of the East and it’s featuring produce that’s associated with the East, you think, “Oh, OK. Japanese gin. Got it.”
J: It’s going to have that juniper. I think Hendrick’s was really early to the party with this. I always say to people, if you’ve got three or four minutes in the afternoon to waste and you want to see a really well-produced, likely extraordinarily expensive website, go to the Hendrick’s website.
There’s cucumbers getting launched out of cannons. Roses are falling from heaven. It’s just cucumber, rose, cucumber, rose, top hat, unicycle, cucumber, rose. But, when you look at the bottle, there’s no cucumbers and there’s no roses. There’s a sprig of juniper.
You have that history and, in the case of Hendricks, you have playfulness. In the case of some Eastern gins, you have a sense of place. I thought St. George’s gin lineup was always so cool because they’d promote that “This is the one that grows outside the distillery. Enjoy. Take a shot at that one. That’s super cool.
T: Talk about bringing terroir into spirits. We talk about it in different forms and you can argue whether you can taste terroir in whiskeys that have been distilled using a base of organic grain, but then aged in barrels for 10 years. Another great example is The Botanist, where they hire a full time forager on their island, who’s going around all year picking ingredients for that gin. That’s gin with a sense of place. You can’t argue against that. I think that’s one of the incredible parts of it and informs what you’re saying. You know where the line is. You can use new ingredients. You can use different ingredients. But, you’ve always got to question why, and whether they work.
J: Absolutely. Even in the case of the Martini, I think it was Franklin Roosevelt who was mixing the Martinis himself and did not make his usual recipe. He poured it for some heads of state, presidents, and secretaries of other countries, and was so unwilling to admit that he made a mistake. Henceforth, that’s how they were served in the White House.
For terroir, The Botanist is a great example. For the London Dry ones, look at the ingredients on Bombay Sapphire. It’s a London Dry gin called Bombay. They were obviously looking to get your head somewhere else and possibly celebrate some conquering and possible other things.
T: Things we probably wouldn’t celebrate today.
J: Yeah. Well put. Thank you. Advancing the agenda is always in the favor of the medium. You have to advance the message to get attention to the medium. How many people want to drink the exact same gin that their grandparents drink, unless they’re thinking of their grandparents?
T: That really brings us back to the soul of the Martini and it being this cocktail that you can personalize. Maybe there’s different Martinis for different times of day. If we move on from gin to vermouth, again, it brings us back to that ratio conversation. I personally think the 50/50 is a crime against the Martini, but I know that it’s very fashionable these days. I can see a place for it.
Maybe you’re using a vermouth that’s more expressive than your classic styles that you might get from France or Italy. (We’re talking dry vermouth here.) I’ve tried newer ones or smaller-production ones that are more expressive. I can see why you would probably want to mix that in a 50/50 Martini. What’s your approach when it comes to that? Obviously you want the harmony of the two ingredients, but the vermouth is the supporting actor and it’s got to know its place. We’re not shaking it, so we’re giving it respect.
J: It has to be the supporting actor. That’s why there’s awards for supporting actors.
T: There’s perennial supporters out there who just do a great job.
J: Yeah, I agree. Unfortunately, vermouth is a beautiful thing. Vermouth is wonderful with a sprig of celery at 1:30 in the afternoon in somebody’s garden, whose child you might be involved with and meeting parents for the first time. You don’t want to fire anything back.
T: You don’t want two Martinis?
J: Don’t want to have the double size Vesper, you know, and have to have somebody’s folks calling you an Uber. For sheer assertiveness on the palate and alcohol content, vermouth should be there to help the gin achieve its greatest expression.
T: I’m going to move us onto something after this. I want to ask a quick yes or no question, which is orange bitters?
J: I am in the yes business.
T: You’re in the yes business for bitters?
J: For me, though, it’s a no.
T: Oh, OK.
J: I’m in the yes business, but that one, for me, it’s a no. It’s unnecessary. It’s too much.
T: Is that the chef trying to have their imprint where it’s not needed, going too far, and not letting the produce shine?
Let’s move on to stirring. You mentioned engaging all the senses, not just when you’re drinking, but when you’re making this drink. I’ll shout-out Maison Premiere in New York. They have a fantastic tableside Martini service. When they make it, they tell you the story of it as they’re doing it. It’s a whole procession. They pull their gin from the freezer, stir it, and they’re not gauging by how cold the glass gets or how many revolutions. It’s all by sight and viscosity.
Is that something you subscribe to? Can you tell us a little bit more about what we should be looking for, if that’s the case, in that scenario?
J: I really like that sort of a presentation because it’s so deeply personal to that restaurant. Unless you’re going to a chain, you’re looking for an original point of view. I think them doing it that way — it might not be my way — is a wonderful way to do it. Just the act of them forcing you to put your pleasure in the hands of their senses is interesting. They’re looking at this. They’re judging by viscosity. They’re using their eyes. There’s something that is deeply caring in there that all restaurants and bars should have. It’s a really great way to get that point across without having to put it on the website: We deeply care about you. If you walked in stone cold off the street, didn’t know where you were, and ordered that Martini, you would come away feeling that. It’s also quite brilliant.
You can always argue good and bad, but that’s opinion. Once you give something a story, once you give it a history, it’s much harder to refute. You can always say, “Hey, I don’t like Martinis without orange bitters, because I don’t like them.” But, this is why you see so many restaurants who are using grandma’s recipes and so many places that have this deep sense of purpose and place. That’s because it’s irrefutable. That’s the story. If that’s your grandmother’s sauce, that’s your grandmother’s sauce. I wasn’t there.
T: That’s something that will come up a lot, I believe, in these conversations. You’ve got to have conviction. You have to have questioned why and have a reason for why you’re doing something. Maybe one of the reasons I do love the Martini so much is because it reminds me of cooking.
There’s all these things that you’re taught in the kitchen: You should season mushrooms as you’re sautéing them, but other vegetables you should season afterwards because the salt’s going to concentrate. There’s all these little techniques. Scientifically, can we prove them? Absolutely not. At least you’re thinking about it, though, and you have a reason for the way that you’re doing whatever it is. That comes back to that viscosity and the other things that you’re talking about.
J: Those are also nice little tip-offs, too. I had a chef friend tell me one time that one of his “tells” for what kind of kitchen he was in was seeing if they had soy sauce and where they grabbed the handle of the spoon. The metal spoon in the pot is hot at the top, but cooler at the bottom. You could have somebody come in with this dynamite resume and they’re burning their hand when they try to stir the sauce. He would just know right off the bat. If you’re watching somebody sauté mushrooms and season at the same time, there’s a sense of reassurance that they at least check that box.
T: This might be, again, just one of these individual things. I’ve got two little things to run by you. One is cracking the ice before you stir it. The other one is that someone’s told me before that I should be stirring my gin over ice first and then adding vermouth to finish and stir so that we’re not diluting the vermouth too much. Where do you stand on those two things?
J: I think that it’s a matter of your ice and environment. I have another chef friend of mine that keeps his risotto in the same place in the kitchen and it’s not on the stove. He just knows his kitchen so well and knows exactly what he’s going to get when he grabs from that risotto every single time.
For instance, the bar at 116 is lit stone. Three or four years ago, we replaced the lights from fluorescent to LED. All of a sudden, the ice is melting much slower in the bin. It was so strange. We were like, “Oh, God, the ice well. Why is this lasting so much longer?” It was because it wasn’t as hot. The LEDs aren’t throwing any heat. Then, we were able to dim them. That was the other thing. Things are looking different. The area is changing. So I think this is another place where you really just have to trust the methods that have been developed in the place that you are. I would be reluctant to give a full yes or hard no on either of those.
We’re talking about temperature and dilution. Does the shaking tin go under hot water right after you serve your drinks? That’s going to change things as well. If you’re keeping your gin in a freezer and it’s going into a hot or cold tin, you’ve got bigger problems to figure out than cracking the ice and adding the vermouth. If I was going for a really, really dry Martini, I would probably stir some of the gin over the ice, pour that out — because that’s going to be the most watered down — and then start over. If I really just wanted that cold gin in the style of W.C. Fields, glancing at the vermouth, I would want to go as far as I could in that direction.
T: Like you said, there’s so many different variables there when it comes to ingredients and equipment, temperature-wise. I think one thing we can all agree on is that the glass should be coming from the freezer. Do you still subscribe to the Martini glass yourself, or are we talking coupes, Nick and Nora? I mean, those glasses look great.
J: They do look great. I like a Martini glass for a Martini. I am not stuck on the very conventional “v” with no extra ornamentation. I have used Martini glasses with pronounced lips, which is always very much appreciated by the staff because it’s a lot harder to spill them. I’ve used a concave “v,” a convex “v.”
It’s not that different from the conversation we’re having about gin itself. It’s harder to be creative in a way that’s going to be understood by an audience if they don’t have a touchstone. Once you understand that emoji-shaped Martini, the rest can be more easily internalized.
I say this all the time to people about the restaurant. Is this the best drink I’m ever going to make? Absolutely not. Unfortunately, I have to sell them after I make them. If I only made it for me, then I’d only have one guest a night and it’d be me. You have to be cognizant of your audience as well. If you’re going to have a place that has a more sophisticated audience, I think it’s a little bit easier to get creative in that way.
When it comes to the Martini going in a Martini glass, I think it’s appropriate and appreciated. That being said, — and this happens from time to time at 116 — when somebody wants a half a Martini, we put it in the Nick and Nora because it’s a much nicer presentation than serving somebody a half drink. At that point, why don’t we just serve it to them lukewarm with bugs in it?
T: I’m wondering if you have any final thoughts on this drink? I think we can definitely talk for longer about it. I know I could, but is there anything pertinent that we haven’t covered?
J: Any time I have these types of discussions, I always like to temper it a bit with the idea that what’s really important is for the end user to be satisfied. I could sit there and tell you this is the right way all day long, but if it just doesn’t do it for you, you shouldn’t be scared off or write off the drink automatically.
One of the cool things about the Martini is that, no matter how right I think I am, at the end of the day, it’s all up to your taste. There are very few things that I don’t like to eat and drink, but if they ever come across my plate, I’m not doing it. I’ve eaten and sipped my way through so many different genres and flavors. There’s not a lot that just doesn’t do it for me. If somebody tells you that they don’t like to eat fish, it’s probably not the mountain you want to die on. If you can get a little bit of salmon dip onto their plate once in a while, you’ve got to be happy with that.
Especially with the Martini, it’s so nuanced. My first Martini order was done to impress the people I was with. I had never tasted it. I didn’t know if I liked it. I ordered it completely wrong. The bartender, who was not excited to make the Martini, asked if I wanted it up or on the rocks. I didn’t know what I was talking about, so I asked for it on the rocks. When she gave it to me, I said, “Can I have it in the better looking glass?”
A lot of the Martini itself is in the glass, but a lot of the Martini comes from somewhere else. I think a really great quote about the Martini is from James Carville, where he says, “The ultimate feeling in the world is to be about two- thirds of the way through my second Martini with people I like. Anything seems possible.” If you can get there — I don’t care if you have orange bitters and are drinking it hanging from the ceiling by your feet — that’s what it’s about. That’s what it is.
T: Then you’ve got to stop. If you get the full way through the second one, then not a lot is possible.
J: It can be, but what are the proportions of these? Are these 50/50, because I could probably have two more?
T: That very much is true.
GETTING TO KNOW JOHN CLARK-GINNETTI
T: It’s been great to explore this cocktail with you, John. I loved the discussion. Could even do another one on this. Right now, I’d love to get to know you a little bit more for our listeners with our stock quickfire questions at the end here. How’s that sound?
J: Sure. Great.
T: Fantastic. First question for you. What’s the first bottle, brand, or general category that makes it onto your bar program?
J: Geez, that’s tough. How about genre? Because it would be gin. I love to work with gin just because it’s got so much character and there are so many ways to influence the character. We talked earlier about terroir. I think whiskey is a beautiful thing, but you’re giving it if the expression is from the wood. You just have so many more options with gin to give it that character.
T: Yeah. Gin’s the best.
J: Gin’s the best.
T: Second. Which ingredient or tool do you think is the most undervalued in a bartender’s arsenal?
J: This is just my opinion. Since we’ve been discussing the Martini, I think it is the fine-mesh strainer. If you are serving a drink up, which is to indicate without ice, I think that there should be no ice present at all.
T: 100 percent. I hate shards of floating ice in a Martini. That is a no from me.
J: Absolutely. I’ll take the bill, please.
T: Next question: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received in this industry?
J: Probably to just be yourself. Be creative. I’m not trying to sound too much like a Whitney Houston song, but that’s going to be the thing that’s most easily deliverable. If you’re out there and you have talent and you’re dialing it back at all, be as far in the “you” direction as you can go, because you’re going to do that better than everybody else 100 percent of the time.
T: Love it. If you could only visit one bar in the rest of your life, which bar would that be?
J: Not mine?
T: Oh, it can be yours.
J: Then it would be mine. Too much blood, sweat, and tears to go anywhere else.
T: I love it. Final question for you. If you knew that the next cocktail you drank was going to be your last, what would you make or what would you order?
J: Oh, it would be a Martini.
T: 100 percent.
J: All day long. The one I’ve been serving. I think it’s perfection, and if I was only going to have one more drink, it would have to be a Martini.
T: At least you’d feel somewhat happy to go, I think.
J: I agree.
T: Amazing. Well, John, thank you so much for joining us for today’s episode. It’s been a blast.
J: My pleasure. Very much my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
T: Look forward to the next time.
J: Let’s do it.
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Now, for the credits. “Cocktail College” is recorded and produced in New York City by myself and Keith Beavers, VinePair’s tastings director and all-around podcast guru. Of course, I want to give a huge shout-out to everyone on the VinePair team. Too many awesome people to mention. They know who they are. I want to give some credit here to Danielle Grinberg, art director at VinePair, for designing the awesome show logo. And listen to that music. That’s a Darbi Cicci original. Finally, thank you, listener, for making it this far and for giving this whole thing a purpose. Until next time.
Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.