Monthly Archives: July 2017

Martinez: Team Cocktails’ Defensive End?

The Quarterback
Possibly the best-known cocktail ever to have been shaken or stirred, the Martini is kind of the Quarterback of the Cocktail List.

It’s so glamorous that you want to hate it a bit, but it’s just so good that you reluctantly acknowledge that it is the most important cocktail on your list.

Tom Brady instagram

And after a couple of these cold, clear, razor-sharp beauties, you start to think how much you’d like to shake the hand of the genius who invented it.

Well, bad luck. While there are many who would like to claim the title, we really don’t know who invented it, not do we know where.

What does seem highly likely though, is that the Martini evolved, at least in part, from the Martinez.

The Martinez deserves a place on the IBA’s list of The Unforgettables, alongside the Martini, the Negroni, the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan.

But the Martinez is neglected, treated like the soap opera roles stars of screen and sound had to take before their proper careers took off.

It happened, but we don’t talk about it. Do we, Melissa George?

So unfair.

Here’s the story.

The Martinez first appeared in print in O.H. Byron’s Modern Bartender’s Guide back in 1884 and calls for Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters. It’s sort of like a sweet Martini or a gin Manhattan.

Old Tom Gin is a recipe that was popular in England in the 18th Century. It is less botanical than many modern gins and is sweeter than London Dry and drier than Dutch Jenever (Genever if you prefer). It works with the sweet vermouth and other ingredients to make this a very different cocktail to a Dry Martini.

Jerry Thomas is credited by some as having created the cocktail when he was tending bar at San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel (built in 1861, closed in 1906 after the San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires), but the City of Martinez, California really, really, really wants us to give it to them.

The story goes that a prospector who’d just struck it rich, bellied on up to the bar in 1874 with a fistful of gold nuggets and asked bartender Julio Richelieu for a bottle of his finest champagne.


Upon being advised that to no such bottle was available, Yosemite Sam challenged Richelieu to serve up “something special” (hopefully he said “tarnation” in there somewhere too) and Richelieu concocted the “Martinez Special” out of gin, vermouth and orange bitters.

The Martinez town claim is that this then spread, with bartenders in San Francisco being asked to replicate something that was loosely described as having gin and vermouth in it, and after a few of those, it’s just easier to drop the “Z” and say Martini.

They’ve invested in this folklore and got themselves a plaque in Martinez, declaring itself the birthplace of the Martinez cocktail, and sure, I’m happy enough to support their claim.

Martinez station


But when the whistle blew at doubtlessly historic Martinez on my recent research trip, somehow I opted to stay on my Amtrak train and push on to San Francisco to see how the finer bars there were interpreting the cocktail and it’s descendants.


Stookey’s Club Moderne offered shelter from the rain, a sophisticated but relaxed vibe and a welcome respect for this piece of cocktail history.

I tried two to be sure it wasn’t a fluke (it wasn’t, put this bar on your list) and as the outside temperature dropped and my inner glow grew, it occurred to me that we’re all guilty of denying the Martinez its place in history.

Martinez Club Moderne

Sure, it’s not the Quarterback married to a Super-model, so we wouldn’t be nearly as interested in it and you certainly wouldn’t expect to see it reflected in movies, or television or music quite as much.

But not once?

Not a single reference could I find (please, please tell me in the comments if you know of one) in popular culture or classic movies.

In fact to find an appropriate reference to uphold this blog’s promise of dodgy cultural references for each cocktail, I had to go to Santa Barbara.


Not the city, but the soap opera, where in the 1980s and 1990s, one A Martinez played Cruz Castillo against his soap super-couple counterpart, Marcy Walker’s Eden Capwell (you know the story – rich white shoulder-padded girl and poor muscly Latino guy in tight t-shirts and jeans initially dislike one another before falling in love and battling the odds to make their love accepted – the usual 1980s soap story-line).


Because it was on when I was knee-deep in University studies, I watched Santa Barbara a lot.

I liked it less than Days of Our Lives or The Bold and the Beautiful but more than the Young and the Restless, and it regularly passed an hour that might otherwise have been squandered at the library.

Reviewed as the worst television show ever made when it debuted (possibly not undeservedly), there’s not a lot that you can say was culturally important about it.

Except it launched the career of the spectacular Robin Wright.

Yes, she of Buttercup in the greatest movie ever made (yes it is, no correspondence will be entered into on this), The Princess Bride, she of Jenny Curran from Greenbow, Alabama in Forrest Gump.

And now of course, she of the highest, sharpest heels and steeliest-eyed determination in House of Cards, the clear, cold, razor-sharp Claire Underwood.

Let us not deny our pasts, for we are the sum total of all our experiences and shitty soap opera appearances.

So this weekend, do your bit to honour your elders and order up a Martinez. Or a Martini.

As you wish.




Gibson and the bat-shit crazy Bohos

Dear Muddlers

Today seems a perfect day to celebrate people being over-compensated for their achievements. And I’ve found the perfect cocktail for it.

The Gibson.

Now the Gibson is a perfectly tasty cocktail. It’s essentially a Martini and we all know how I love a Martini.

But the thing that transforms the Martini into a Gibson is replacing the olives with cocktail onions.

Shazam! A new cocktail.

It’s undeniably delicious, and given the onion is a vegetable and the olive a fruit, it may make more sense in a serious cocktail, but really?

Determined to do things properly, I looked hard (ok, two grocery stores) for pickling onions small enough to be appropriate for a cocktail glass, but they were all golf-ball size.

So I abandoned my Martha Stewart pretensions and sourced all the different types of ready-made cocktail onions I could find (three brands) and the type of onion does indeed make a difference in flavour, but it was still essentially three Martinis.


Yes, a great day at the home office.

But it left me no closer to understanding why replacing the olives with a lemon twist doesn’t transform the cocktail, but apparently an onion does.

In the most credible theory of its creation, in the late 1800s, a San Francisco businessman named Walter D.K. Gibson wanted his Martini a little special.

Being a fan of what he considered the common cold-preventing qualities of onions (but being a bit smarter than this oni1439370916609on-eating imbecile) Walt asked the bartender at the Bohemian Club to switch it up.

And 140 odd years later, we’re still calling the cocktail after old Gibbo?

Taj Gibson, is no doubt an excellent basketball player, but I don’t think he’s curing cancer. Yet, in another Gibson-themed example of achievements being over-rewarded, he’s just signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves that won’t be commemorated a century from now by cocktail drinkers, but will get him $28 million.

Isn’t that nice?

The Bohemian Club in San Francisco where the Gibson cocktail was “invented” is full of people getting overpaid for their work. Not so much the staff, class actions a few years back indicate that staff remuneration may be little more than a jar of pickled onions a week, but the members.

It doesn’t seem so different from any gentlemen’s club around the world. Wealthy men, mostly white, sipping port and smoking cigars away from the prying eyes of women or anyone not as wealthy as them.

Seems a shame that Bette Davis’s Gibson-swilling dame Margo Channing from All About Eve wouldn’t be allowed to attend.  Every party ever hosted would benefit from the presence of a woman who downs a Gibson and instructs her guests to “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Fasten your seatbelts

All About Eve is the story of a beautiful young woman who uses charm and flattery to hoodwink the Broadway power-players and build her stardom at the expense of others who have been kind to her along the way.

It is exactly the sort of reason that men like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and a bunch of Bushes and Clint Eastwood and Charlton Heston and Mark Twain and Jack London and a host of other mostly white, mostly Christian, always wealthy, blokes need to go to be able to let their comb-overs down without the spectre of being hoodwinked by someone like that conniving Eve.

I would object to the principal of not being allowed to join except I can’t think of a reason I would want to join.

Hang on, that’s not quite true.

Every July, members of the Bohemian Club go to summer camp in northern California. It’s called Bohemian Grove and is held on a beautiful private property full of magnificent old growth Redwoods that the club is cutting down to supplement its income.

The Club’s motto is “Weaving Spiders come not Here” which is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and effectively means that members and their guests are not allowed to be networking and doing business while they’re there.

No. They’re not.


This motto obviously means that the rumours that the Manhattan Project was devised there, couldn’t possibly be true.

Just as well, because imagine a world where if Hillary Clinton had been President, she wouldn’t have been allowed to go to a place where swinging dicks make important decisions about nuclear weapons.

Or where, if Australia had a female Prime Minister, she wouldn’t be allowed to go, but her Foreign Minister Bob Carr – let’s be clear, JUNIOR to her in every way, would be allowed to accept an invitation from Henry Kissinger AND use tax-payer money for the privilege in 2012.

Lucky nothing important is discussed there, right?

Just a bunch of knockabout guys letting it all hang out (interestingly, being able to piss on the Redwoods at will is one of the reasons the Club cited in applying to exclude women from working there).*

Anyway, they start the two week-long event with the Cremation of Care, a ceremony where the effigy of a child named “Dull Care” is mock sacrificed by men in red robes with pointed hoods and then put out in a burning boat on the lake.

Now when I finished senior Maths in high school, I did participate in a secret burning of class notes and text books with some equally numerically-challenged classmates, so I’m not entirely averse to the secret ceremony, but the robes do make it sound a little like a cheerier and wealthier Klan meeting.

Anyway, those Bohemians are a notoriously loyal bunch and I imagine that they happily turn a blind eye to the mediocrity of Walter D.K. Gibson’s stunning cocktail “achievement”, but I’m calling bullshit on the Gibson.

It may have cocktail onions, but it’s definitely a Martini.

And a weaving spider can’t change its spots.




*Huge and obvious downside of the ban on women ever working at camp is that the hardened hearts and arteries of the members couldn’t be softened by the melodic stylings of another Gibson – Debbie – and her Electric Youth promise of the 1980s. Certainly that’s what I recommend listening to as you sip your cold-prevention fluids.