In the beginning there was…

William Powell in The Thin Man

…the Martini. And that’s where my obsession with cocktails originally began.

Missing school one afternoon to watch The Thin Man, I was transfixed by the film’s sophistication, glamour and most of all by its reckless drinking. The debonair William Powell and Myrna Loy solve a murder in between Martini-drinking bouts and trading witticisms, ably assisted by Skippy the fox terrier (my all time favourite stalwart of screwball comedy). Never again will dipsomania seem so aspirational.

Today, a residual aura of glamour clings to the Martini in my mind, undiminished by its bastard incarnations in the Bond franchise or by the fact I rarely sit satin-clad in an art deco gem of a bar while a white tuxedo-ed impresario assiduously stirs away.  Actually, I did once come close to this fantasy when ordering my pre-dinner tipple of choice at J.Sheekey – not only was it perfect in strength and temperature but it was served in a delicate,  upright glass. I recognised it at once as the style used in The Thin Man and for a bubble of a moment felt as sophisticated and glamorous as Myrna herself.

There are of course dissenters. Gin-haters. People who don’t actually like the taste of alcohol. Once a bartender told me that he, and many others he knew, sneered at customers who ordered this drink, as unimaginative, unsubtle and faux-sophisticated. I disagree. Not only is the Martini the perfect litmus test when trying out a new bar (if they get that right I’ll order a second drink), but there simply are occasions when nothing but its icy, alcoholic purity will do.

I was lucky enough to go to Kenya last year to write a feature on voluntourism. Part of the trip was a safari in the Masai Mara which meant a multiple-drop flight in a 12-seater light aircraft. On our second take off the engine failed and  take-off was aborted, resulting in a totalled plane, a few bruises and some very shaky legs. On reaching the nearby, and fortuitously luxurious, camp, my first request was for a gin Martini, extra dry (they couldn’t supply the olive but under the circumstances I forgave them). By the time I was on my second drink, the rest of the party had followed my lead.

A couple of hours later the vote was unanimous. If  you ever find yourself  thoroughly shaken or stirred –  not necessarily by a plane crash – give the brandy a miss and order a Martini.


3 thoughts on “In the beginning there was…

  1. Just watching Blithe Spirit on TV. Rex Harrison offers medium Margaret Rutherford a cocktail, she responds:

    “If it’s a dry martini, yes. If it’s a concoction,no. Experience has taught me to be wary of concoctions.”


  2. I would appreciate more visual materials, to make your blog more attractive, but your writing style really compensates it. But there is always place for improvement

  3. Hi Peteski,
    Thanks for the feedback – I agree more pictures would improve the blog so will be working on that for future posts.

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