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7 Tips From Bartenders on How to Make a Better Martini

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Since the 1920s prohibition era, the martini has represented a mix of class and flair, style and elegance. And while prohibition is (thankfully) long gone, the drink’s popularity—and ABV—remain strong. Today, the martini has become half drink, half art form, and bartenders far and wide are experimenting with ways to refine and perfect this iconic cocktail.

For this year's National Martini Day (June 19), we’ve compiled seven tips and tricks from some of the most revered cocktail experts to help you have your most delicious martini yet.

1. SAY NO TO VODKA.

While some dry martini recipes may call for a splash of vodka, Derek Brown, a leading spirits and cocktail expert and owner of the Drink Company, says you’re better off with just gin.

“I’m fine with someone ordering a vodka martini, but I refuse to accept both drinks as equals,” he says. “Gin gives the martini backbone because it’s the highest ABV product in the mix, and because juniper adds complex flavors and aroma.”

2. VERMOUTH IS A MUST.

Sure, vermouth may lower the overall alcohol levels in your drink, but be honest with yourself—is that really a bad thing? Not only will you thank yourself in the morning, Brown also guarantees you’ll have a much tastier martini tonight. And his feelings are pretty strong on the issue.

“For me, vermouth represents the civilizing aspect of the martini,” he says. “A martini without vermouth is like calling gnawing on the leg of a cow a steak—pure savagery.”

3. BALANCE YOUR FLAVORS.

While it may be tempting to add extra olives or go heavy on the gin, Alexis El Sayed, head bartender at Art Bar in Manhattan, reminds us that simplicity and balance are key.

“It’s important to balance the flavors when making a great martini,” she says. “Nobody wants a drink that’s too sweet, bitter, or overly tart.”

4. DON'T OMIT ORANGE BITTERS.

To get that classically bitter martini taste, add in some orange bitters. Brown says this is the most commonly forgotten ingredient, but the combined bitterness and citrus notes can make or break your martini.

5. STIR, DON'T SHAKE.

Sure, James Bond is known for requesting his martini “shaken, not stirred,” but not only will you sound ridiculous repeating his signature line, but you'll also be doing your cocktail a disservice.

“Never say to a bartender 'shaken, not stirred' unless you’re actually wearing a tuxedo,” Brown says. “Stirring creates a cold, taut surface free from ice shards. Shaking is supposedly good to add antioxidants. But why on earth would you seek antioxidants in your poison?”

6. ADD LEMON INSTEAD OF OLIVES.

While olives may have the iconic martini look, they’re often served at room temperature and can therefore heat up your drink—a big no-no. Serve your drink cold with an expressed lemon peel for top-notch taste.

7. SERVE IT IN STYLE.

Just like a book, many judge a martini by its cover. Pay attention to the glass and garnish, and, as El Sayed suggests, “be sure that the presentation is just as pleasing as the taste.” Because let’s be honest—part of the allure of an expertly crafted cocktail is its shareability factor. A beautiful Instagram shot is one of the most important ingredients for #NationalMartiniDay!

To celebrate in style, here are two recipes from Brown and El Sayed for some tried-and-true perfect martinis.

Derek Brown’s Dry Martini

1 1/2 oz. dry gin
1 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
Dash orange bitters
Lemon peel

Combine ingredients and stir with ice until very cold. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Express oils from lemon peel on surface then discard the peel.

Art Bar’s Hendrick's Elixir

3 parts Hendrick's gin
1 part St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
2 parts ginger beer
2 wedges of fresh lime
Cucumber slice for garnish

Pour all of the ingredients over ice into a shaker, and squeeze juice from 1 lime wedge. Shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a cucumber slice and a lime wedge. Serve immediately.

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The Latest Way to Enjoy Pho in Vietnam: As a Cocktail
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James Duong, AFP/Getty Images

Pho is something of a national dish in Vietnam. The noodle soup, typically topped with beef or chicken, can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There’s even a version of it for happy hour, as Lonely Planet reports.

The pho cocktail, served at Nê Cocktail Bar in Hanoi, contains many of the herbs and spices found in pho, like cinnamon, star anise, cilantro, and cardamom. Without the broth or meat, its taste is refreshingly sweet.

The drink's uniqueness makes it a popular choice among patrons, as does the dramatic way it's prepared. The bartender pours gin and triple sec through the top of a tall metal apparatus that contains three saucers holding the spices. He then lights the saucers on fire with a hand torch as the liquid flows through, allowing the flavors to infuse with the alcohol as the drink is filtered into a pitcher below.

The pho cocktail
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Pham Tien Tiep, who was named Vietnam’s best bartender at the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition in 2012, created the cocktail six years ago while working at the famous French Colonial-era hotel the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, according to AFP. He has since brought his signature drink to several of the stylish bars he owns in Vietnam’s capital, including Nê Cocktail Bar.

Initially, he set out to create a drink that would represent Vietnam’s culture and history. “I created the pho cocktail at the Metropole Hotel, just above the war bunkers where the American musician Joan Baez sang to the staff and guests in December 1972 as bombs fell on the city,” Tiep told Word Vietnam magazine. “The alcohol in the cocktail is lit on fire to represent the bombs, while spices, such as chili and cinnamon, reflect the warmness of her voice.”

Tiep has a reputation for infusing his drinks with unusual local ingredients. He has also created a cocktail that features fish sauce, a popular condiment in Vietnam, and another that contains capsicum, chili, and lemongrass in an ode to the bo luc lac (shaking beef) dish, according to CNN.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Health
Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
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Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

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