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The Martini: An Illustrated History of an American Classic, Barnaby Conrad III, Chronicle Books, 1995, ISBN 9780811807173, 132pp.

A coffee table book, defined as one where the picture to text ratio is 1:1 or greater. That doesn’t diminish the collection of text and images that Barnaby Conrad has put together in this slim volume, but as an exhaustive work on the mixture of gin and vermouth garnished with an olive this is not. Conrad does manage to bring together some things that I hadn’t seen or read before in my cocktail explorations, including a very dry (heh heh) bit of humor from Christopher Buckley on a presidential debate between George “Pappy” Bush and Bill Clinton called “The Three Martini Debate,” derived from a Tom Brokaw quote in The New York Times that serving the two a martini and having an exchange at his house would be a good alternative format. None of the pictures made my list of favorites, although the old advertisements and movie stills were interesting, and the cartoons, mainly from The New Yorker, were fun. Only two poems, one of which I was already intimately familiar with (the Dorothy Parker), but the other was one which I will endeavor to memorize, Ogden Nash’s “A Drink with Something In It.”

The single thing that I learned about the cocktail itself from the book was that the original recipe called for orange bitters in a 2:1 gin and vermouth combination. Since I actually have a bottle or orange bitters after having searched for a year for one, I can give this a try.

[Finished 25 January 2006]


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