Lo and behold, March 14 is National Potato Chip Day and here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we want you well prepared. We’ll be mixing up the Salt & Vinegar Martini for the occasion. And accompanying it with chips. Sure, the 14th is also Albert Einstein’s birthday and he may be more famous, but he barely drank and we’re not aware of his snacking choices or any great snacks associated with him. Whatever you call them everybody loves potato chips, so let’s talk about fried spuds and then get to mixing.
The Potato Chip
The history of the potato chip is as murky as it is for some cocktails. This is a bit surprising, considering that to the best of our knowledge the developers and consumers weren’t all drunks.
There is a legend that a guy named George Crum invented the ubiquitous snack in 1853. He was a chef at the Moon Lake Lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York. French fries were popular there but some diner apparently complained that they were too thick. A thinner batch was still too thick. Then in order to annoy the annoying customer Crum supposedly made them into shaved chips. The legend maintains that the customer was satisfied and suddenly the potato chip was born.
It may be true that George Crum made the first crispy fried potato in Saratoga Springs, but the idea that he invented the ever-loved snack is rubbish. In 1817 a bestselling cookbook entitled The Cook’s Oracle was published. Its recipe for “Potatoes Fried in Slices or Shavings” is, well, the potato chip by a less appetizing name.
Frankly, they were pretty ubiquitous long before the 1850s. Current recipes may not call for frying in clarified butter or “goose dripping” but we’re talking about the same thing. Then sometime in the 1950s, after partition chromatography was developed, food scientists began developing flavoring agents. This led to Joe “Spud” Murphy and his employee Seamus Burke producing the world’s first seasoned chips. This happened in Ireland where the first two flavors were Cheese & Onion and Salt & Vinegar. The latter of which gets us to….
The Salt & Vinegar Martini
The Salt & Vinegar Martini comes from Hollywood’s oldest hotel, the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt. Inside lies The Spare Room, a dark paneled enclave with two vintage bowling alleys and a highly regarded cocktail bar.
It was there that Yael Vengroff came up with the Salt & Vinegar Martini, but it’s hardly a surprise as she’s got the chops. Coming from New York, she worked with luminaries such as Audrey Saunders (who we know from the Little Italy cocktail) and Giuseppe Gonzalez (for the astonishing Trinidad Sour). In 2019 she was also named Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail, the bartending world equivalent of winning an Oscar.
We don’t mix many cocktails using Vodka as the base spirit, but here we make an exception. This one really works. And being served with a favorite snack is part of the formula.
When you get down to it, the Salt & Vinegar Martini is a variation on the Dirty Martini and even has a bit of kinship with the Pickleback through a key shared ingredient. Easy to prepare, the only item that’ll likely be on your shopping list is the bag of salt & vinegar chips you’ll need to go with the drink.
Salt & Vinegar Martini
- 2 oz vodka To stay on theme we recommend a potato-based vodka.
- 1 oz Pickle juice Some may want to reduce this to 3/4 oz if your pickle brine is particularly salty.
- ¾ oz Dry vermouth
- 2 dash Celery bitters
- Garnish: If you have them, a small piece of pickled carrot is dropped into the glass. More important though, are Salt & vinegar chips to accompany the drink.
- Add ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a small piece of pickled carrot if you have them.
- Serve with salt & vinegar potato chips.
- Drink. And eat.