The Dirty Martini and Prohibition

Your cocktail calendar entry for: March
22
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March 22 is the anniversary of the day in 1933 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, a true death knell piece of legislation against Prohibition.  Suddenly it was legal to make and sell beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% and wine of similarly low alcohol content.  It was a valiant start, and upon signing the legislation he uttered the famous remark “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”  A good thought, but we’re going to mix a Dirty Martini today as that’s what FDR like to drink.

As if the Cullen-Harrison act was not enough to earn him our eternal gratitude, states were quickly ratifying the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, ultimately repealing a prior amendment (the 18th) that imposed Prohibition.   By December Prohibition was just an unpleasant memory.  At least we got the Scofflaw cocktail out of it.

FDR was elected in part because voters were pretty tired of Prohibition, but once he was in office there were some distractions – the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Europe – things that could take anyone’s eye off the ball.  But our man followed through as promised.  Sure, he did some other things like the New Deal to reckon with the Depression and there was the what’s commonly known as World War II, but it is indeed his direct hand in repealing Prohibition that earns him this annual slot in The Drunkard’s Almanac.

As the reader might suspect, FDR had a certain degree of self-interest here, as he was definitely among the better-lubricated presidents in this nation’s history.  His favorite drink?  The Martini (see here and here).  So it’s hardly new, but today it’s an appropriate Drink of the Day.

FDR was known to regularly hold court at his “children’s hour” every day, where select members of his inner circle would gather and he would mix a batch of martinis. He was also universally regarded, it seems, as a lousy bartender.  His martini forays took certain….ahem…. freedoms such as adding dashes of absinthe or fruit juice.  His martinis were, however, a powerful diplomatic weapon accompanying him around the world.  In November, 1943, when the Big Three of the Allied leaders met in Tehran to formulate the defeat of Nazism, our man asked Josef Stalin to join in a toast.  For such revelry he offered a martini, which allegedly prompted the remark “Well, all right, but it is cold on the stomach.”  How many men could ever say they had Stalin on the ropes, showing that kind of weakness?  Likely not too many.

Dirty Martini

Dirty Martini

While the origins of the Dirty Martini are quite murky we might as well thank FDR for bringing them into the Oval Office and adding them to the repertoire of our better lubricated presidents.  We certainly do not endorse shaking a martini but in honor of FDR we make an exception today and do it his way.
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Ingredients
  

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1 tsp olive juice
  • Lemon twist
  • Olive

Instructions
 

  • Add gin, dry vermouth, olive juice and ice to a shaker. (Yes, we told you FDR was a lousy bartender, and he shook his martinis. If he hadn’t repealed Prohibition that alone would probably relegate him to the Hall of Shame. You can use a shaker today if you like, but if you take it up as general practice with martinis you’re going to get some serious side-eye.)
  • Shake, strain into cocktail glass.
  • Rub lemon twist around rim of glass
  • Garnish with an olive
  • Drink.
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