For Your Consideration: The Martini

photo by billy abbott
photo by billy abbott

Nora Charles: How many drinks have you had?

Nick Charles: This will make six Martinis.

Nora Charles: [to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here. - The Thin Man

One of my favorite traditions of the year is watching the Academy Awards with friends and mixing up cocktails to match themes of the nominated movies. However, this year’s Oscar-watching poses some interesting challenges theme-wise. Apart from the fine wines served in Grand Budapest Hotel or decades-spanning beer brands served in Boyhood, it would be somewhat tasteless to come up with a drink to match the themes of the other movies. I mean, create something thick, brown and gooey like a Mudslide to represent the water that has to be filtered on the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild? Something with a boozy whack! for Whiplash? I don’t even want to know what you’d drink in celebration of The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything or Still Alice, let alone Gone Girl

However, one of the loveliest, most poignant scenes in any movie this year has to be when Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson confronts Lindsay Duncan as Tabitha Dickinson as she’s sipping a gin Martini in Birdman. The scene takes place in the theater district bar, the Rum House, across the street from the theater where Riggan, a washed up former action hero, is to make his directorial and acting Broadway debut the following evening. Tabitha, a seasoned, caustic theater critic, is sitting at the bar already framing her scathing review of the play, no matter how she feels after actually watching it.

Tabitha: It doesn't matter, I'm gonna destroy your play.

Riggan: But you didn't even seen it... I mean, did I did something to offend you?

Tabitha: As a matter of fact, you did. You took space on a theater which otherwise might have been used on something worthwhile.

It’s a telling statement about the current Broadway scene, which these days seems to rely heavily on casting big name movie stars, many of whom have never acted on stage, to sell tickets to tourists for their vanity projects. Some of them actually work, many don’t. However, Tabitha doesn’t care either way.

A Martini is the perfect drink for her. She is someone who reveres the classics, someone who isn’t interested in fixing a time honored tradition that wasn't otherwise broken. Its ingredients are clean, crisp and as dry as her own wit.

And after all, isn’t a Martini the quintessential cocktail to honor the film industry on its most important night of the year? It’s a classic that has been with us from the the silent era to the Thin Man movies to James Bond (hey, you can even make some shaken, others stirred to see if he was on to something), not to mention all the actors for whom a Martini was the rumored tipple of choice, such as Mae West and W.C. Fields. It’s a cocktail that makes one feel glamorous even if they’re just watching TV in their PJs with a pizza, instead of walking red carpets in gowns and tuxes.

Here's a classic, simple recipe for the stirred version.

Place booze in mixing glass and add cracked ice to cover. Stir until well chilled. Strain into Martini glass and garnish.

Or, you can make it à la Alfred Hitchcock, who famously said the closest one should get to adding vermouth is to glance at the bottle from across the room.