Act 2 – The Ritual
5:30, post-meridian. Home, going nowhere. The coat comes off. The shoes come off. The fireplace goes on, or the breezeway door is opened. Settled. A chair. A view. No TV, no phone, no computer. A friend/family/lover. Or not. An empty stomach. More about that in a minute.
My Friday martini is not a social drink. It isn’t even every Friday night. This is not having the neighbors over for a beer. This does not happen in a bar. This only comes down only one way – when everything else can just wait until tomorrow. You can share it with me, but only if you understand. This is an end unto itself. Nothing else is going to get done.
Shake off the guilt. Set out the gin. I’m not a gin snob – any one of the popular brands will be fine, although I do enjoy the brace of a little juniper (don’t even talk to me about vodka). Some dry vermouth, ditto as to the brand. The glass, the classic V shape, a little larger than standard. The glass goes in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. The shaker – only those with that beautiful patina of used chrome or pewter need apply. Fresh ice. Only fresh. I don’t want the scent of salmon from the freezer in the mix. One fresh lemon. Nothing else.
Now here we go. Glass in the freezer. Shave off a ¾ inch by 1 ½ inch slice off the lemon peel – peel only, don’t cut into the fruit. Ice goes into the shaker until it is 3/4s full. Then the gin. No need to measure – I’m putting in more than I will use. Shake violently until the ice has splintered inside and until frost dulls the outside. I shake it more than the usual bartender. I love the clackety – clackety, swooshing sound. Nothing else sounds like that. Now our eyes and ears and fingers are engaged. Three of the five senses.
Glass come out of the freezer. Now there is no turning back. You are in the thrall of what’s to come. Pour a dollop of vermouth into the bottom of the glass (the older I get, the more vermouth. I don’t know why). Take the lemon peel and rub it all the way around the rim of the glass, then twist it and put it in the glass with the vermouth. Take the shaker and crack open the top from the bottom; not the little cap on the top, but the lid. Hold it so that there is an opening large enough to let the smaller fractured ice crystals out, but small enough that no big cubes come out. When you have a few of those little frozen wedges in the glass, stop, put the lid back on, and pour the rest out through those little holes in the top. When you get close enough to the top that you can still carry the glass, stop.