I’m a cheater.
There, I said it. Despite regularly proclaiming my love for Bud Light and even entering into an unholy arrangement with its heftier sibling due to BL’s unavailability in Russia, on occasion I let a stray cocktail pass my lips. What can I say? Sometimes a girl wants a little variety, of a stronger persuasion.
Dry vodka martini with a twist has been my cocktail of choice for the last few years. To paraphrase FRIENDS’ Joey: “Vodka? Good! Dry Vermouth? Good! Lemon?! Good!!” Simple and classic, right? Wrong.
Somehow, in the country that created the most famous martini drinker of all time (everyone knows that there is no hero without a proper villain; there’s no Cold War super-agent without the Cold War), no one has ever heard of a martini cocktail — gin or vodka, dirty or dry, shaken OR stirred.
Walk into a regular Moscow bar or restaurant and order a martini, I dare you.
Unless you’re at a posh, expat-heavy face-control lounge where even the bartenders speak fluent English, this is what you’ll get:
Sticky, herbal Sweet Vermouth (usually the Martini Bianco kind), on the rocks. Specify that you’d like a martini cocktail, and you’ll get bewildered looks, plus a thin straw and some lemon slices. Ask specifically for a vodka martini and you’ll be served a shot of vodka on the side, with a bonus death glare. And don’t even THINK about making a James Bond reference in your attempt to educate.
By the way, these establishments all have fully-stocked bars and a list of 30+ specialty cocktails ranging from the simple GinTo to Long Island Iced Tea to something called Green Paradise Tini. Where do they think the Tini in that comes from, huh?
After several martini-ordering fiascos, I decided to try out a new approach at one of my regular haunts (an offbeat noodle/sushi place which I previously covered here). The staff already know my sister and me, so I figured I could get away with being a bit of a pain in the ass, especially toward the end of the dinner rush.
After running up a decent ‘ingratiation’ tab, and making sure that the rarity that is dry vermouth in Russia was indeed in stock, I waited for the waitress to drop out of sight and approached the barkeep with a request of 2 shots of vodka and a splash of dry vermouth shaken with ice, poured into a single glass. The word ‘martini’ was never uttered, lest I confused the poor chap.
That sounds like a cocktail.
Sorry, it’s not on the list.
I know, that’s why I am asking for it to be made custom. PLEASE :-D.
We don’t do ‘splashes’ — you will have to buy shots.
Ok, I will buy shots.
However, they only sold double shots of vermouth, so I had to make a secret deal with the bartender that I will be charged, by the book, for 1 [double] shot of vermouth and 1 shot of vodka, but he will pour two shots of vodka and half a shot [so really, normal, single shot] of vermouth, and then he will secretly shake the ingredients together. Surreptitiousness was paramount to the success of my venture — if all that naughty shaking was spotted by other staff, the barkeep would get in trouble for making an unlisted cocktail. I was practically turning this place into a Prohibition-era speak-easy!
Lemon slices on the side and an unnecessary ice cube were free of charge. Cheers to that!
Is there a cocktail you crave that you can’t get at your current locale? Do you make it yourself?