The book has been written on the martini. Actually, several books. But today I found myself shocked by the number of drinks being called martinis in Slate’s recent martini brackets a la March Madness of martinis.
In an alternate world, this could stand for Martini March Madness.
Interestingly enough, I came to wonder at which point do I draw the line when deciding to call a drink a martini. Surely, the line is far away from the Applebees/TGIFriday model of serving adult koolaid in a martini glass spiked with vodka and calling it a “rocking-TINI” [or something similar]. But some of the drinks challenged me. Is a “perfect martini,” as in a Perfect Manhattan a Martini? Sure, I’ll buy that. But what about half a shot of St. Germain? What about dashes of Absinthe? Then what about a dash of Absinthe and Maraschino?
I mean this is hotly contested ground we’re entering. I know, I’ve always stood by the idea that adding a couple dashes of orange bitters made a martini [and a good one]. I’ve always believe a dash or two of something aromatic and you’re still in martini country.
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Firstly, you might be wondering about the theme and the name. The theme From Crass to Craft, put forth by Scott Diaz over at Shake, Strain and Sip challenges us thusly: “Create or find a drink that uses one or more ingredients that are not considered “craft” but are or can be used in a “craft” cocktail.”
Back to the name ‘Halja.’ Yes, it is the origin of the name “hell,” but let’s back up again. Hel was a goddess in the Norse tradition and her name [as well as the word from which our ‘hell’ comes from, the Protogermanic word Halja] means “one who covers up or hides something.”
This name seemed perfect for this. I’m hiding the fact that our main ingredient [a very specific kind of flavored vodka] is not really a craft ingredient by putting it in a drink where it not only shines- its most definitely the star- but its less desirable qualities are masked in beautiful fashion. Hence the name Halja, because frankly, I thought that it was going to require god-like capabilities to make the kind of drink I expect from top-end cocktail establishments with the kind of ingredient that rarely rises above the level of shots for college students who really haven’t acquired a taste for alcohol yet.
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