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Cheers! FDR's martini for Repeal Day

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen of Tammy's Tastings just finished mixing an FDR-style martini.

December 5 is Repeal Day.

“Repeal Day is sort of an invented holiday,” explained Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings. In recent years, bars, brew houses, and the drinking public have embraced the repeal of the 18th Amendment, which brought in the era of Prohibition.

On December 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the 21st Amendment, doing away with Prohibition. He famously said, “What America needs now is a drink.”

“FDR was a big fan of the martini,” Coxen said. “He would make these for guests that were visiting the White House and so we’re going to make an FDR-style martini.”

Martinis should be drunk while they are very cold, so it's better to make a small one and then a second if you want more!

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

1.5 oz gin
.5 oz dry vermouth
Garnish: lemon twist or olive

Combine all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir very well until very cold. Strain into cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist or olive as you prefer. A dash of orange bitters is a nice addition.

There’s a joke among dry martini lovers. “Just set the vermouth bottle near the glass,” or “Just wave the unopened bottle of vermouth over the glass.” In other words, just make the martini nothing more than cold gin with an olive or lemon twist.

Coxen says vermouth has gotten a bad reputation because too many people keep their vermouth far too long. “Vermouth is wine and just like you wouldn’t drink a bottle of wine that had been sitting on your counter for six weeks, six months, (even) six years, you shouldn’t drink vermouth like that either,” Coxen said. Just throw it away. Buy small bottles of vermouth. Fresh vermouth in a martini might change how dry martini fans view the ingredient.

In her cocktail classes, she’s found most people like a ratio of gin to vermouth somewhere between 3:1 to 5:1.

Despite what James Bond is famous for saying, martinis should be stirred, not shaken. “As a drink that has clear ingredients, this is a drink that traditionally should be stirred,” Coxen said. As you can see in the photo, there’s no foam or floating bits of ice. It’s simply clear and inviting.

Coxen chose to use Detroit City Distillery's Railroad Gin. She says being on the Canadian border, Detroit was a hub of activity during Prohibition, unlawfully slipping all kinds of alcohol across the border. "In Detroit, the Purple Gang was one of the most (in)famous gangs during Prohibition," Coxen said, adding, "That image you have of a tommy-gun wielding gangster, that is the Purple Gang."

One more note about FDR's martinis: he liked to garnish with a lemon twist AND an olive. You might want to consider using one or the other. Roosevelt's guests didn't think the president was particularly adept at making martinis because of his choice to over-garnish.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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