Friday Red: Dirty Martini

February 21, 2009

So, I wasn’t kidding when I said the Wine Warehouse of Boca Raton, FL was going to be one of my top two things that I would miss. Iowa has many charms, but ready access to nicely priced quality wines is not among them. Example: our local grocery store sells Smoking Loon for $14.99. Wine Warehouse price: $6.99. Which is about right. Sigh. We’ve been drinking a lot of beer this year.

But, we’re getting by with a little help from our friends. For one thing, Snickerdoodle hooked us up with some Wine of the Month Club for Christmas (can’t thank you enough!!), and one of those will certainly be showing up during a blog post near you, except that normally we don’t drink it on Friday nights, we save it for when we need to take it over to someone’s house to be impressive.

Tonight we were in between bottles, so we decided to take Friday festivities in a slightly different direction, that suggested by my friend EME this past fall, right before she became EMB–the dirty martini. I had never had one until her bachelorette party, which included a truth-or-truth session, in which we learned her favorite drink was the dirty martini, and a trip to a martini bar, in which I ordered one in her honor.

I have to say, it was not love at first sip. A dirty martini is gin + vermouth + olive juice. It tastes like… gin and olive juice. I like olives. I like olives a lot. Olive juice? Well, it’s not quite the same thing, now is it? It’s even less so when you mix it with gin, which I can’t help but compare to the imagined taste of Off! brand mosquito repellent. But, I soldiered on, and finished my dirty martini with nary an envious glance at the glasses of those who had ordered cosmotinis, pomotinis, and bellinis.

I emerged from that party with a sense of purpose: I would become an adult. I would learn to love the dirty martini. With the proper practice, in my experience, almost anything is possible, and surely I can become a genuine fan of the dirty martini if I try.

Why would I do this? I’m not sure, exactly. To prove that I can? Because it’d be nice to have at least one non-sugary drink that I feel comfortable ordering at a bar? Those are plausible reasons, but I think what I really want is the sense of the constraint, like writing oulipan poetry. It has a ring to it, and it came into my life without my seeking it–if I can learn to love it, I can learn to love whatever is coming my way. I’m going to like it. I’m going to learn how to savor it and look good sipping it. I didn’t choose it, it’s just there, and that makes it mine.

So, tonight, I took the second step in a journey that may be a thousand miles. I hit up the grocery and got the necessary supplies to introduce D to the dirty martini. It doesn’t take that much gin or vermouth to make a single martini, so it appears we are stocked to make a long term assault on this cocktail.

After he had finished his, I asked D if he liked it. He nodded. I pressed him: did you like it, or did you like the idea of it? He said he liked it, and paused. Well, he said, maybe I like having finished it. I nodded knowingly. Yeah, I said.

It’s a start. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Friday Red: M Edition

March 21, 2008

Malbec  (Dona Carla) + Michael Clayton, aka the longest post-release netflix queue wait ever. Oh yeah, pour and play, it’s Friday.

Friday Re(a)d:

December 7, 2007

Friday Red was almost cancelled tonight, or turned into Friday Read More Lit Theory (yay!), but SJ got her act together and did a sufficient amount of work to merit a small diversion before I go to sleep and get up to do more work–which I am actually very pumped about. I mean, it’s gotta be pretty rocking if it actually gets me to consider passing up a glass of wine.

So, here we are with

1) chilled bottle of something red of questionable denominacion, bought for name only: Kissing Bridge. It seemed like a good candidate for a southern lit get together, but that ended up skewing a bit more high brow. Which was totally fitting given that we spent the whole semester talking about how stereotyped southerness is really passé.


1) more French film in our moving at a crawl Netflix queue: L’Humanité, directed by Bruno Dumont, which is both totally offputting and comeplling at the same time.  Mostly, it’s weird.

Favorite line read tonight, quoted in James Giles’s Spaces of Violence: History is written in wars not words, showing us “relations of power, not relations of meaning.” Oh now you tell me.

Also, I have a girlcrush on Michelle Norris of NPR fame. She used the word “pluperfect” on national television.

It’s always nice when Salon gets away from political dithering and back to covering stories I care about, like this one about organic wine. Over the past year, I’ve watched the proliferation of little icons affixed to the descriptions of wines at my local wine store, which you now all know about and can’t wait to visit. I can’t really keep track of them all: there’s one little lady bug for organic, a different little lady bug for biodynamic (a Euro-concept that I don’t really know the meaning of), and as I saw last night, another symbol for sustainable. So, a little primer on what all these things might really mean for my wine drinking habits is welcome.

As Clarren explains on Salon, the use of the word “organic” on the label itself is rather strictly governed in the US. To use it, not only do the grapes have to be grown with “40-foot buffer zones from farms that spray specific chemicals,” they have to be without synthetic additives of any kind. This is a bit of a problem, because nearly all wines depend on adding sulfites to ensure consistency of flavor and shelf longevity. Although sulfites are a natural byproduct of fermentation, wine needs more than what comes naturally to become and stay the drink we know and love, especially white wines.

Clarren reports that some people think that these sulfites are absolutely necessary to good wine, and that without them you are risking seriously subpar wine. Now, all of this was news to me, but it does kind of back up a feeling that I’d been having for a while now, which is that, to be brutally honest, most of the wines labeled “organic” that I’ve tried have tasted a little funny to me, kind of gluey with a hint of soymilk. That’s why I haven’t really made it a point to buy them. If they look interesting, I’ll give it a try, but I don’t seek out organic wine.

As it turns out, if I want to support organic growing processes while I get my drink on, there’s another kind of label to look for: the ingredient label. Winemakers who refuse to keep sulfites out on principle of taste are still allowed to put “organic grapes” on their ingredients list, but not “organic” on the front label itself.

But again, to be honest, when I buy wine I’m mostly interested in how it tastes and who made it. It’s an area where human stories are often a big part of the product. I’ve come to think of a bottle of wine like a book of poetry: at its best, a result of an intense labor of love created in full knowledge that most of the effort will be lost on the marketplace but created with perfectionistic standards and high ambitions nonetheless. This isn’t always true, and in my price range there’s far more corporate than artesenal <sp> production, but sometimes it is the case and I find that inspiring.

For the final word, I defer to a crazy-ass vinophile Frenchman: “This whole debate about sulfites is ludicrous,” says Véronique Raskin, the French-born founder of the San Francisco-based Organic Wine Co., importer of French, Italian, Spain and Portuguese wines. “With all the time we’ve wasted discussing sulfites, we could have saved the rain forests and a few other actual problems.”