Thursday, August 20, 2009

Will Work for Olives

I love my job. But like many places today, we’re long on stuff to do and short on people to do it. So while I’m never, ever bored, by Friday night I’m pretty much done in. Which is why the unspoken rule at my house is we don’t cook—and wherever we go to eat, there must be a bar.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression: I’m not much of a drinker. This wasn’t always the case – I’ve got my repertoire of stories that begin with consuming more than my weight in alcoholic beverages. But the past is the past. And in the present, wine, beer and my body just don’t get along. A friend suggested trying hard liquor, but the only thing I can get past my nose is vodka. Bingo! I discovered that an Absolut and tonic is quite refreshing when it’s warm outside. But what’s a girl to do during New Jersey’s long, cold winters?

Enter the martini. An elegant solution: clear, clean, simple. Sophisticated and so grown-up in its retro, long-stemmed glass. A charming bartender in the Martini Bar at the Raleigh Hotel in South Beach spoiled me from the start. Seduced by his willingness to share his secret recipe, I ordered a second one—and barely made it back to my friend’s apartment (an adventure that prompted me to introduce the one-martini limit.) Years later I realized that he set the standard by which I’ve judged every martini since. The right balance of vodka and vermouth. Definitely shaken, not stirred. No slivers of ice in a glass that’s not too large, not too small. And—best of all—half a dozen big, fat olives.

That’s right: as my sweetheart Jim knows all too well, it’s all about the olives. No, I’m not talking “dirty” (who would ruin good vodka by mixing it with olive juice?) But I’m afraid the single-olive-on-the-end-of-a-skewer is just a tease. Serious drinkers should probably read no further—because I’m sure I’ve given new meaning to the word “extra”. If they’re large olives, five or so will do (a bartender at Café Luxembourg in Manhattan once told me more than four was excessive and I’ve never been back). But the small ones? Well, let’s just say I’m overjoyed when the waiter at Bottagra brings me a small dish full.

So here’s to my favorite drink for unwinding after a long week. One that's meant to be sipped, not gulped. And is best when accompanied by good conversation—and a limitless supply of olives.

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