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Shaken and Stirred

Martini: a cocktail made with gin or vodka and dry vermouth. That's the definition in my "Random House College Dictionary." This is a martini. Look it up in any cocktail recipe book. Gin or vodka and vermouth, with an olive or onion garnish. That's it.

So why does every pit of suburban despair/casual dining restaurant in America insist on calling the majority of their mixed drinks "martinis?"

Applebee's has the mango martini. It features mango flavored rum. Stop right there. No gin, no vodka. Not a martini. The drink also has peach schnapps. Again, not a martini. Cointreau. Like a broken record, not a martini. Pineapple and cranberry juices. Stop me if you've heard this: not a martini.

What about that drink entitles anyone to call it a martini? The only people who do so are ignorant. It's a mixed drink sure, but it's not a martini. What's stopping Applebee's from calling it the "Calypso Cooler" or "Jamaican Jitterbug," or any other equally lame name that invokes thoughts of relaxing on a third world beach while worrying about getting mugged?

This is just ignorance. It's the equivalent of handing someone a rum and coke and calling it a screwdriver. Or giving someone a chicken sandwich and calling it a porterhouse. It's factually wrong, and no matter how many times you repeat it this will not change.

I'm not just picking on Applebee's. Ruby Tuesday has its "Georgia Peach Martini," which is, wait for it, peach vodka (check), peach schnapps (not a martini), and orange juice. Outback Steakhouse has a blueberry martini with nary a vermouth drop in sight. And what self-respecting casual chain in America doesn't include a pomegranate "martini" on its menu?

I'm not a martini enthusiast. In fact, I think real martinis taste like rubbing alcohol. It's no secret that the martini is a serious drink, meant for serious alcoholics. Nobody sips gin for the taste, and if you claim to then you're lying. But I respect anyone who can choke down more than half of an actual martini. I wish I had that kind of dedication to drunkenness.

Hardly anybody does. The next time I see someone order a real martini will be the first time. Until then, I'll have to settle for watching middle-aged women with too much makeup order cranorangepombluetinis with their Chicken Alfredo and Cobb salad entrees.

Me? I'll just have a beer.

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