shaken or stirred

Pre-Batched Martinis Are Surprisingly Controversial. They’re Also Vastly Superior

A (freshly stirred) martini from Angel’s Share. Photo: Bobby Doherty

As if we don’t have enough to worry about in the world, now even the fabled martini — a thing that exists mostly to help everyone forget about their problems — is causing trouble. A Times report reveals that, as part of the new restaurant(s) going into the former Four Seasons space, the bar area will get a revamp that includes some new furniture, a lot of cleaning, and a new menu. Among the drinks that will be offered, one detail in particular has struck a chord with seasoned drinkers: The house martinis will be pre-batched, kept in freezers, and poured from crystal decanters.

The move is divisive. While some applaud the increased opportunity for quality control, other people are not having it:

I cannot argue with the points made above. But I will nevertheless go on record as a fan of batched martinis. I don’t care if they’re easier or faster to serve (I don’t work in a bar). I’m a fan because the martinis are better.

“I love batched martinis,” says bartender Tristan Willey, who once served premixed, individually bottled martinis at New York’s Booker and Dax. He concedes that the main drawback of this approach at bars is customers can’t see the drink being made. The benefits, however, are many: The drink gets far colder than it would be if it were stirred or shaken. The dilution can be precisely calibrated, since you just add some water instead of relying on melting ice. And the texture of a frozen martini is satisfyingly, surprisingly thick. (If you’ve ever kept a bottle of vodka in the freezer, the effect is similar.) “There’s something really intense about it,” Willey says. “At first you get this really viscous drink, and as it warms up it gets a little more exposed, and you start to get the vermouth a little more, and the botanicals open up.”

At the revamped Four Seasons bar, cocktails will reportedly cost $18, which is pricey but doesn’t sound too bad considering the location, by which I mean both “midtown” and “a luxury bar with iconic design and more than half a century of history that caters specifically to wealthy customers.” So you can try it for yourself and see what you think. Perhaps the team has hit upon martini recipes that truly will satisfy all of their customers’ tastes, as unlikely as that seems. (Working to the batched drinks’ advantage: Major Food’s bar director, Thomas Waugh, has a solid reputation among his fellow drink-makers, and the company has a history of presentation gimmicks that sound corny on paper but tend to be satisfying in execution.)

It is also easy to test this theory by making some martinis. Here is a simple recipe for a strong, relatively dry batch (you can adjust the ratios to your liking): Get something big, like a decanter, and mix 550 ml of gin, 100 ml each of water and dry vermouth, and six-ish dashes of orange bitters. Stir it a little, then pour into a clean, empty liquor bottle. (A funnel makes this part a lot easier, and you’re going to want a bottle with a screw cap so you can reseal it easily.) Kind of swish it around once or twice to make sure it’s mixed, then throw it in your freezer for a day or so until it gets very, very cold. Pour a few ounces into a chilled glass, garnish as you see fit, and render your batching verdict thusly.

Are Pre-Bottled Martinis Really Such a Crime?