This is the first in a seven part series on Martini Gadgets. Most of these stem from the 1950/early 1960s Atomic Age era; with the rise of the American middle-class, technology was put to use in a number of labour-saving devices, and, naturally, this extended to the Martini culture of the time. Various (arguably) superfluous gadgets came on the market (we still have these today: an electronic gravy boat being such an example) and this coincided with the desire for dryer and dryer Martinis, so some enterprising soul(s) created all sorts of instruments to solve the problem of keeping excessive amounts of vermouth from your drink. As a note of interest, here is some research that looks at how dry people from different professions like their Martinis.
In this first article, I will look at Martini Stones. These were made by Podan Co. in 1963 and distributed by Baekgaard & Butler of Glenview, Illinois. Martini Stones consist of limestone chippings in a pot; you fill this with vermouth and the theory is that the stone absorbs the delicate aroma of the wine, which you then add to a poured glass of chilled gin or vodka.
I filled the jar with vermouth and left it in the fridge for 24 hours (I used a fresh bottle of Martini Dry). The next day, I “iced” my gin (Hayman’s London Dry) by stirring it with ice and straining; I could have kept it in the freezer, but I like a little dilution in my Martini.
After pouring my iced gin into a Martini glass, I added one large stone to the mix.
This created a very dry Martini, as you may well expect. Actually, I can hardly taste the vermouth at all: it was practically just a glass of chilled gin. I think you would get more vermouth in your drink from a simple rinse of the glass to start with. Personally, I’d rather have a vermouth-soaked olive than this.
I used one large stone, as I thought there was a genuine risk of swallowing one of the smaller ones (Podan do ask you to tell your friends not to put the stones in their mouths). The stones look pretty in the glass, but are not very effective for making a Martini; maybe this is why they’re not made anymore…?
So although Martini Stones are not very practical and don’t offer the opportunity for much showmanship few people will be able to guess what they are and so they are rather curious.
A modern alternative?
You may be thinking, this is ll well and good but where can I get them from today? Although Martini Stones are no longer produced, I think that Whisky Stones provide a similar function, leaving them to soak in vermouth before adding to the glass.