Martini Gadget #5 – Martini Oil Can

After the balancing act of the Martini Scales, this article will go back to a gadget that is designed to dispense minimal amounts of vermouth.

The Martini Oil Can, a kind of dropper or dribbler. This was created by Tiffany & Co, the American Jeweller founded in 1837 and famously associated with the first meal of the day. The oil can is about 1 1/2 inches diameter at the base, it is about 3 inches high and made of solid sterling silver.

The spout of the dropper detaches and the base of the can is filled with Vermouth and there is a cork seal between the base and the spout. At the tip of the spout itself is a tiny pin-prick of a hole that allows the vermouth to dribble out of.

Does it work?

I filled the Martini Oil Can with Dolin Vermouth and prepared my mixing glass and ice. I decided to use Leopold’s Gin and about 5 seconds worth of dribbling for 30ml of Gin.

A crisp Martini that is also quite flavourful. The dribble does allow you to minutely control the amount of vermouth you add to the mix. The downside is that if you fill the oil can too much, no Vermouth will come out, so a bit of playing around is needed to find a workable level. The capacity is quite small (around 30ml/1oz) so if you were making a lot of drinks you’d have to fill it up quite often.

Martini Gadgets #2 – Martini Droppers

In the second part of my writings on Martini Gadgets, I shall be looking at Martini Droppers: they are not as unusual as the stones and hopefully a little easier to get hold of for those of you who may be inclined to try one yourselves.

Many readers will, no doubt, remember chemistry lab sessions from their school days spent using pipettes to carefully measure out quantities of Hydrochloric Acid and other nasties; so why not use one for your vermouth? In its most basic form, this is what a Martini Dropper is.

RX Martini Dropper in Vermouth Bottle

RX Martini went one step further by creating an extra long version (32cm, in fact) that would fit into a full-size bottle of vermouth. It came attached to a cork; the idea being that this would replace the cap and the dropper would constantly sit in the bottle, ready to dispense vermouth at a mere moment’s notice. The bulb on the end looks rather like an olive and the glass pipe is graduated with assorted measurements.

Another variety is the eye-dropper style vermouth bottle. In this case, you fill this small bottle (around 20ml in size) with vermouth and use the built-in dropper to add droplets to your mixing glass. Most famously made by Gorham, they were often ornately decorated and plated in silver the one below was made by Fisher.

Silver Plated Vermouth Dropper Bottle

But do Martini Droppers work?

For my test, I used Miller’s Wesbourne Strength Gin. I opened a fresh bottle of Noilly Prat Vermouth and inserted the dropper. It is worth noting here that, when adding a dropper to a fresh bottle, you should be careful that it doesn’t cause your vermouth to overflow!

Mrs. B demonstrating the Vermouth Dropper with Miller's Westbourne Strength Gin

For my test, I made a Martini using about 15 drops (50 drops = ⅓ Ounce) of vermouth.
I had forgotten how great Westbourne Strength was in a Martini, and the dropper allows you to measure how much vermouth you want to add to your drink very precisely (unlike the Martini Stones). I think they would be useful for any drink with a ratio of less than 5:1 (gin to vermouth). For a wetter Martini, you would be better off using a simple measure.

Martini Dropper Results

Once again you may be thinking: this is all well and good, but where can I get a Vermouth/Martini Dropper today? The simplest and cheapest option would be to buy yourself a small plastic pipette, which can be purchased for less than couple of pounds/bucks/euros.

UPDATE: Refitting your Martini Dropper

The problem with vintage rubber bulb is that if they haven’t been kept supple from extended periods of inaction they tend to perish which is a very difficult process to reverse. However it is possible to replace the bulb. First you need to find a dropper bottle with a similar sized bulb, I got mine on eBay for £1.50. You remove the bulb from the new bottle by carefully pulling out the glass dropper tube (they tend to just be fitted tightly as opposed to being glue) with a little wiggle you’ll have it free, then you push the bulb out of the cap ring and it’s free. Perform similar process with the old dropper bottle to replace the bulb.  This is surprisingly easy to do as most dropper bottles are designed to come apart for easy cleaning. see below for a before/after:

Martini Gadgets #1 – The Martini Stones

The jar full of Martini Stones, just add vermouth.

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.

A list of the finding of research to find how various professions liked to drink 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.

The Test

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.

Icing the Gin ready for the Martini stone.

The Taste

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…?

A Martini complete with Martini Stone.

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.