“Uhhhh,” I hesitated. I was visibly nervous. Very nervous.
I didn’t want to sound like James Bond, nor did I want to sound like a bumbling teenager trying to sound suave while ordering a drink underage.
“Let me see,” I kept hesitating.
The menu was very blunt. Each martini was $10, with the exception of one gin martini that was $12. I hadn’t been drinking gin for years, so I knew I had to put all my chips into the vodka pile.
“I think I’ll just do your ‘classic martini,’ please,” I told her.
“Olives, onion, or with a twist?”
I had no idea that onions were even something people drank with their martinis at that point in my life, so I went with what I’d seen in movies.
“Do you happen to have bleu cheese-stuffed olives?”
“We do,” she confirmed while taking my menu.
“I’ll take those.”
The hard part, I thought, was over. I was confident that skipping the cocktail onions was good for my taste buds, and I was even more confident that straying away from a twist separated me from the college kids doing lemon drop shots left and right.
But the hard part wasn’t, in fact, over. It was going to be lingering for months to come.
The most difficult part about getting a martini at a restaurant has nothing to do with the person actually drinking the martini. The difficulty sits directly on the waiter’s shoulders after the bartender has strained the icy beverage into the glass and they have to walk it across the busy restaurant on a wobbly tray, trying not to spill any of the six measly ounces that it comes with.
Mine was no different.
When she finally set it down, I thanked her and braced my mouth for the punch it was about to receive. Drinking straight liquor, up until that point in my life, consisted of either drinking scotch or bourbon on the rocks or taking a shot someone drunkenly bought me near last call. But vodka straight with no ice to melt it down five minutes into drinking it was a mountain I hadn’t yet climbed.
I could already taste the vermouth on my tongue before taking the first sip. I didn’t want the person across from me to see me wince upon drinking it, so I took the smallest sip I could possibly take.
Pleasantly surprised by the cold masking the taste of actual liquor, I was encouraged. I took another.
And then another.
And then another.
And before I knew it, I was eating the perfectly soaked blue cheese olives while having romantic dreams about getting yet another classic. The flakes of ice floating around the top coupled with the perfect buzz I’d just received from my first martini experience put me into a frenzy.
I was officially a Martini Guy.
“I’ll do another,” I told her. And I pretty much told every other waiter or waitress taking my order for the next three months. Before I knew it, I was in a full-blown phase. I had vodka preferences, an array of garnishes (yes, including the onions), and a credit card bill that clearly showed an affinity for drinks that cost double whatever was on draft.
But as this phase wore on, issues began to arise outside of the exorbitant bar tabs and Thursday morning hangovers. One martini makes you feel like the king of the world – ask anyone and they’ll confirm. Two martinis, however, simply make you feel drunk. And three? Well, you might as well set an alarm on your iPhone for fifteen minutes later so it wakes you up before your Uber driver has to.
Martinis are, for better or worse, just straight liquor. I knew that going in, time after time. But it didn’t stop me. “Real men can stomach a few of these,” I’d tell myself. “Hell, I bet my dad could drink paint thinner.” But when you’re in your late twenties with very few responsibilities and an actual paycheck that allows you some wiggle room, you’re still not responsible enough to be slinging back ‘tinis left and right. It’s a recipe for disaster.
A three-martini night shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. I learned this when my aunt once fell asleep mid-lobster dinner after drinking just two. So when it starts happening once every couple weeks, it’s time to reassess the phase that you thought would be more classy than catastrophic.
Unfortunately, as it goes with any vice, it’s hard to kick. No, it’s not addictive as tobacco. But they’re just tasty as fuck. It’s like telling yourself you need to start eating ground chuck instead of filets every night. Cod instead of crablegs. Whitefish caviar instead of beluga.
So here I am. A man in the middle of a martini phase that can’t possibly sustain itself unless I master the control it takes to be a full-blown martini guy. Hopefully I’ve got the onions to figure it all. .