While modern starlets may often be photographed holding some fruit-laden cocktail in their hands, there would be few people who would disagree if you were to suggest the martini was not only the most glamorous drink of them all, but also the one most associated with celebrity.
Despite an ever-increasing array of cocktails these days, there remains something very special about that unmistakable glass and its contents. Taking the first shuddering sip of a powerful, well-prepared martini transports you to a time when stars were real stars and the rich and powerful made this their cocktail of choice.
Throughout its history, the martini has been associated with some of the most famous names in Hollywood, politics and, of course, literature. Some of the greatest writers of the last hundred years were fueled by the cocktail, and many made it -- or one of its many variations -- the signature drink of their protagonists.
Here are the top 10 martini drinkers.
Toots Shor may now be largely forgotten, but until his eponymous restaurant closed in 1977, he was New York’s restaurateur to American movie stars and famous sportsmen. He was capable of drinking any of his customers under the table, and when told by his doctor to cut back to one martini a day, he complied by tipping a small amount of gin from a full bottle and topping it off with vermouth.
Most famous for his role as Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners, Jackie Gleason was also well known for his prodigious capacity for hard booze. It often saw him carousing until the early hours of the morning and building large bar tabs in his favorite haunts in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. As he put it, "A man must defend his home, his wife, his children, and his martini."
The greatest of all screen gangsters was a hardened drinker and was known to believe that “if everyone in the world would take three drinks, we would have no trouble.” But it was perhaps his reported last words that earn him a coveted place in this top 10 martini-drinkers list. In 1957, he died just after announcing, “I never should have switched from scotch to martinis.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
These days, if any candidate for the U.S. presidency were to announce a fondness for hard liquor, his chances of being elected would be slim, to say the least. Not so for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who not only earned a place in every drinker’s heart (and one on our list of the top 10 martini drinkers) by repealing prohibition, but was also fond of a drink or two himself. A biographer recalls, “Before dinner, we usually had martini cocktails made by the president’s own hands.”
W. Somerset Maugham
In 1958, the novelist and cocktail connoisseur gave Noilly Prat Vermouth a solid endorsement by declaring that without this particular brand of French vermouth, "you can make a side car, a gimlet, a white lady, or a gin and bitters, but you cannot make a dry martini." While later adding, "Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other."
The famous writer’s drink of choice was the Gimlet, a drink made of gin and lime juice created by the British Royal Navy to protect its officers from scurvy. While it is now often made with fresh lime juice, the original would have been made with lime cordial, and in Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye, Terry Lennox insists "a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's lime juice and nothing else."
Although he was known to enjoy a cocktail or two, Clark Gable’s place in this list of the top 10 Martini drinkers comes courtesy of one of his characters. In the 1958 comedyTeacher’s Pet, Gable’s character, James Gannon, holds a bottle of vermouth upside down to moisten the cork and then merely uses this to wipe the edges of his Martini glass before adding the gin to make an extremely dry martini.
Although most famous for his love of the Daiquiri, Hemingway was also fond of his own version of the martini, “The Montgomery.” It was named after the famous British wartime general who would not attack unless he outnumbered his opposition 15:1. Hemingway used the same proportions of gin to vermouth in his drink. It is now a house special at the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice.
In his later years, Fields was known to consume almost two quarts of gin a day. It began with two martinis before breakfast and carried on throughout the day. At parties, he was known to balance a full martini glass on his head. If it fell, he would declare to his audience, “I have had a sufficiency.” If it did not, he would drink the martini as his reward.
As well as the occasional vodka martini, Ian Fleming’s fictional spy was known for ordering a Vesper made to his exact requirements as specified in Casino Royale: “Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
His request for his drink to be “shaken, not stirred” has become part of popular culture and makes him perhaps the most famous martini drinker of all.