Saturday, October 14, 2023

Remembering My Best Friend & The Best Martini in the World

Remembering My Best Friend & The Best Martini in the World

I think most of us are at that age where we have lost at least one friend. Unfortunately for me that happened way too early where I lost Tim who was not only one of the contributors here, but absolutely my best friend and truly a brother from another mother. It seemed like we were cut from the same piece of cloth. He was also somebody that had that crazy prepper mindset paired with a personality that loved the elegant things in life. Blasting away at a gun range one day and getting a massage and pedicure at the Ritz the next with roughly the same level of enjoyment. There's not many of us that really enjoy a perfectly made martini served in a gentlemanly manner accompanied by a fine crafted cigar while passing an unloaded Desert Eagle back and forth contemplating the design decisions.

It's been a few years now since he passed unexpectedly and unfortunately way too young. I will skip how it all happened but let's just say he didn't really take care of himself at all. That personal neglect led to a series of ignored minor heart events of which the final massive one ultimately killed him. Nevertheless, he was my closest friend and at the same time the catalyst for me to change how I live my life, lose a lot of weight, get in shape and make the changes that allow me to live much longer. Part of that was embarking on a very successful intermittent fasting where I have lost well over 30 lb and kept it off for over two years and I'm still losing. Unfortunately, I also made a decision to drastically cut back on drinking and cigar smoking. That said, I loved Tim like a brother and loved how he lived life like every moment was really his last and unfortunately it was.

Tonight was one of those nights where I really missed him even though it's been almost five years since he passed. I almost felt his presence as I was finishing assembling a very custom cerakote handgun and had just finished laser engraving the grip handgun. Tim would have been doing backflips over it. You can embrace these moments and smile or drive them unhealthy down deep… I chose the former and pulled out the frozen gin and humidor.

What nearly everyone knew about him was that he was a martini and cigar aficionado. My wife could read what was happening as she saw that teary eyed look as I was pouring what Tim would have thought was a perfect gin or vodka martini. His preference was vodka and mine was  gin. The martini was neither shaken or stirred. Instead the inside of a standard proper martini glass was coated with a perfect dash of olive brine and dry vermouth which was swirled and poured out, then filled with the thick vodka or gin, and then completed with blue cheese stuffed olives posted perfectly aligned on a fancy drink skewers. Tim often refered to this as an appetizer while our wives and us gathered, however of course it was two martinis with three blue cheese olives each that he considered the appetizer. Generally dinner was usually loaded with heavy drunken laughter. I know you know that type of person. Though Tim was a little bit of a this, a little bit of that, a chef, and a bartender, but when it came to martinis, it was absolute meticulous precision that a chemist would be proud of. And his martinis were always strong and always perfect and always served with blue cheese stuffed olives.

This fascination with blue cheese stuffed olives undoubtedly came from a story he shared with me while we were on a trip together working for the same company. The story roughly went that he was dying for a martini at a very nice hotel in a very large city and asked the bartender where he could find the best martini in town. The bartender noted he made the best in the city if you liked a proper gentleman’s martini. Tim was hooked. The apparently unionized bartender working at his own dawdling pace proceeded to make a meticulously made $20 martini over the course of about 10-minutes that included premium shelf vodka stored in the freezer, premium vermouth, hand packing colossal green olives with hand cut blue cheese - all of which Tim took note of.  That recipe became his signature martini which all other martinis were benchmarked against. I saw this level of martini making precision again while in London at Duke's. If you haven't visited Duke’s bar, which is the Ian Fleming bar he frequented while writing 007, then you might imagine the precision I'm talking about. Tim would have loved Dukes so much I believe he has a seat there somewhere now.

This recipe of perfection means your vodka or gin of choice must have lived at least 48-hours in a freezer and has reached a viscosity that looks more like honey than it does anything resembling vodka or gin when poured into a glass. My personal choice is the incredibly smooth aged Aviation Old Tom gin or the standard Aviation will due as well. The glasses are filled with ice to pre-chill the glass with ice before beginning the process. The ice is removed after all ingrediants are prepped. A dash of Lilly or Noilly Prat vermouth is poured into the glass with a spoon full of olive brine gently swirled and then poured out and filled with the ice cold honey thick vodka or gin of your choice. If you have elected for some type of appetizers such as garlic or blue cheese stuffed colossal green olives, those should always be lovingly hand-packed into the olives and not pulled from a jar. These blue cheese stuffed olive appetizers are served carefully lined up horizontally so that the blue cheese can enhance the martini on some sort of decorative spike laying in the martini at approximately 45-degrees.

According to Tim, now with the “first” martini in hand, one can turn their attention to a cigar and it must be something epic and it must be something incredible. Why smoke an inferior cigar? Forget those cheap cigars and go for something amazing, something that is equal to the magnificence of that perfectly made martini. His favorites were Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Stories, but he was game for any premier tier cigar. Though a very heroic stature of a man well over 6-foot and over 300-lb he liked small cigars for some reason. I will note, my contribution to the process was my heavy influence on the art of cigar lighting. This process usually included dancing the flames from a lit cedar shaving versus just torching the shit out the end of a cigar until it flames. I personally believe through decades of first hand experience that this delivers the best first puffs.

Though the evenings became a bit of a blur after a cigar and several martinis, these were some of the most deep, hilarious, and intellectually entertaining discussions I have had with another human. He was a fantastic friend to share his life challenges with me and act as a sounding board for my often multi-directional path. Our wives of course believed our banter was pure madness, but there is nothing better than a martini in one hand and a cigar in the other waving around both while talking. Tonight, I raise a perfectly lit Romeo Y Julieta Reserva Real Churchill and ice cold Aviation Gin martini with three perfectly aligned hand packed blue cheese olives to Tim. A friend we all lost way too soon… enjoy your seat at Duke’s my friend.

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