‘I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I’m under the table,
after four I’m under my host.’
– Dorothy Parker
She loved this cocktail bar. It was expensive but not pretentious, busy but not crowded, and staffed by the right kind of bartender. Drinking cocktails in cheaper bars with ordinary bartenders who didn’t ask the right questions was disappointing. This was the right place to order a martini.
‘Is that gin or vodka?’
He was rushing, not really listening; he didn’t know yet what kind of women she was.
‘Gin of course. James Bond may know how to wear a suit, but he knows fuck all about martinis!’
He turned, looking her differently. She looked back, tilting her head in an unspoken challenge.
‘OK, gin it is. My choice?’
She nodded, trying to hide the thrill that rushed through her as he played along with her game. She could feel his gaze all over her, evaluating her; this was almost the best part. She knew he was wondering about her, wondering who she was and reading too much into her drink order, but she loved it. Eventually, he chose Plymouth Gin and her smile widened. Simple, fragrant; a good choice. Perhaps not as popular as others but perfect for a martini, and perfect for her.
‘Oh yes, the drier the better.’
It was now his turn to smile as he reached for the bottles of spirits. Pouring Noilly Prat vermouth into the shaker, he swirled it, allowing the syrupy liquid to coat the ice cubes inside, before tipping it up and allowing the free liquid to drain away. He deftly added the measures of gin to the flavoured ice and stirred quickly before pouring into the waiting, chilled glass.
She had seen enough bartenders make martinis to know that he was good. The muscles in his forearms were strong and defined from hours of manipulating cocktail shakers, his hands were capable. She imagined what else those hands could do; what other precise movements they could make and what other delicate skills he could show off. Watching him throwing bottles around with enviable accuracy was like watching him dance. A martini was a test; it was deceptively easy with too few ingredients. How would he fair?
‘And how do you take it? Dirty?!’
She frowned, let down at him jumping to such an easy target, and shook her head. She used to order dirty martinis, winking salaciously at the implied filth, but soon became tired of being so blatant. The jokey wink seemed to encourage unpractised advances and undeserved anger when she declined. She now preferred the purer taste, unsullied by olive brine, and the subtler statement.
He shrugged lightheartedly at her disapproval, threading a couple of olives onto a cocktail stick instead and balancing it on the glass.
She sipped the cool liquid, letting the crisp flavours play on her tongue. Timeless, sophisticated, elegant; just as she strived to be. A smile spread across her face as the warmth of the liquor spread through her. Meeting the bartender’s eye, she blushed in clear approval. It was going to be a good night…