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Never before has there been such a necessity for the reissuing of this book. With this so-called renaissance of The Martini, many would do well to allow themselves to be indoctrinated by Lowell Edmunds. Until recently, the previous edition of Martini: Straight Up, --The Silver Bullet: The Martini in American Civilization (1981) has been out of print. Thank goodness for the reprinting of such a studied and honest book about The Martini. Although I find the original title more elegant. Perhaps the new, shorter, title is aimed at those who have only known the classic drink in short term. Within the book, Edmunds explores the drink's historicity, political, literary, and otherwise, as well as the social complexity of this American icon. With Martini, Straight Up, Edmunds dispells myths and reassures us about a legend who's status may be on the rise, but who's golden era has long since passed.
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What a perfectly titled book! Edmunds gives us nothing but straight talk about The American Cocktail in this erudite but charming little treatise on the place of the Martini in American civilization. He uses a vast array of sources from the nineteenth century on up to prove the enduring quality of this fabled drink and the way it has come to symbolize so many things to so many different kinds of people, whether they are Presidents, bank officials, or everyday housewives. To Edmunds it is the contradictory nature of the drink that has lent it its immortality (in a time, he admits, when the traditional rituals surrounding the Martini may well be on their way out for good). The drink is civilized; it is uncivilized; it is strong; it is sensitive, etc., all depending on who is drinking it at the time. Among the sources Edmunds consults and displays are the old Thin Man movies (which, the author points out, constantly violate the accepted rules for drinking Martinis), the fiction of Jack London and Ernest Hemingway, old bartender manuals, cookbooks, magazine ads, and numerous New Yorker cartoons through the years. He mixes all these into an irresistibly lucid collage.
As intellectual as this delightful little exercise is, it nevertheless makes one year for a good stiff drink. I think I will have one. Heavy on the gin. Shaken not stirred. And straight up, of course. For, as Edmunds points out unequivocably, "a martini on the rocks is an abomination."
Read it, drink it, and enjoy.