Book Review: The Epitome of Cool

Few things have transcended their original meaning to become as symbolic as the Martini. The ice-white, dry-tasting drink may well have been invented in the mid 19th century to quench the thirst of San Francisco’s gold miners, but 150 years later it has become intrinsically linked to style, cool and easy-living. The shape of the Martini glass is as recognisable as that of the Coca-Cola bottle, while its name is one of the most familiar brands across the world.

Many a book has been devoted to the cult of this decadent pleasure, but David Taylor’s Martini proves a remarkable addition to the list. Like perfect cocktails, it mixes the right parts of history, anecdotes, recipes and quotes – all stirred with a dash of dry humour.

Following the intricate tale of the world’s most famous cocktail, the author ushers his readers into a smart lounge where politicians, Hollywood stars, gangsters and novelists are waiting to share their stories. Between the chinks of glasses, we meet Hemingway ordering Martinis for the American troops that liberated Paris, we hear Dean Martin – guess where his last name comes from – singing with Frank Sinatra in the background, while Ian Fleming and Humphrey Bogart compare their ideal cocktails.

Hedonists will appreciate the 30 different recipes provided, but even teetotallers will enjoy the interesting quotes and funny anecdotes that fill the pages of this book. Everyone will find a favourite among them: I personally subscribe to Noel Coward’s view that the Martini is ‘civilisation in a glass’ – and Mr Taylor’s book is the olive that perfectly complements it.