How many ways are there to enjoy a martini? Over at Slate, Troy Patterson has given a lot of thought to this question. He staged a Tournament of Martinis, in the pattern of the NCAA basketball tourney. Starting with 80 recipes (yes, 80), he paired drinks up and let them battle for supremacy. He includes martini variations that I don't think of as such: for example, martinis with Chartreuse, Scotch, elderflower liqueur, or lime juice. Patterson's path is fun to read, but I have no intention of duplicating his work. Instead I want to focus on just a few elements of the martini: the ingredients, the ratio, the preparation, and the presentation, along with a little history.
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You wouldn't know it by looking at the way it's used today, but vermouth was the belle of the mixological ball once upon a time. While vermouth can list details such as "revolutionized the late 19th century cocktail" and "enabled creation of the Manhattan and the martini" on its resume, today it's like the elderly greeters at Wal-Mart, picking up whatever gigs it can get in the years that came after the glory ones.