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The American Martini Ceremony


Crane held up his drink as an explanation. He was on to something and hit the return key to get the computer ready. He was thinking about the ritual aspect of his concoction, it brought to mind the Japanese tea ceremony. He thought his martini would be perfect for an American Martini ceremony. He meditated about it for a while, and then wrote it down.

Justification; I could just hack off a piece of rind and a piece of pepper, throw it in a glass and say, “Here’s your drink.” It would taste the same, but I like art and worked in some nice restaurants when I was in college, so I know about presentation. I also have been watching the Japanese tea ceremony on You Tube, because somehow it was linked to the video of Lions killing a Buffalo.

The Japanese are very attuned to making the ordinary, special. I would like Americans to be more like that. How can my simple drink become a ceremony? The colors are nice, bright red and intense yellow, but a slice of zest and slice of pepper is over with too fast to be called a ceremony, and what’s American about it? Here comes the pure inspiration from out of nowhere. I will weave the pepper into a wide slice of rind. But how many parallel cuts do I make? Two cuts would be the minimum needed to weave, but not as nice looking as five. More than five would be too difficult to do without breakage. Five has to be the number, but why is that significant? Think Crane think. Aha! Q: What is the most American city? A: New York! How many boroughs are there? Five! Now we’re getting somewhere. I will spare you further tribulations and give the final presentation.

I want to make a video of my ceremony and put it on YouTube. First I will put on a dark suit and tie. I’ll walk into the living room and open the portable mahogany bar, which will be placed in front of the floor to ceiling window, and at a right angle to the best view.

The condo to be used for the video is on the sixth floor across the street from the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison. A friend owns it and will let me use it for the video. It’s most impressive, and the proper setting for the ritual. Wherever this is performed, the drinks should be prepared at a right angle to the best view where the drinks will be consumed because a good ritual has specified procedures.

Appropriate music would be Frank Sinatra or solo classical piano, probably Schubert or Chopin. Gershwin is American, but not the right mood. Phillip Glass might work. I will have to research that possibility.

The elevator ride is always interesting, with people asking questions about the apparatus and my formal attire. I (Will) remain aloof and non-committal about my mission. Suffice it to say that I am the featured guest at a very private party. I have given a business card with only my phone number printed on it. (My performances are by referral only these days.)

The cart is rolled down the marble hallway and I stop at the door. It is slightly ajar as per my instructions. I enter discretely and determine where the ceremony will be performed.

The ice bucket, tongs, knives, lemon, pepper and American made Vodka are placed just so in there designated locations. Two heavy rocks glasses are removed from their velvet lined box. (A padding of excelsior would be a good alternative, excelsior isn’t used much anymore, it’s the shredded wheat looking, wood preparation used for packing.) This is taken from another Japanese tradition of keeping certain prized pottery packed away and only taken out to show special guests. That’s why so many of their nice old pieces are still around.

The glasses are placed in the circular recesses cut into the table. The lemon wedge is prepared stating the five Boroughs of New York as the slices are made; Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, (rotate clockwise 180 degrees) Brooklyn, The Bronx, in that order. A Fresno pepper sliver is lifted with the tweezers and dipped three times in the brine filled shot glass which symbolizes the ocean crossing that many of our ancestors made, then placed across the rim of the shot glass, that move is also a derivation of the tea ceremony, the part where the woman taps her bamboo ladle. A silver skewer made by cutting off the spoon end from a long handled bar tool, is woven into the lemon wedge then twisted ninety degrees to open the passage, the pepper sliver is slid along side. The tool is withdrawn and the garnish is used to flavor the rim before being placed so that it can be seen to best advantage against the inside of the glass.

Three large rough-hewn chunks of clear glacial ice are placed with the tongs, then the tongs are tapped on the rim three times before being returned to the original location on the table. The number three occurs several times and is vaguely significant like so many American traditions.

A bar towel, prepared ahead of time using the Ojibwa fold, is used to wipe the rims and the outside of the glass to remove any water. The cork is removed from the Vodka and the bottle is held from the bottom to show the label. Each glass is filled half an inch from the rim.

After each pour, the bottle is rotated to prevent dripping because this is precious liquid. The cork is lifted with two fingers scissors style, palm up, and replaced in the bottle which is then returned to its position on the ceremonial board. If your brand has a screw top, do it the same way.

Held aloft with a chandelier or candles for a backlight, the creation is allowed a moment of perfection before being handed to the beautiful, or distinguished looking woman in a backless cocktail dress, she also receives a warm smile from the master of ceremonies. The remaining glass is handed to the gentleman without eye contact. As the couple toasts each other, the kit is re-packed.

The couple walks with their drinks to the open balcony facing the Capitol. The man makes a witty remark out of our earshot and the woman tilts her head back in a feminine laugh. They click glasses and take their first sips. She nods her approval and stands closer to enjoy the view with the man. He gently places his hand on the bare skin at the base of her spine. The master of ceremonies takes the crisp One hundred dollar bill that was folded twice lengthwise and left for him on the table, slides it into his breast pocket and slips out without being noticed so as not to spoil the mood.

There will be three seconds of black, followed by a full room shot. The man's shirt is unbuttoned midway and his tie and jacket are draped over the back of the couch. The woman enters barefooted and in a man’s bathrobe with mussed JBF hair.

She sidles over to the man and asks, “Teach me the ceremony, I like to learn new things.”

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Fine art by Michael Kmiotek.
Kinetic sculptures suitable for gardens or other outdoor locations
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