Shaken and Blurred

Among the more prevalent literary clichés are those that trade on writers and their relationship to alcohol. When writers write about drinking it is often in prose wearied by mock-heroics, broad bombast and the pale insight achieved by groping toward the light at the end of a bottle.

Even the best writers writing about booze often did so while in decline (find me a Modernist with a healthy liver and I’ll find you a Post-Modernist with the shakes). So, in the interest of my literary estate, I will not write about drinking today – more accurately, I will write about not-drinking. Specifically, not-drinking Friday night at Martini Madness.

Sigh. This is a purely prophylactic measure and no reflection of my regard for Martini Madness, or indeed, martinis and madness in general. They’re all part of the wonderful rainbow of experience from which we might draw our true colors. In point of fact, star sommelier Christopher Sawyer and I have to attend E. Gustav Van Jensen’s bachelor party this weekend and sadly cannot be in two places at once (though drinking enough martinis to see double can make everyone else seem like they’re in two places at once).

Yes, surely, we will be missed. But think of the booze that will be saved. And olives!

Lest we forget, Martini Madness is part of the annual series of olive-themed events dubbed “Vinolivo,” which I believe is Latin for “branding crisis.” Mercifully, some of the outreach ephemera touting the event refer to it as “Olive Season,” a generic term that at least explains itself. And before you psychos start writing letters, let me head you off with the admission that, yeah, yeah, “people who live in glass houses who are named ‘Daedalus’ shouldn’t spit pits.”

Speaking of admission, $40 gets one into Martini Madness, to be hosted this year at MacArthur Place, the home of Saddles restaurant, itself a fine purveyor of martinis.

Permit me to quote a review I wrote for this very paper: “I began with the Stable Martini, one of a dozen such signature concoctions that would have James Bond doffing his jodhpurs and donning a ten-gallon hat. I was both shaken and stirred. The drink, or should I say the ‘swim,’ was a heap-big-man size cocktail, and mysteriously, made me feel all the more macho upon having completed it.”

And therein lays the bane of imbibers everywhere – call it Martini Machismo. Long ago, my nose and I learned the adage that, “Drunks who can’t fight, write.”

Since then, my “fight or flight” impulse has been set to permanently to “flight” and indeed, I’ve found the pen is flightier than the sword.

Fortunately, here in Booze Town, USA, we channel our fights into healthy competitions, or at least boozy competitions between professionals.

How many bar battles and mixologist melees can Sonoma sustain? All of them, damn it. You gotta problem with that? Didn’t think so, biotch.

Of course, the usual gripe between those vying for Martini Madness glory is that the fanciful martinis meant to showcase one’s ingenuity in intoxicants are actually cocktails since they frequently use ingredients outside the purview of the traditional martini. Vodka or gin and vermouth annually give way to anything from sushi to Pixie Stix, topped with a perfunctory olive stuffed with chevre (a most excellent hangover, I assure you).

Local luminaries and the less luminescent local media were once called upon to judge these concoctions, which is how I believe I first met our venerable Kathleen Hill, who was kind enough to prop me up. Eventually, the judging was given over to the people, meaning the drunken horde of hundreds whose taste buds have been rendered antiseptic after steeping in ethyl alcohol for hours.

I can predict the winner now. Vern’s Taxi.

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