According to To Have and Have Another by Philip Greene (an extensive and incredibly entertaining book that examines and celebrates all of the cocktails throughout Hemingway’s life and works), Hemingway often wrote about his preferred Martini method. His preferred gin was Gordon’s 94-proof (which is, sadly, unavailable in the U.S., but Greene recommends Tanqueray instead), and his dry vermouth was Noilly Prat. In place of olives or a lemon twist, Hemingway garnished his Martinis with cocktail onions (meaning his Martinis were actually Gibsons) or thinly sliced onions. But the most important thing for the grizzled writer was the temperature of the drink. It was essential that the cocktail was extremely cold. According to Greene, Hemingway said that if made right, a Martini should be “so cold you can’t hold it in your hand. It sticks to the fingers.”
How to Make a Pitcher of Ice Cold Martinis Like Ernest Hemingway
To make his extremely chilled Martinis, Hemingway came up with a few smart hacks. In a 1947 letter from Cuba to his publisher Charles Scribner, he wrote, “We have real Gordon’s Gin at 50 bucks a case and real Noilly Prat and have found a way of making ice in the deep-freeze in tennis ball tubes that comes out 15 degrees below zero and with the glasses frozen too makes the coldest Martini in the world.” He also froze the cocktail onions so the drink stayed cold for as long as it took him to drink it—which, to be fair, probably wasn’t that long.
Here’s how to make an extra-cold pitcher of Martinis like Ernest Hemingway.
Thoroughly wash a tennis ball canister with soap and water, and let dry. Then, fill the canister with water and place in the freezer to freeze. At this point, you can also place the cocktail onions in the freezer. Greene recommends putting the onions in a plastic bag to freeze—it will be quicker and it will be easier to get the onions out.
At least 15 minutes before making your Martinis, place glasses in the freezer to chill. For an ultra-frosty glass, wrap the coupe in a damp paper towel before placing it in the freezer.
For a pitcher of traditional Martinis that will serve six, add 15 ounces of gin to a pitcher along with 3 ounces of dry vermouth. If you would prefer to make a Hemingway-style Martini (aka, a Dry Martini), scale the gin up to 16.5 ounces and use just 1.5 ounces dry vermouth.
Slide the ice out of the tennis ball canister and into the pitcher. Using a long bar spoon, stir until the mix is very, very cold.
To serve, remove frosty glasses from the freezer, pour about 3 ounces of Martini into each glass, and garnish with frozen cocktail onions. Pick up your well-worn, dogeared copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls and drink.