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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

The Martini Diet


Like most writers, I have books perched conveniently near my writing desk. Some are purely for research; Kenneth Clark's Civilization, for example. Others are there because they bear my name on the spine and are therefore part of me. Others are there for inspiration. Chief among these is Everyday Drinking, a compendium of fact and advice about booze by one of its late proponents, Kingsley Amis.

My late poetry professor at Harpur College, State University of New York, Milton Kessler, advised drinking or smoking weed before writing poetry. I didn't. But I still got an A in the course. I suspect any means one takes to shift out of now to some other place where the molecules of past, present, future and creativity reside in an unsorted mess would do. Booze and weed are simply easier for most people. But, as an FB repost I shared this morning said, “I may have exaggerated when I told you I was normal.” I can do it with or without assistance; with booze is better, though.

By the way, neither Kingsley Amis nor Milton Kessler died of alcoholism, just so you know. Nor did another great boozer writer, Ernest Hemingway. Oh, sure, people have blamed his pulling the trigger on depression, which is—in the common wisdom—not helped by booze. But that's ridiculous. After all, Benjamin Franklin, a womanizer who was certainly anything but depressed, opined that God made beer so we would be happy.

Beer doesn't make me happy. I loathe the stuff. The only time I ever want it is on moving day. Since I've had 54 of those in my life, that would signify quite a bit of beer for someone who doesn't like it. But to clarify, it has to be a hotter-than-hell moving day and I must be intimately involved with the shoving and the lifting. At least half of my moves happened in winter or were carried out by professional movers, so it's a lot less beer than you might suppose.

What does make me happy is a classic martini. And arguably, drinking one every night will help me live longer as well.

Several years ago, two Canadian researchers investigating the relative merits of shaking and stirring martinis, also applied their expertise to the subject of gin or vodka martinis' effect on health.

According to an article in the UK's Telegraph a few years ago, “They studied the martinis' ability to deactivate hydrogen peroxide--a substance used to bleach hair or disinfect scrapes, and a potent source of the free radicals linked to ageing and disease.

“While the detailed chemistry is not fully understood, martinis were much more effective than their basic ingredients--such as gin or vermouth--at deactivating hydrogen peroxide, and about twice as effective when shaken.”

This is great news. I discovered mega-shaking a few years ago, in which my husband, being bigger and stronger and having a greater tolerance for cold than I, gets to shake the bejesus out of my gin martini until, when he pours it into the cocktail glass, it is cloudy with tiny shards of ice.

In addition, of course, we add a thin shaving of lemon peel, for vitamins. (That's if the gin is Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire or my third choice, Tanqueray. If it is for my most totally favorite gin, Hendrick's, then the garnish is either a slice or two of cucumber or a drop of rosewater. Keep in mind that rose hips contain abundant vitamin C. And no, I don't bloody know if rosewater has any.)

I think it's the perfect diet, the martini diet. I go off the diet only in fall and winter, when the occasional Manhattan (Jameson's Irish, a very small bit of sweet vermouth, and a splash of bitters is shaken half to death and poured into the glass, again over health-giving fruit: three maraschino cherries.)

I think I'll go have a preview martini; it's still a while until cocktail hour, but I'm working on the next Shelf Barker mystery, the sequel to Car Full of Death, and I'll take inspiration where I can get it.

Slainte! *

* Irish for cheers, pronounced Sloynt-cha.

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