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Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail Paperback – March 7, 2003

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


Whether or not you take your martini as seriously as Lowell Edmunds, this is an admirable account of the drink's place in the American dream.

(Justin Warshaw Times Literary Supplement)

Edmunds seems to have unearthed every reference to the martini since its creation sometime in the 1870s, and by researching recipe books from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he has painstakingly reconstructed the actual history of a cocktail swaddled in myth. He tracked down the first shipment of French vermouth to the United States (from Noilly Prat, in 1851). He got the lowdown on Sherwood Anderson's unfortunate death-by-toothpick after drinking a martini. He compiled a list of every martini cartoon ever to appear in the New Yorker. The martini is the last word on cocktails. This book is the last word on the martini.

(William Grimes New York Times)

Few drinks achieve such complex and ambiguous symbolism as the martini, and likely few writers could decode it as well as the polished Edmunds... Such is the unadorned pleasure of Edmunds's book, its rare scholarly intimacy, that there can be little doubt that he delighted in his fieldwork very much.

(Kirkus Reviews)

Equal parts academic study, critical appraisal, and love letter, this book sees the martini as the liquid equivalent of jazz―a marvelous and misunderstood American art form... Edmunds fashions a convincing theory that places the feisty cocktail at the very heart of American civilization.

(Stephen Whitlock Out Magazine.)

Edmunds treats us to a cultural history of the martini, from its origins in the Gilded Age to its 1990s symbolism... The drink may be dry, but this book is anything but.

(Lori D. Kranz Bloomsbury Review)

[Edmunds] brings the rigor and thoroughness of a true scholar to the study of the Martini's place in American culture.

(Well Fed Network)

About the Author

Lowell Edmunds is a professor of classics at Rutgers University.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (March 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801873118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801873119
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,244,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

The "Mythologies" of the martini.

In this age of mixology trendiness, there is a lot of poorly written and pompous stuff passing for "cocktail scholarship." This charming book blows them all away, and it deserves to be much better known.

After a hysterical Preface, which includes a death wish, Edmunds gives a beautiful, concise history of the drink and then dives into what is the main topic of the work: the symbolic meaning the martini has accrued in our culture. He's a great researcher -- there are references here to the drink in obscure bestsellers of the time, movies, newspaper articles, design, pop art -- and he knows how to read all these media deeply and creatively so as to reveal the surprising messages the drink is asked to carry. I found his analysis of the gender/dominance messages of the martini particularly insightful.

Most importantly, Edmunds never loses sight of the essential lightness of his topic. He is having fun with it all, and is even lightly self-deprecating. Even the organization of the book is witty -- broken into "Simple Messages of the Martini" (e.g., "The Martini is optimistic, not pessimistic") and "Ambiguities of the Martini" ("The martini unites - the martini separates"). Drunken musings of a sober mind. Like Roland Barthes, Edmund's analysis only enhances our pleasure.
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