Finally, a sensible suggestion for National Grammar Day. Jan Freeman, who writes a savvy and sensible column on language for The Boston Globe, suggests that the advocates of sound grammar should indulge in “the official Grammar Day drink, the Grammartini: a classic martini, straight up, renamed for the day's festivities. A couple of these are guaranteed to soften your attitude toward other people's usage sins.”

Now, veering off into the technic of the martini risks drawing the attention of martini obsessives, next to whom grammar quibblers look almost Unitarian in their inclusiveness. So, as we strive to establish a reasonable prescriptivism on grammar, we can explore a reasonable prescriptivism on this classic cocktail. 

I myself usually take a martini on the rocks with a twist (Sorry, Jan), but I’m not a bigot. Straight up is fine. Olives are fine. Five to one is fine. Six to one is OK but perhaps a little extreme. The drink should have some vermouth in it — the original drink, after all, was something like 2-1 gin-to-vermouth.

It is — never mind those Bond films — stirred, not shaken.

And as a tolerant and open-minded liberal, I don’t object to people who make martinis with vodka, even though the gin purists will shudder at the thought.

But it is necessary and advisable to draw the line somewhere. Not every drink that can be poured into a martini glass can be called a martini. A drink with apple juice in it is not a martini. A drink with pineapple in it is not a martini. A drink with chocolate in it is not a martini. You are welcome to swill any kind of muck that you can slide down your gullet, but unless it has been made with gin (OK, or vodka) and dry vermouth, you have no business calling it a martini.

That settled, fellow grammarians, I suggest we assemble a week from tomorrow at a comfortable saloon with a staff that understands the subtleties of the cocktail, order a proper martini — oh, why not, make it two — and celebrate a language in which drink is both a noun and a verb.



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