The Nick & Nora Martini is named for characters in “The Thin Man,” a novel by Dashiell Hammett. It was originally published in Redbook magazine in 1933 and then published in book form the following year and subsequently made into a popular series of movies. The release came as Prohibition was ending, and it wasted no time celebrating cocktail culture.
Nick and Nora Charles are a quick-witted couple—Nick a retired detective, and Nora his wife. Together they solve crimes and make drinks, including Martinis, Manhattans and Highballs, all with an effortless banter.
The Nick & Nora Martini is similar to the traditional Martini (gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters) but modeled after what the characters drank in the book. Although the exact spirits can be tweaked to your preference, bartending legend Dale DeGroff provides this recipe. He suggests using Beefeater, a classic London dry gin, and Noilly Prat, a good dry vermouth from France. That combination in a three-to-one ratio, with an olive for garnish, will help you channel the intrepid duo as you stir and sip your cocktail.
One noteworthy aside: In “The Thin Man,” Nick and Nora shake their Martinis. Nick even instructs a bartender that, “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a Dry Martini you always shake to waltz time.” That certainly makes for good reading, but DeGroff follows the preferred path for cocktails composed entirely of spirits, opting to stir the drink, which produces a clear and silky cocktail free of ice shards.
In addition to their eponymous cocktail, Nick and Nora’s enduring impact on cocktail culture also inspired the proliferation of the Nick & Nora glass, a stemmed, slightly rounded cocktail glass that lands somewhere between a traditional Martini glass and a coupe. In the movie, the duo drank regularly from this modestly sized glass (which is good, because on one occasion they each downed six Martinis), which helped to popularize it at bars and among the public. You will still find the glass in use today, particularly at your better cocktail bars. Its attractive shape and reasonable volume provide a great vessel for craft drinks.
- 1 1/2 ounces gin
- 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
- Garnish: Spanish olive (no pimento)
Add the gin and the vermouth to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass.
Garnish with a small Spanish olive without pimento.