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This Drink Speaks Volumes The Two-Olive Martini

Article by Marty Spellerberg. Photo by Seth Anderson

Posted October 31, 2012

Death's Door Martini.
Death’s Door Martini. Photo by Seth Anderson.

Three olives was more than simply a matter of etiquette.

Brad Gadberry’s Martini FAQ answers every question you’ve ever had about mixing a good Martini. For instance, what number of olives is best?

A single olive may either be placed by itself in the glass, or skewered on a toothpick or bar pick. If more than one olive is used, they should be skewered. NB: High tradition dictates that you must use an odd number of olives. One olive is fine; so are three (five is excessive). Using two or four olives is a faux pas.

But he doesn’t just leave it there. We’ve explored how recipes can have meaning within a culture or community, and that often these are ties to tradition or evocative of emotion. In the case of the olive count however, we find an example of how they may also be pragmatic and directly communicative. The prescription — which to most might seem a matter of taste or even arbitrary — may have been vested with great meaning for members of a select community:

According to the old hands at Lusardi’s, who remember the bar’s “glory days” as a mafioso hangout, there was a time when “three olives” was more than simply a matter of etiquette and style: all bartenders were to use three olives, religiously; serving a martini with two olives was understood by all patrons (or, all connected patrons) as a signal of danger: “someone in the bar is a threat to you.”

The entire FAQ is highly entertaining and well worth the read — check it out!

— Marty

Marty Spellerberg

Marty Spellerberg is an artist and interactive developer. Originally from Toronto, he now lives in Austin where he enjoys cycling, mexican food and creative projects.

Seth Anderson

Seth Anderson has been taking photos since he was a boy — and interested in photography even earlier. He now lives and shoots in Chicago. A selection of prints are available on his website.

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