While not as annoyingly iconic as “Shaken or stirred?” the question “Olive or twist?” is sincerely asked far more often, as most bartenders don’t give patrons the option of a shaken martini. (Good.) The choice of a garnish may seem like one of aesthetics—are you feeling bright and sunny or retro-sexy?—but both olives and twists alter the flavour of a martini in subtle, but perceivable ways. But last night while preparing my bath time martini, I chose to answer the the question with another question: Why not both?
The benefits each garnish brings are not mutually exclusive. The oils expressed from a strip of citrus zest render your martini brighter and intoxicatingly fragrant, while the residual brine that clings to an olive (or three) provides a salty counterbalance to all of that bracing alcohol. (Olives also function as a snack, which we love!) Finishing a martini with both provides a more diverse bouquet of flavours and aromas that, in turn, will bring out previously unnoticed flavours and aromas hiding in your gin.
Even a dirty martini can benefit from a twist. Actually, I’d argue that it’s especially welcome in that context—a little brightness can help cut through the aggressive salinity and funk brought by olive brine. But no matter which martini you choose to mix up, make sure you express the oils over your coupe with a gentle squeeze just before drinking. Plunking an unsqueezed twist into your drink will certainly make it look the part, but it’s the oils that lend it an aroma. (There’s no need to squeeze the olives, however. You can leave the olives unmolested.)