martinis official

The martini is the most American of American cocktails. It’s gained recognition worldwide as a symbol of class, power lunches, and secret service agents. Yet the true martini has been bastardized by Appletinis, espresso martinis, and all kinds of drinks that get designated a “martini” just because they are served in a martini glass.

Ours is not the first generation to become wise to the need for standardizing martini practices. The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) is an organization that sets standard practices for industries from livestock to energy. Back in 1966, it extended its attentions to martinis, putting pen to paper in defense of the original dry martini above all others. “The need for an American Standard Dry Martini has been widely recognized by many segments of the manufacturing, distributing, and consuming public since the martini cocktail’s appearance,” writes the ANSI, in a paper entitled “Safety Code and Requirements for Dry Martinis.”

The ANSI’s paper is the go-to guide for the proper dry martini. It’s quoted in books like “One For My Baby: A Sinatra Cocktail Companion,” and “Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail.”

Get the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.

ANSI Martini Standard

The only problem is, it’s not real.

The first signs I had that I was dealing with a hoax came from the document itself. “Safety Code and Requirements for Dry Martinis” is loaded with jokes that people who work in standards offices would enjoy. Take, for example, one of the organizing sponsors listed: the Public Relations Institute, represented by “Ubiquitous Legrand.” Then there’s the conclusion of the foreword, which insists that “when the committee sobers up it will be in condition to consider further developments in the state of the art.”

They are the daddiest of dad jokes ever to be almost lost to history.

The document is clearly not meant to be taken seriously. What was the source of this mysterious document with its hammy humor and utterly serious martini laws?

It wasn’t easy tracking down the paper’s authors. Despite the manual being referenced in books, relevant sources I reached out to were surprised I even found it. Dick Whitney, the owner of the Optical Heritage Museum, was shocked to hear that an outdated section of his website hosted a copy of the original manual online. He’d found it 20 or 30 years ago, and assured me he hadn’t thought about it much since. A number on the manual that I called led to a long confused explanation of how I found that number, and repeated assurances that I wasn’t looking for the person who owned that number now. More often than not, the phone numbers were disconnected.

I needed to take it to the original source. But when I reached out to the ANSI, my call went straight to voicemail. The truth, it appeared, was destined to remain a mystery.

Until it wasn’t. The week after I left a voicemail at the ANSI, I received two consecutive calls at 7:35 and 7:36 in the morning. On the second call, a spokesperson left a voicemail, explaining the genesis of the manual. “It was a novelty joke,” the spokesperson from the ANSI said in the voicemail, “kind of a lark and a way of showing people what a standard is, in kind of a user-friendly and fun way.” A fun marketing piece, if you will, for an agency that creates important national standards for exceptionally dull industries.

Jokes aside, the guide lays out some important takeaways about the art of the dry martini. I suggest you read it in it’s entirety for the full effect, but here are the seven best things written in the “Safety Code and Requirements for Dry Martinis.”

National Information Standards Organization Republishing
A National Information Standards Organization republishing in 1974 tells the full story.

1. Leave the onions alone

A martini with an onion, which is called a Gibson (or an “unpardonable form of perversion”), is defined in the manual as onion soup, or, “the unholy abomination produced by the introduction of one or more pickled onions into a dry martini cocktail.”

2. Never serve over ice

No matter what the Trump Grill serves, a martini is never served over ice. Ice, or rocks, are simply the “solid state of H2O on which an American standard dry martini is never served.”

3. Extra dry martinis are not a thing

“A meaningless expression used loosely by waiters and bartenders. It is frequently the excuse for a supplementary charge and is often characterized by the inclusion of excessive melted ice or an abundance of water-white vermouth.”

4. Vodka dry martini is not a thing (sorry, Bond)

Vodka is a “distilled alcoholic beverage made originally from potatoes, but now encountered in grain alcohol versions. It may be clean, palatable, and non-lethal, and, when encountered in this form, is a fitting accompaniment for fresh caviar. It is never employed in a dry martini.”

5. Olives are optional

“While the use of olives is not encouraged, nothing in this specification shall be construed to mean that the inclusion of an olive will not be acceptable,” as long as it doesn’t break the rules of the “Maximum Permissable (sic) Olive Displacement” table.

6. Stop garnishing with lemon

“Lemonade. A term applied to drinks which have been subjected to the peel of a lemon. There is no place for the rind of any citrus fruit, or its oils, in an American Standard dry martini.”

7. Getting drunk is in the definition of a martini

Martini is a “broad term that can frequently lead to differences of opinion but which will invariably lead to a state of inebriation.”