Two years later, I’m still measuring life in martini glasses

In the poem by TS Eliot J. Alfred Prufrock’s Love Song, the narrator recalls, “I measured my life with teaspoons.” As we pass the two-year mark when “Covid-19” first entered mainstream consciousness, I realize that I measured my life with Martini glasses – and still am.

I’ve always known that the stark neutrality of the Martini can provide an immaculate backdrop. That’s why it’s always been the first sip of any new or new bar for me: it’s the ultimate test of how classic might be set up and presented. It can be made with a premium gin, fancy glass or garnish, or super chilled for an impeccably ice-cold burst. It’s also my favorite in bars that aren’t necessarily “cocktail bars”, when I just want something reliable, like some friends feel about ordering a beer at their favorite local. After all, it’s a drink that can never really be ruined. Not even by a global pandemic.

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When Covid first arrived, the Martini naturally emerged as a comfort tool – for me, and for others across the country too. During the first months of lockdown, images shared of “Quarantinis” on social media or Zoom gave the illusion of sharing a drink between forced individual silos. We swapped favorite proportions and bottles; my favorite was a 50-50 split of Tanqueray and Dolin Blanc, with a twist of lemon, featured in many Instagram stories. I cried when my favorite coupe glass finally cracked in protest about seven months later.

I had a more complex relationship with the Martinis of the slow, stop/start re-emergence of the pandemic.

Some have reminded me of how drinks reflect the life that unfolds around us and how much I have missed that connection. The V-shaped glasses that cluttered the little round table outside our neighborhood Italian restaurant, the first time our little “pandemic pod” (remember that?) got together for an al fresco meal. A rounded Nick and Nora, just big enough to fit a single plump Castelvetrano olive, as I celebrated post-vaxx at the bar of a recently opened steakhouse.

Others have brought back the less welcome cadence of 2020 lockdown life: the bottled Martini I batched and stored in my freezer when the Omicron variant appeared, and the torpedoed drinks date back to parties in alone at home. The makeshift Martini – vodka and fino sherry – which my non-drinking husband assembled and shipped on a platter, after Omicron found me anyway, and I did my best to isolate myself from him in our one bedroom apartment (it worked. The Martini too).

I wish I could say that each Martini was comforting in its own way. But if I’m being really honest, there were times when I may have jumped back into bars prematurely when restrictions finally eased a bit, trying to keep my professional life as a drinks writer afloat. .

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On one such outing, way beyond my comfort zone, I downed my Martini with unusual haste – if I downed the fancy cocktail choice with the olive, I wouldn’t be surprised – j broke my mask over my face and rushed back outside to safety. In my mind loomed the birdlike specters of 17th century physicians, who wore elongated-beaked masks filled with pungent herbs – surely gin and vermouth herbs, juniper, coriander, orris root – because they tended to curse the victims.

Two years into pandemic life, I’m still trying to get out of it. I know some have already said Covid is a thing of the past. As much as I wish it were true, I continue to work my way through what feels like a minefield of alarming news, crumpled masks, and shards of broken Martini glasses. I expect to get to the other side eventually.

Looking back on the past two years, one particular and hopeful drink stands out: an airport Martini, consumed while waiting for a flight to Arizona in the fall of 2021. It was my first (so far, the only) foray into air travel in the age of the pandemic, a trip booked and canceled four times. Even wheeling my dusty carry-on through the JFK terminal, I still wondered if my travel plans were going to fall apart any moment. Nervous about all aspects of the flight but determined not to back down, I ordered a Martini to calm my nerves. Gin. Extra olives, please.

Now was not the time for a tough order – a stiff and simple drink was needed. It did not disappoint: classic V-shaped glass, three speared olives twisted through a cold sea of ​​gin. (If the vermouth was even in there, it certainly wasn’t much, and that was fine.) It was a perfect fortification as I watched the other travelers hurry. I closed my mask, the last juniper exhale a reassuring companion as I headed for the door.

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