I frequently order martinis when I’m out. I always have to say, “I’ll have a gin martini, Bluecoat American if you have it, straight up with a twist,” because a martini can mean just about anything these days.

I was happy to see that when Rachel Maddow taught Jimmy Fallon how to make a martini she declared that the period in American history when “any drink that was made in a glass with a stem was called a martini” is over. She also made it clear a martini is made with gin, not vodka. If you like vodka instead of gin in the drink, that’s perfectly fine, but technically it’s not a martini.

Here's something I learned from the video. I didn’t know that vermouth had such a short shelf life. No wonder my martinis I make at home are never as good as the ones that I have at a decent bar. In the video, Maddow says it goes bad in two weeks. The Kitchn says vermouth can be stored in the refrigerator for no more than a month or two. I also didn’t know that vermouth is fortified wine. I thought it was a spirit. Although its alcohol content is higher than regular wines, it has a much lower alcohol content than spirits. That’s why it doesn’t keep its quality for very long.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.