Annotation — December 23, 2016, 12:43 pm

The Trumptini

Drinking in Trump’s America

Photograph by Olivia Nuzzi

Photograph by Olivia Nuzzi

1. A martini, like a country, is difficult to get right. Either can, in a matter of hours, elicit exquisite calm, wild anger, violence, agony, poorly constructed monologues, exhaustion. Some people are Democrats, others Republicans; some prefer gin and some vodka. In America’s 3.8 million square miles, martini-drinking citizens come to expect variety. Bernard De Voto, writing his Easy Chair column for this magazine in December 1951, reported, “I am afraid that the fine art of blending gin and vermouth gets small encouragement in my native West, and indeed the West (always excepting Denver, a center of aesthetics) is pragmatic rather than studious in its alcoholic culture.” The martini aficionado Roger Angell, a New Yorker, has advised, “Now, for vermouth, take a little less than you think you need, and then pour in a little less than that.” But the buzz was killed last week, when Olivia Nuzzi, a political reporter for the Daily Beast, tweeted a photo of a martini served at the Trump Grill, the steakhouse in the lobby of Trump Tower, in midtown Manhattan. The image was favorited twenty-eight thousand times, which is to say that it was greatly disliked. There, in Trump’s house, America had ordered itself a very bad martini.

2. The eye goes first to the glass. Only a day before this photo was taken, in a Vanity Fair article called “Trump Grill Could Be the Worst Restaurant in America,” a reviewer found the setting to be “a cheap version of rich.” Pouring a martini into a wine glass may seem fancy, but it makes less sense than pouring apple juice in there. According to Wine Spectator, “The sizes and shapes of the bowls”—meaning the cups, for us simpletons—“influence the intensity and complexity of the aromas, while the shapes of the rims determine where the wine initially lands on the tongue, affecting the perception of its taste.” Sniffing a martini is like sniffing a meatloaf, only less rewarding. As for taste, perception itself increasingly becomes a factor, as one floats blissfully into the evening, but any old table glass does the job. A martini glass serves “up,” to prevent your hands from warming the drink, but it doesn’t really matter much if you let it rest on the bar, sipping as one should: intermittently. The main thing to avoid would be Marilyn Monroe’s martini order from The Seven Year Itch: “I’ll have a glass of that. A big, tall one.”

3. The greatest offense is the ice. First, it is evidence of a production failure. How did this martini come into existence? Did an undercompensated, weary laborer pour gin, dry vermouth, a fistful of ice, and an olive into a glass and mix with a coffee stirrer? Did some combination of these ingredients get sloshed around in a shaker, as the ice broke down into chips and watery slush? Did a bartender cry, and this is what gushed out? The resulting martini reminds of the troubled American education system, which has failed on so many levels to teach students about the virtues of methodology, research, the principles of science. When Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary, takes the helm, we must all remember that our future mixologists and tavern-keepers and home cocktail mixers hang in the balance; as a proponent of “school choice” and diverting public funds to religious-education vouchers and tax credits, her policies are not likely to properly prepare them. Beyond the greater misfortunes of the years ahead, we may also find a million James Bonds, drinking weak martinis beside girlfriends with unfortunate names.

4. The second problem with ice in a martini is the ice in the martini. Cocktail snobs know that in any drink that takes ice, a single big block is best, so as not to dilute the contents. For a martini, this never comes up, because ice never belongs, so the fact that what Nuzzi documented at the Trump Grill contained little ice cubes is really beside the point. The ideal way to get a martini cold is by thinking ahead—as Trump hates to do—and sticking a glass or two in the freezer before the ingredients are combined. When it’s time to mix—to stir, or gently swirl—ice should be the last kid in the pool and not stay in long. But it should be ample, like in the Arctic a hundred years ago, not a hundred years from now.

5. One last thing—the olive. De Voto again, in his most important martini column for Harper’s, in 1949: “I suppose, nothing can be done with people who put olives in martinis, presumably because in some desolate childhood hour someone refused them a dill pickle and so they go through life lusting for the taste of brine.” What is not pictured here, and what Nuzzi never mentions in her tweet, is the identity of the man next to her, the one who ordered this martini at the Trump Grill. This man crossed police barricades on 5th Avenue—some draped with an ad for Tiffany’s, Trump’s next-door neighbor, which decided to dress up the blockades with cloth cut in its signature blue—past security guards manning one tent outside the front door. This man brushed by executives and sycophants and tourists, and took a refuge at a bar, seeking something strong. The serious offense of this martini is how profoundly it failed to serve this man—this olive eater—who had come, in good faith, to Trump’s America.

Share
Single Page

More from Betsy Morais:

Annotation, Art August 29, 2017, 1:24 pm

Trumpeter Storm

Donald and Melania Trump go to Texas. 

Context May 2, 2017, 4:31 pm

The Moderator in Manila

What the Trumps are building in the Philippines

Annotation April 6, 2017, 6:10 pm

Dressed to Kill

Jared Kushner goes to Iraq

Get access to 167 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2018

The Sound of Madness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Looking for Calley

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Comforting Myths

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Wizard of Q

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Punching the Clock

Family History

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Combat High·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Afew months before the United States invaded Iraq, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time, was asked on a radio show how long the war would take. “Five days or five weeks or five months,” he replied. “It certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When George W. Bush departed the White House more than five years later, there were nearly 136,000 US soldiers stationed in the country. 

The number of troops has fallen since then, but Bush’s successors have failed to withdraw the United States from the region. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send hundreds of troops into Syria. For years Donald Trump described America’s efforts in Afghanistan as “a waste” and said that soldiers were being led “to slaughter,” but in 2017 he announced that he would deploy as many as 4,000 more troops to the country. “Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk of the Oval Office,” he explained. Every president, it seems, eventually learns to embrace our perpetual war.

With the Trump Administration’s attacks on affordable health care, immigration, environmental regulation, and civil rights now in full swing, criticism of America’s military engagements has all but disappeared from the national conversation. Why hasn’t the United States been able—or willing—to end these conflicts? Who has benefited from them? Is victory still possible—and, if so, is it anywhere in sight?

In March, Harper’s Magazine convened a panel of former soldiers at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The participants, almost all of whom saw combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, were asked to reflect on the country’s involvement in the Middle East. This Forum is based on that panel, which was held before an audience of cadets and officers, and on a private discussion that followed.

Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Comforting Myths·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Before he died, my father reminded me that when I was four and he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a writer. Of course, what I meant by “writer” then was a writer of Superman comics. In part I was infatuated with the practically invulnerable Man of Steel, his blue eyes and his spit curl. I wanted both to be him and to marry him—to be his Robin, so to speak. But more importantly, I wanted to write his story, the adventures of the man who fought for truth, justice, and the American Way—if only I could figure out what the fuck the American Way was.

Artwork by Mahmood Sabzi
Article
The Sound of Madness·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Sarah was four years old when her spirit guide first appeared. One day, she woke up from a nap and saw him there beside her bed. He was short, with longish curly hair, like a cherub made of light. She couldn’t see his feet. They played a board game—she remembers pushing the pieces around—and then he melted away.

After that, he came and went like any child’s imaginary friend. Sarah often sensed his presence when strange things happened—when forces of light and darkness took shape in the air around her or when photographs rippled as though shimmering in the heat. Sometimes Sarah had thoughts in her head that she knew were not her own. She would say things that upset her parents. “Cut it out,” her mother would warn. “This is what they put people in psychiatric hospitals for.”

Painting (detail) by Carlo Zinelli
Article
Looking for Calley·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In the fall of 1969, I was a freelance journalist working out of a small, cheap office I had rented on the eighth floor of the National Press Building in downtown Washington. A few doors down was a young Ralph Nader, also a loner, whose exposé of the safety failures in American automobiles had changed the industry. There was nothing in those days quite like a quick lunch at the downstairs coffee shop with Ralph. Once, he grabbed a spoonful of my tuna-fish salad, flattened it out on a plate, and pointed out small pieces of paper and even tinier pieces of mouse shit in it. He was marvelous, if a bit hard to digest.

The tip came on Wednesday, October 22. The caller was Geoffrey Cowan, a young lawyer new to town who had worked on the ­McCarthy campaign and had been writing critically about the Vietnam War for the Village Voice. There was a story he wanted me to know about. The Army, he told me, was in the process of court-martialing a GI at Fort Benning, in Georgia, for the killing of seventy-five civilians in South Vietnam. Cowan did not have to spell out why such a story, if true, was important, but he refused to discuss the source for his information.

Photograph © Bettmann/Getty Images
Article
The Last Best Place·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The family was informed they would be moving to a place called Montana. Jaber Abdullah had never heard of it, but a Google search revealed that it was mountainous. Up to that point, he and his wife, Heba, had thought they’d be moving from Turkey to Newark, New Jersey. The prospect of crime there concerned Heba, as she and Jaber had two young sons: Jan, a petulant two-year-old, and Ivan, a newborn. 

Montana sounded like the countryside. That, Heba thought, could be good. She’d grown up in Damascus, Syria, where jasmine hung from the walls and people sold dates in the great markets. These days, you checked the sky for mortar rounds like you checked for rain, but she still had little desire to move to the United States. Basel, Jaber’s brother, a twenty-two-year-old with a cool, quiet demeanor, merely shrugged.

Illustration (detail) by Danijel Žeželj

Average amount Microsoft spends each month assisting people who need to change their passwords:

$2,000,000

Chimpanzees who join new groups with inferior nut-cracking techniques will abandon their superior techniques in order to fit in.

Trump leaves the Iran nuclear deal, Ebola breaks out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and scientists claim that Pluto is still a planet.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Report — From the June 2013 issue

How to Make Your Own AR-15

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

Subscribe Today