Is A Vodka Martini Really A Martini?



In his Confusio and Excitorio Hereticorm, St Remy of Aquatine continues his discussion of Spirits with question 14: Whether or not a Vodka Martini is Really a Martini. Fifty years later Bonaventure would cite this exposition as turning him from vodka Martinis but Aquinas, who in Summa Contra Gentiles took the position described in Objection 3, never seems to have considered Remy’s refutation.  

The righteous believe that Martinis are made of gin and a splash of vermouth. The opponents of truth, however, claim that Martinis can be made from vodka, as well as from gin.

They present three objections in support of this perfidious lie:

Objection 1: In common usage people refer to cocktails made of vodka as Martinis. Any young man or woman in a common house ordering a Martini assumes it is a vodka based concoction. Barkeeps will often ask vodka or gin? when asked to make a Martini. Now, men will not refer to something when there is nothing to signify. Therefore, a vodka Martini is a true Martini.

Objection 2: Martinis are served in Martini glasses. The glass, not the contents, are what determines the name. Therefore, vodka served in a Martini glass is a true Martini.

Objection 3: Gin is, in substance, vodka. For gin is grain alcohol just as vodka is. Gin is flavored with herbs and juniper, while vodka is either not flavored, or is flavored with other things. But flavor is an accident, not a substance. If gin and vodka are really the same substance, then a cocktail made from one is the same as a cocktail made from the other. Therefore, a vodka Martini is really a Martini.

Ego autem dico that Martinis are made of gin. For as it is written in the book of Jeremiah the Prophet: I will cast down your public houses and drive the barkeeps before me, for they have adulterated my libations, they have mixed true spirits with false, they have left the berries on the juniper tree.

That Martinis are made of gin and not vodka is clear from the fact that a Martini is a cocktail, that is, a compound substance of two flavored liqueurs, in this case gin and vermouth mixed to some proportion. Vodka however has no flavor, so the resulting concoction is nothing but diluted vermouth. It is not a cocktail, but belongs to a different genus altogether, and belonging to a different genus, it cannot be of the same species. Therefore a Vodka Martini is not a Martini.

Reply to Objection 1: The common speech of the ignorant is a form of doxa or opinion. Such arguments are used in dialectics, but are not fitting to a philosophical discussion.

Reply to Objection 2: The presentation of the cocktail does not change the nature of the cocktail. If this were the case, Manhattans would be Martinis, for they too are served in Martini glasses. Gin and vermouth served in a brandy snifter does not become brandy, it remains a Martini. If beer or tea were served in a Martini glass, only a fool would think to call it a Martini.

Reply to Objection 3: If this were the case, then whiskey too would be vodka, for it is also a grain alcohol, flavored only with the wood of the barrel and the vapors of the environment in which it is aged. For as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share one spiritual substance and yet are called different names because they subsist in relation to one another, so too the spirits of vodka, gin and whiskey share one substance but are called different names.

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