If you learn how to make one cocktail in this lifetime, make it a martini. It's required knowledge for a passing grade in Western Civ 101, up there in the canon-lands, along with the little black dress, a single strand of pearls and the original icons of elegant style, the Ladies Hepburn (Katharine and Audrey).
Whether dry or dirty, the evolution of the drink has left some forgetting that the classic is made with gin, not vodka. Purists claim that stirring is the correct method, so Mr. Bond's preference for a shaken concoction, well, what he's really ordering is a Vesper, a cocktail that he himself named after the double agent who won his heart in Casino Royale.
Once you've mastered the classic recipe, customize it with your own signature blend of fabulousness.
2 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 green olive
1 lemon twist
Cocktail pitcher or mixing glass
Chilled martini glass
Pour ingredients into an ice filled mixing glass. Stir for about 30 seconds with a long mixing spoon. Pour into the chilled martini glass. Garnish with an olive or lemon.
One classic deserves another: Concoct a gin and juice cocktail for guests who might not feel like tackling the more formidable martini. Keep juice (like peach or pear) and a bottle of ginger ale in your pantry. Pour 2 ounces gin over an ice-filled glass, top with juice and a splash of ginger ale, then garnish with fruit or herbs you might have on hand (skip it if you don't, because it's not worth running out for).
Remember to say thank you