TotC: Nick & Nora Martini

Drink number four of our Tales of the Cocktail roundup will be made by the erudite Christine Sismondo. To see the beginning of the Tales of the Cocktail posts, click here.

Christine Sismondo, MA, BA, is a writer and lecturer at Toronto’s York University’s Division of Humanities, writes for The Walrus, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star and was in New Orleans to do a seminar on Cocktails and Film.

I had met Christine briefly when I first arrived at the hotel, but hadn’t the opportunity to really have a conversation with her, what with all the hub-bub of a thousand cocktalians trying to get drinks and meet new people.

Later that same evening, I found myself at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop with Darcy O’Neil as we were exploring the French Quarter in search of history and cocktails. For those who don’t know, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, built in 1722, is reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. Lafitte’s is a tiny building with no artificial light anywhere except right behind the bar, and feels like you’ve stepped back in time as the original blacksmith’s oven is still in place.

We were just about to leave when Christine walked in, recognized us, and offered to buy us a drink. That’s one of the reasons why I love this industry. What other profession has such camaraderie that virtual strangers buy each other beverages, just because they appreciate something as simple as a cocktail? And so a beautiful friendship was formed.

Given that Christine’s seminar was on Cocktails in Film it was fitting that she chose the Nick & Nora Martini for her cocktail. For those who don’t know, Nick and Nora are the heavy drinking, husband and wife detective team that head the Thin Man movie series. If you’re looking at this recipe and thinking to yourself, “hey, that’s just a martini!”, remember that once upon a time, cocktails were a very exacting science, and the slightest adjustment of any proportion or garnish mandated that the creator now come up with a new name for the libation.

1 ½ oz Plymouth gin
½ oz Martini & Rossi dry vermouth

stir over ice
strain into a chilled cocktail glass
garnish with an olive

It seems that somehow I had the wrong recipe card attached to Christine’s name. Her recipe, while sounding very similar by title alone, is actually quite different, and quite frankly, a heck of a lot more interesting. So here it is, Christine’s REAL Tales of the Cocktail recipe:


1 ½ oz Tanqueray gin
½ oz Lillet blanc
1 oz grapefruit juice
¼ oz lime juice
splash of cardamom-infused simple syrup

shake and strain
garnish with a lime


Christine Sismondo

Pictures taken by:
Jamie Boudreau



~ by Jamie Boudreau on July 30, 2007.

3 Responses to “TotC: Nick & Nora Martini”

  1. While visiting New Orleans, I wondered about that claim by Lafitte’s that they’re the oldest bar in the U.S. It conflicted with what I thought I remembered from a recent trip to Newport, Rhode Island, where another place makes a similar statement. So I checked, and sure enough, The White Horse tavern ( is older. The building was constructed in 1652, became a tavern in 1673, and received a license to sell spirits in 1702. And even they only say that they’re “one of America’s oldest tavern buildings”, so presumably there are others with similar claims.

    Just an FYI 😉

  2. But there is an official looking sign!!
    Seriously though, I too had wondered about that, for I had also heard about the White Horse, but was just too lazy too research it. My only explanation would be that the sign at Lafitte’s is older than 1954, which is when the White Horse would become a tavern again, after years of being a rooming house.

  3. The martinis enjoyed by Nick and Nora in The Thin Man were to be shaken to a waltz time.

    The lines is quoted is:
    The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.

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