The Oystertini Revisited

Mar 10, 2008

After I put a recipe for the Oystertini in my book, I received a letter from Dr. Gil Levin, a Maryland inventor, setting the record straight:

“I must call your attention to a gross injustice you commit on p. 253 by taking ‘all the blame’ (meaning the glory) for the oysterini. Rowan, the oysterini is MY invention! I invented it in 1960 at a party with colleagues from the Goddard Space Flight Center (from which my small company held a contract in space biology). The livebation was an instant success, and the Goddard gang promptly named it the ‘Levini.’ However, being a modest man, ‘with much to be modest about,’ I renamed it the ‘Oysterini.’ The Oysterini remained popular, but really hit high gear in 1976 at a party at JPL celebrating the safe landing of the Viking Mission to Mars (on which I had a life detection experiment). At that party, the Viking Chief Scientist produced a pint of shucked oysters from his back pocket and the Oysterinis rolled! Now, you can imagine how disturbed I am at your usurpation of my rightful claim. As Dustin Hoffman said in Wag the Dog, ‘I demand the credit!’ Please fess up in your next edition!”

Let the record hereby state: Dr. Gil Levin, the Oysterini is all yours.

And here is the recipe, for everyone intrigued by this irresistible concoction:


Nothing goes with raw oysters like a martini. Bombay Sapphire gin, a splash of Noilly Pratt vermouth, and a twist of lemon peel, all so cold that ice crystals flirt with existence at the surface. Drink one with a dozen Fanny Bay oysters and feel yourself slide into a crystalline realm of confused bliss. I have to thank Greg Hinton, director of Elliott’s Oyster Bar, for turning me on to this particular bliss, but I’ll take all the blame for this next outré innovation: throw an oyster in the gin! The oyster not only does the work of the olive, providing texture and salt and visual interest, but also covers for the vermouth with its liquor—a variation on the “dirty martini.” In the name of sanity, a small, dainty oyster is the way to go here. It will look a bit like a lab experiment floating in formaldehyde, which isn’t so far from the truth. I like to use a lemon twist, but do what you want—we’ve obviously left tradition far, far behind.
2 ounces gin
1 raw oyster, liquor reserved
1 strip of lemon peel

1. Pour the gin and oyster liquor into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and let sit for 30 seconds, or longer for a weaker drink.

2. Run the lemon peel around the rim of a martini glass. Strain the gin into the glass, then twist the peel over the glass to release a drop of lemon oil.

3. Drop in the oyster and serve.

Serves 1

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