The Martini is the classy-classic American cocktail. It is also rich in formalities and custom.
Let us begin with pouring where the goal is to serve the coldest and purest alcohol. Daddy-o Bruce starts by pouring the liquids into a shaker with ice, WITHOUT SHAKING. You then get the garnish ready (typically a pimento stuffed olive) and take out your chilled glass. Garnish the glass, THEN shake the shaker and strain your cocktail into the glass. This will produce the coldest, water-free martini. Bruce usually goes a step further and swirls rather than shakes his shaker. This is to prevent Silver Bullets.
Many bartenders mark silver bullets, or small shards of ice, as an achievement. But in fact, your martini should never include ice shards or any other form of water. It is alright to refuse a martini with ice shards.
The contents of the martini are a personal choice aside from the basics Gin and Vermouth. Usually a martini has 1 part vermouth to two parts gin. Extra dry martinis have less vermouth and are just a preference, like dirty martinis. Dirty martinis have a splash of olive juice in them. Delicious. Vodka is a popular replacement for gin, and has led to the creation of flavored monstrosities like White Chocolate Cappucino Martini. But we are here to discuss the classics.
Let us end with drinking a martini. You should always hold the glass by the stem. If you can no longer balance the glass *stop drinking*. And the last sip has a prize - the olive. It has been soaking up the martini from the beginning and is your treat at the end. Even if you asked for extra olives (the cheap date appetizer), leave one until the end.
Special Thanks to Bruce Gelfand!