Rachel and Kyle Ford, a modern-day Nick and Nora Charles, minus the detective work (basically just the Martinis).

Rachel and Kyle Ford, a modern-day Nick and Nora Charles, minus the detective work (basically just the Martinis).

If you’ve visited a cocktail bar recently, you may have been served a cocktail in a ‘Nick and Nora' glass, named after two notable personalities in Martini culture, Nick and Nora Charles.  Comprised of a dainty bell-shaped bowl on a stem, and with a capacity of a petite six ounces, this is the perfect glass for a modest libation, served up, with a fashionable hint of nostalgia.  What is the story behind this cocktail glass and the rituals of the time period is represents?

Nick and Nora Charles are the fictitious lead characters in the 1934 film, The Thin Man.  The duo are a married team of crime-solvers who enjoy a good fête, always accessorize with a Martini, and suffer an occasional bout of what I’ll refer to as ‘cocktail-induced exhaustion.’  Basically, they’re two stylish socialites living the fabulous life.  They serve to embody the glamour and the celebrated rituals of cocktail culture.

Ritual surrounds the creation and enjoyment of the Martini cocktail; take it from the film:

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.
— –Nick Charles, The Thin Man

Throughout the film, the Martini (and its enjoyment) is often the butt of a joke.  One favorite scene in the film shows Nick, Martini in hand, sitting at a table in a bar with an empty seat and a Martini reserved for a companion.  Shortly after Nora approaches and claims the seat and cocktail, a waiter visits the table and asks if he should bring another round.  Not to be outdone, Nora turns to Nick.

Nora Charles: How many drinks have you had?

Nick Charles: This will make six Martinis.

Nora Charles: [to the waiter] All right. Will you bring me five more Martinis, Leo? Line them right up here.
— Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man

Our cocktail culture is built upon nostalgia; nostalgia for everything from the period of time pre-prohibition to the days of the ‘three-Martini lunch’.  Popular television shows like Mad Men celebrate such rituals, including cocktail-fueled work-weeks and a ritualized Martini hour.  When one hears the term ‘three-Martini lunch’, it’s only natural to picture three modern-day Martinis, served up and dry in a monstrosity of a triangular glass.  What we must remember, however, is that imbibers would have taken a cue from Nick and Nora, and enjoyed a more petite libation.

Below, a Martini fit for N&N, captured by Kyle while at Whitechapel SF, and my preferred Martini recipe:

Nothing, however, can be done for those who over-indulge; heed the advice of my favorite cocktail couple…

Nora Charles: [suffering from a hang-over] What hit me?

Nick Charles: The last Martini.
— Nick and Nora Charles, The Thin Man

After all, it’s always the last Martini, isn’t it?