LONDON - Charles and Diana were known to stop into Dukes Hotel for one of its famous martinis (Clarence House next door is the Prince of Wales' official residence), and Ian Fleming was a regular, even though Dukes bartenders refuse either to shake or stir.
"It's a purer martini without the water from the ice that shaking would add," bartender Maurizio Schiavone says. He adds that stirring would only upset this perfect blend of gin or vodka and vermouth.
As in a Japanese tea ceremony, presentation is vital; when the cocktail is ordered, a small table with chilled glasses, two kinds of Italian vermouth, Beefeater gin and Potocki vodka, and a lemon from Sicily is brought into the hotel's beautiful little cocktail bar. (The hotel manager once suggested that, to cut costs, local lemons be substituted for Sicilian, which nearly led to the head bartender's resignation.)
A couple of drops of vermouth are put into the glass, and then the bartender says, "We add just a little vodka," as he pours it to the top of the glass. The lemon is carefully peeled and twisted so that, Dukes guests will recall, the whole lobby smells like lemons.
The drink is, Dukes employees note, a martini that will knock your socks off, and the hotel has a rigid house rule that no more than two can be drunk in an evening. This will be a relief to those who don't want to spend every pound at the bar: a martini is $28. After one or two or maybe even none, guests eagerly sign up for martini-making master classes here.
Dukes Hotel, St. James's Place, London, 011-44-020-7491-4840, 800-381-4702, dukeshotel.com.