Friday, March 27, 2015

Classic Martini

I have always thought the Martini was just so utterly cool. Martini drinkers know what they want. Dry or dirty, gin or vodka, olive or twist. They order their drink while their friends are still ruminating over the cocktail list. I wanted to be a Martini drinker.

So imagine my disappointment the first time I tasted one and really didn't like it. The second time, too. This potent mixture of gin or vodka and vermouth is definitely an acquired taste. But once you acquire it, you'll realize that sometimes nothing hits the spot quite like a Martini. Without a hint of sweetness, it's an excellent aperitif.

The Martini many variations. It can be made with gin or vodka, and garnished with olives or a lemon twist. A "dirty Martini" has some olive juice added to the mix. The higher the ratio of gin or vodka to vermouth, the "drier" the Martini will be. Early versions of the cocktail had a very high proportion of gin to vermouth, as much as 1:1, but modern Martinis have much less vermouth (Noel Coward famously said that "A perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.") Personally, I like a 5:1 ratio of gin to vermouth and lots of olives.

History: The exact origin of this cocktail is delightfully murky. Not only are there multiple stories to explain its invention, but you'll find them told differently depending on where you look. The Martini may trace its roots back to the Martinez, a mixture of gin, sweet vermouth, and maraschino liqueur, which was supposedly invented by a bartender in California for a gold miner who had just struck it rich. Either the bar was in Martinez, or the gold miner was headed to Martinez. Or the cocktail may have been invented at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco and sold to commuters on their way to Martinez by ferry. Or the incident with the miner may have occurred at the Occidental Hotel. Or the Martini may have nothing to do with the Martinez, taking its name instead from Martini and Rossi vermouth. Or it may have been invented at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, and named after one of their bartenders.

Classic Martini

2 1/2 oz. gin or vodka
1/2 oz. vermouth
olives or a lemon twist

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with olives or a lemon twist. Congratulations - you're a Martini drinker.


  1. Just found your blog and I'm really enjoying it. I'm attempting something similar myself. Currently making my martinis unfashionably wet, but trying to gradually acclimatize to dry!

    1. No shame in that! Martinis seem to be all about personal preference. Julia Child's favorite aperitif was an "upside-down" martini, 2:1 vermouth to gin.

      I'm so glad you like the blog! I'm definitely going to start following yours as well!