The Martini is a classic drink that has been deconstructed, reconstructed, torn down, and slapped together again.  The origins are up for debate, but most believe that it was an evolution of the Martinez.  The traditional Martini (my preference) has two ingredients and a garnish.  The two ingredients are gin and dry vermouth, the garnish is either an olive or a lemon twist.

The martini fell on some hard times during the 90’s and 00’s, when a glut of Martini bars opened up, most of which were selling alcoholic sweet abominations that they referred to as %flavor% Martini (look to the espresso or chocolate Martini for examples), and spawned the foul appletini.  There has also been a strong tendency for the Martini to become served at a drier level (less vermouth then the classic ratio), and for the substitution of vodka for gin.

The Martini

  • 2 part gin
  • 1 part dry vermouth
  • Garnish (olive/lemon; sub out a cocktail onion and you have a Gibson).

Gin and vermouth get added to a cocktail shaker (or pitcher) over ice, which is then stirred to chill, then you strain it into a chilled cocktail glass.  Why stir this drink instead of shaking it?  Most people will say something about “bruising the gin”.  The reason you don’t shake it is that the shaking will cause two negative effects: it’ll dilute the strength of the drink, and it will add ice chips and flakes to the drink (which will cause it to look cloudy instead of pristine and clear).  There’s several stories floating around that the reason that Ian Fleming had Bond order his Martinis shaken, not stirred was as a subtle nod that he was an uncultured brute who wouldn’t fit into the upper class he was trying to blend into.

There are a couple of accepted changes to the classic that can be ordered with the addition of a word:

Dirty – This means to add a splash of the olive brine into the cocktail (and always garnished with an olive)

Perfect – Less frequently used here then in the world of the Manhattan, this means to use half the dry vermouth, and add an equal amount of sweet vermouth.

Wet – A changed ratio, with more vermouth

Dry – A changed ratio, with less vermouth

On the rocks – Served over ice in a rocks glass instead of the standard up in a chilled cocktail glass.

Churchill – I don’t actually like Martinis, so just give me a large serving of chilled gin

Vodka – I want to drink out of a fancy glass, but don’t know any other drinks that are served in a cocktail glass

Vodka Churchill – I have no plans for tonight or tomorrow, and would just like to get drunk as quickly as possible.

Now, since I’ve brought up Bond and Fleming, there is a variant on the Martini that was created and named in one of the Bond books.  I speak of:

The Vesper

  • 3 part gin
  • 1 part vodka
  • ½ part Lillet Blanc/Cocchi Americano

This drink is built and shaken (to dilute it, as it’s a beast of a drink) per the recipe provided in the book, but you can stir it if you prefer.   After that, it’s strained into a chilled cocktail glass.

Since it seems wrong just to leave you with two drinks, let’s take a swerve to one that those of you who don’t like vermouth, but like gin may appreciate:

The Pink Gin

  • Gin (Plymouth or other non-dry gin preferred)
  • Dash of bitters

Chill your gin, add a dash (or more) of bitters (the traditional one for this is Angostura) and mix it.  You can also do this by adding the bitters to the chilled cocktail glass and then adding the gin.  This is also a fairly potent drink, and can be cut with chilled water or tonic if you prefer.