Though the drink itself is the epitome of effortless cool, the Martini’s history is full of frenzy and dispute. Some say it’s a bastardized Martinez, a drink created at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco for a flush gold miner who demanded a drink be named in his honor. Others say it was immaculately conceived at New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel. Either way, by the 1920s, the Martini had a clear definition: 2-to-1 gin to vermouth, orange bitters, no garnish. In other words, it was nothing like the one we know today. By the 1990s, it became trendy to hate on vermouth. (We chalk this up to the ‘90s being a despicable decade in general.) Hedge fund managers began proudly ordering “bone dry” martinis, where the bartender simply rolls his eyes at the vermouth before putting gin and ice in his tin. The recipe below lies between these margins. After all, a Martini is gin and vermouth, not just chilled gin. If you have access to a good, fresh dry vermouth, we recommend trying the original ratios. (But remember that dry vermouth goes bad almost as fast as wine. Buy small bottles, refrigerate after opening and toss after two weeks.)
Mix it Up
The original drink had orange bitters. They still work well. For a Dirty Martini, reduce the gin by half an ounce and replace it with a half ounce of olive juice. Superstitious bartenders will tell you to garnish with either one or three olives. Any more or less is bad luck (and the sign of a mawkish disposition). Garnish your Martini with cocktail onions and it is transformed… poof!... into a Gibson.
Recommended Gins: Beefeater, Tanqueray, Plymouth, Aviation, Ford’s Gin, Greenhook Ginsmith Dry. Want to get weird? Trying Greenhook Ginsmith’s Old Tom Gin or Ransom Cellars Old Tom.
Recommended Vermouth: Dolin Dry, Noilly Prat,Vervino Vermouth, Channing Daughters Vermouth, Cocchi Americano, Salers Apertif
Not everyone is a fan of gin’s heavy botanical flavors—and that’s fine. There’s no shame in loving vodka. Celebrate the clean, crisp, subtle spirit in a Vodka Martini. Ice cold and garnished with a lemon twist or olives, it’s just as sophisticated as its older, gin-based brother.