Drink Magazine

A Martini By Any Other Name

By Dinocelotti @TheDabbler

Today when I walk into the average bar and order a Martini I usually end up with some abomination of a drink that tastes awful, at least in my opinion. On good days it will at least have Gin in it, and if I’m really lucky even a touch of Vermouth. On bad days it will be made with Vodka, olive brine and it’ll be shaken on ice. That’s not to say that I don’t from time to time enjoy a chilled vodka with a few blue cheese stuffed olives in it, just don’t assume that’s what I want when I order a Martini, because it’s not!

I will concede that there is some disagreement, even among professional bartenders (I don’t use the word professional to mean they get paid to make drinks, I use it to mean those that have a love for their craft and do it for the artform that it is) about what a Martini, in it’s true form, really is. This is not necessarily through any fault of their own, it really is due to the long, convoluted and hazy history behind it. If you’d like evidence of this, pick up a copy of one of the best cocktail books ever written; David Wondrich’s “Imbibe!”. Therein he tells the tale of his search for the truth, covering four of what seem to be the most likely origins of the Martini, none of which can be proven with any certainty. Needless to say, the Martini is not a drink for which there is only one recipe. It’s various forms also seem to overlap in many ways with other drinks that one finds from time to time including the Martinez (Potentially the father of the Martini, or maybe just another name for the drink itself), the Turf Club Cocktail (Another potential father), the Gibson and the Gin & It.

Feeling a little overwhelmed by all these options, in my search I put together a little excel spreadsheet of over 20 recipes from 14 sources. This was the result:

A Martini By Any Other Name

I’ve highlighted certain groupings so you can clearly see what I mean when I say there is overlap of recipes. This little exercise didn’t really clarify things for me, but it did confirm a few important pieces of information that I feel should be communicated far and wide.

  1. A Martini is made with Gin by default. Vodka is an optional variation at the customer’s request and should be recognized as that.
  2. A Martini absolutely contains Vermouth. By default use dry Vermouth (Noilly Pratt is preferred).
  3. A Martini does not contain olive brine. If that’s how you like it, you can call it dirty, but don’t call it a Martini.
  4. A Martini should be garnished with a lemon peel twist by default.
Now that we have that out of the way, you can probably see that even some of the great bartenders of today and yesteryear don’t necessarily agree on all my points. Some like their Martinis with Sweet Vermouth, but generally that seems to take us into Martinez territory. Some like it with Bitters, usually Angostura or Orange bitters, with older recipes calling for Boker’s which is no longer produced, but again I believe we are getting into the world of the Martinez on this point. Finally, a number of recipes have dashes, drops, or spoons of any of either Curacao, Absinthe or Maraschino Liqueur.

Based on this research I believe that these days the Martini has become far too dry, meaning it does not contain enough Vermouth. I’m probably getting into hot water here, but this applies even to the International Bartender’s Association (IBA) version. So, Although I have absolutely zero authority when it comes to cocktail recipes or declarations thereof, here I go nonetheless;

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The Martini

2 oz Gin (Tanqueray or Beefeater will do well)
1 oz Dry Vermouth (Noilly Pratt is best, otherwise Cinzano or Martini will do fine)
Lemon Peel to Garnish

Method:

Combine Gin and Vermouth over ice in a mixing glass. Stir for about 25 seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass (Yes, you can use a “Martini” glass).
Twist the lemon peel over top of the drink and drop it in.
Enjoy!
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If you want to make a Gibson, just increase your ratios to about 6 parts Gin to 1 part Vermouth. Follow the same method, but skip the lemon and drop in a pearl onion to garnish.

Now for my supreme and omnipotent decision on what a Martinez should be!

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The Martinez

1 oz Gin (Old Tom if you can find it, Alternatively a London dry with a few drops of simple syrup will do)
2 oz Sweet Vermouth (Carpano Antica is best, otherwise Martini will do just fine too)
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes Maraschino Liqueur
Lemon peel to garnish

Method:

Combine ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Stir thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass.
Twist the lemon peel over top of the drink and drop it in.
(I will admit, that I kinda like using orange peel sometimes)

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That’s it for this round. Give these two a try, play around with the proportions and make your own decisions about what you enjoy. Please share your discoveries and opinions in the comments. In the end enjoyment is the highest priority, so drink on!


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