The Classic Martini

“Shaken, not stirred.” We are all familiar with Ian Flemmings beloved words for our favorite secret agent, James Bond. The martini has always been a well known and loved classic. Hemmingway often wove his libations of choice into his work and penned the martini in Farewell to Arms by saying, “I had never tasted anything so cool and so clean… They make me feel civilized.” A chosen drink order says a lot about the drinker, and the martini is universally the sexiest cocktail there is. It takes a unique taste palette to truly enjoy this gut punch of a cocktail, but for those of us who do, there are many different ways to make a martini.

Cocktail History

Just like the margarita, the classic martini recipe has a few different origin story options.

Our first story option is that the martini was named after an old style cocktail that originated in 1860 at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. Legend has it that a miner struck it rich with a gold mine and wanted to buy all the bar patrons a round of champagne to celebrate. Of course, the establishment didn’t have champagne and only had four ingredients behind the bar: Gin, Sweet Vermouth, bitters, and maraschino liqueur. 

Another theory is that the martini originated at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York and originally referred to as “Martinez Special”. That cocktail name was a mouth full so it got shortened to Martini instead. 

Variations of Martini

There are so many variations of martini that knowing what to order at your favorite haunt or make at your home bar can be daunting. To simplify it, remember this simple martini formula: choice of spirit + martini style + garnish.

Let’s start with the spirit: Vodka versus Gin. These two spirits are nearly identical! I like to think of them as two steaks on a grill; one has seasoning added and the other is unseasoned. Gin is the seasoned spirit of the two with its botanical additives giving it a herbal and citrus-y flavor. If you’re like me, you may enjoy the traditional Gin Martini, but many people like to take a page out of James Bond’s book and order a Vodka Martini instead. 

The choice of shaken or stirred will determine the cocktail texture, but most often this is decided by your choice of spirit. Traditionally, a Gin Martini will be stirred while a Vodka Martini is shaken.

Now for your Martini style. Do you want it wet, dry, or dirty? This is usually the part where I lose people. What’s the difference, you may ask. A wet martini is made with more vermouth making the ratio of vermouth to spirit higher, and a dry martini is the exact opposite. A dirty martini simply includes the addition of olive brine.

Once your martini has been prepared, picking a garnish is the final step. Typically, the garnish options are olives, cocktail onions, or a lemon twist. I love how the citrus plays with the botanicals in a Gin Martini, so that is my usual go-to. It all depends on your palette!

Classic Martini Recipe

2 oz Vodka or Gin

1 oz Dry Vermouth

Garnish: Olive, Cocktail Onion, or Lemon twist

Glass: Martini

In a mixing glass combine your spirit of choice and Dry Vermouth with ice. Shake or stir your cocktail and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish and sip boldly!