Is there any drink more sleek and sophisticated than a martini? Made with a bare minimum of ingredients (traditionally just gin and dry vermouth), it’s a cocktail for people who don’t insist that their drinks taste like something other than booze.
Yet in spite of its simplicity, there’s a lot of confusion around the martini. Gin or vodka? (Purists say gin.) Dry or dirty? (Depends on your taste.) Shaken or stirred? (Sorry James Bond, but most mixologists say to stir.) Is an appletini really a martini? (Definitely not.) Knowing the answers to these questions — and how to make a good martini — is a sign you know what’s up in the cocktail department. To help you get started, we’ve put together this list of seven martini recipes, from the classic to a few less-common variations.
1. Classic Martini
We’ll start with the basics. After all, you can’t get creative until you’ve mastered the original. This recipe for a classic martini comes from Esquire, and it calls for a ratio of one part vermouth to four parts gin – not too wet (heavy on the vermouth) or too dry (light on the vermouth).
Because gins all have their own unique flavor, you may want to play around with a few different types until you find the one that’s right for you. Esquire suggests starting with Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, or Beefeater.
- 1 ounce dry vermouth, such as Noilly Prat
- 4 ounces gin (look for one that’s around 94-proof)
- Olive for garnish
Directions: Fill a metal shaker with cracked ice. Pour in the dry vermouth, stir briefly, and strain out. Add 4 ounces gin. Stir briskly for about 10 seconds, strain into chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an olive.
2. Dry Martini
Very dry martinis contain just a hint of vermouth. Some recipes call for pouring just a small amount of the liquid into the glass, swirling, and then tossing it out, while others add it while mixing the drink. This version of the dry martini is from cocktail expert Angus Winchester (via the Village Voice).
- 2 to 4 dashes of vermouth
- 1¼ ounces London Dry gin (such as Tanqueray)
- Olive for garnish
Directions: Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Splash on vermouth, then strain. Pour in gin. Stir, then strain into glass. Garnish with an olive.
3. Dirty Martini
Add a little olive brine to your gin and vermouth and you have a dirty martini. While the salty taste isn’t for everyone, if you’re a fan of all things pickled, this might be the drink for you. Recipe from Liquor.com.
- 2½ ounces gin or vodka
- ½ ounce dry vermouth
- ½ ounce olive brine
- Olives for garnish
Directions: Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 2 olives.
The Gibson, a close relative of the martini, uses pickled onions as a garnish rather than olives. The recipe for this drink (which may have been named after Victorian-era Gibson Girl illustrations) is from Imbibe Magazine.
If you’re making this cocktail at home, you might also try making your own pickled onions; the homemade variety will likely be far better than the ones you’re used to getting at your local bar.
“Most Gibsons, you go into a bar and you get these onions that have been sitting on a shelf . . . for 15 years. Mushy and nasty,” Todd Thrasher of the EatGoodFood Group told the Washington Post. You can find his recipe for sherry-pickled cocktail onions here.
- 2 ounces gin
- 1 ounce dry vermouth
- 1 to 2 pickled cocktail onions for garnish
Directions: Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled glass and garnish.
5. Vodka Martini
A vodka martini may be James Bond’s drink of choice, but some purists will turn up their noses at this variation. (Don’t get them started on the shaken-not-stirred thing.) Vodka is simply too boring to function as the main element in a cocktail, they say.
“I prefer gin martinis and the reason is fairly obvious. Vodka is a neutral spirit and when you mix it with something it takes on its characteristics. A vodka martini is diluted vermouth. When you mix gin and vermouth you get a cocktail,” Scott Rosenbaum, Spirits Strategist at T. Edward Wines, told Men’s Journal.
Nonetheless, some people prefer a glass of ice-cold vodka to a gin martini. If you’re one of them, you can make your own (and avoid the sneers of your bartender) by following this recipe from Belvedere, the brand of vodka that Bond will be sipping in the upcoming film Spectre:
- 2 ounces of Belvedere vodka
- ¼ ounce Lillet Blanc
- Pink grapefruit twist for garnish
Directions: Stir over ice and stir into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a pink grapefruit twist.
Another James-Bond-themed drink, the Vesper, combines elements of the vodka and gin martini into one drink. It was introduced to the world by author Ian Fleming, who had his famous fictional spy order the drink in Casino Royale: “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
Those instructions sound simple enough, but modern-day drinkers have a problem. Kina Lillet, a type of fortified wine, is no longer available. The recipe below from The Telegraph recommends a couple of substitutes that should do the trick.
- 60 milliliters gin
- 20 milliliters vodka
- 10 milliliters Lillet Blanc or Cocchi Americano
Directions: Shake all the ingredients with ice in a shaker, then pour into a chilled martini glass or a champagne goblet. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Think of the Martinez as the distant cousin of today’s martinis. This once-classic cocktail, invented sometime in the latter half of the 19th century, fell out of favor as Americans gradually developed a taste for drier cocktails. The drink is made with sweet vermouth (rather than the dry stuff that goes in a classic martini) and Old Tom gin, which is sweeter than the London Dry gin you’re probably most familiar with. It actually bears more of a resemblance to a Manhattan than a martini. Still, we suggest trying it if you’re looking for something a little more unusual than the standard gin-and-vermouth combo. This version comes from Blossom to Stem.
- 2 ounces Old Tom gin, such as Ransom
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- ¼ ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
- 3 dashes orange bitters (such as Regan’s)
- 3 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
- Lemon peel for garnish
Directions: Start by chilling a coupe or martini glass. Fill a shaker or mixing glass with ice. Pour in the gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino, and both kinds of bitters. Using a barspoon, stir until chilled. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish drink with a lemon peel and serve immediately.
Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS
More from Culture Cheat Sheet:
- 5 Famous Writers and Their Favorite Alcoholic Drinks
- 10 Underrated Gins That You May Not Know About
- James Bond Style: 5 Ways You Can Look and Act Like 007
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