Splash an Olive into this Classic Concoction — and Enjoy
Everybody knows the Martini, right? Well, sort of.
Everybody knows the name, but not everybody has sipped the classic version recently – if ever.
Say “Martini” today, and your listener will probably imagine one of those “something-tinis” that just happen to be served in a martini glass. You know what I mean — drinks whose predominant flavor is apple or raspberry or chocolate or expresso. Even when people want to drink the “real” thing, they may order a vodka Martini.
All those drinks may be good in their own way. But they aren’t the Martini.
Recipe: The Dry Martini
A real Martini — the Dry Martini — contains gin. No vodka. It also has enough dry vermouth so that you can taste it. And it may feature — get this — orange bitters (more about that in Notes).
This recipe makes 1 drink.
- 2 ounces gin (I like Plymouth in this drink)
- ½ ounce dry vermouth (or to taste; Noilly Prat is very nice; Martini & Rossi also works quite well)
- 2 dashes orange bitters (optional; I’m partial to Regan’s No. 6 Orange Bitters)
- Fill mixing container half full with ice.
- Add ingredients.
- Using a long-handled spoon (a bar spoon is ideal) stir vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that’s been chilled).
- Garnish with an olive or twist of lemon
Note that the recipe directs you to stir the drink. There are three reasons for this:
- It makes the drink cold.
- Stirring with ice somewhat dilutes the drink, which adds volume and an important dimension to the final flavor.
- When you shake, you introduce tiny air bubbles into the drink, which (until they dissipate) gives the drink a somewhat “cloudy” appearance. Many Martini aficionados prefer the crystal clear look that stirring imparts. You can shake if you want — I often do — but your drink will be cloudy. (By the way, you should always shake a drink containing any citrus juice, because it’s difficult to incorporate into a drink merely by stirring, and because the inclusion of citrus juice means the drink will never be crystal clear anyway.)
|Ingredients for Dry Martini
- The Dry Martini is so called because it contains dry (white) vermouth. The classic Dry Martini of the 1920s and ‘30s was made with a ratio of 4 or 5 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. My own preference is 4:1, sometimes 3:1. This is very definitely a drink that you want to experiment with, to see how you prefer it.
- Although I call the Dry Martini the “real thing,” it’s not actually the original version of the drink. The earliest Martinis contained sweet (red) vermouth — and Old Tom gin, which had sugar added. Nowadays when we talk about the “dryness” of a Martini, we are referring to the quantity of vermouth the drink contains, not whether the vermouth is sweet or dry (it’s a given that it will be white vermouth). The less vermouth you use, the “drier” the drink.
- The original ratio of gin to vermouth was probably about 1:1. In the early 20th century, it became 2:1. The Martini continued to become drier over the years, topping out around 8:1. Winston Churchill famously took this to the limit: His preferred method for mixing a Martini was to pour a glass of gin — and observe a bottle of vermouth from across the room.
- Bitters were part of the drink from the beginning, but fell out of fashion around the late 1930s. I think it’s a tradition we should revive, since orange bitters go particularly well in a Dry Martini. They’re optional, of course, but I usually include them.
- There’s also a drink called the Hoffman House, which is a form of Dry Martini that specifically calls for orange bitters. It contains a larger quantity of bitters than the “classic” Dry Martini I describe here.
- The Martini is among the most celebrated of cocktails. So you can find plenty of information (both online and in print) about its history, the proper gin-to-vermouth ratio, how to mix it, and much else. I would recommend starting with David Wondrich, who is an excellent writer. His Martini discussion in The Esquire Drink’s Guide is well worth reading.
- My usual go-to drinks guide, DrinkBoy (Robert Hess) also has great Martini coverage. He offers several versions. I’m linking to his circa. 1900 martini recipe. He also has a great video on mixing the martini and a nice discussion on the proper ratio of gin to vermouth.
- Although Plymouth is my gin of choice for the Martini, feel free to use whatever brand you prefer. I also like Beefeater gin for a Martini, or Bombay (their regular, less expensive formulation). Boodles is also nice.
- Noilly Prat is many enthusiasts’ vermouth of choice for the Martini — partly because it has excellent flavor, but also because it is contains less color than some other brands, thus imparting that translucent look that many drinkers prefer. I should note that within the past few years, Noilly Prat has changed the formula of the vermouth they sell in the United States. The new formula has more color to it, and a deeper flavor. (Actually, the formula isn’t really “new” — it’s the same version they’ve been selling for ages everywhere except the United States. They used to sell an altered formula here.) I like it. But a Martini made with the current Noilly Prat vermouth will have a little more color to it than formerly.
- I also like Martini & Rossi’s dry vermouth, which has always had a deeper color (and flavor).
- Speaking of vermouth, even though it’s fortified wine, it will spoil eventually. I always refrigerate mine after opening to prolong its life.
- Vermouth mixes extremely well with gin — which is why you use it in a Martini. The florals of gin and vermouth combine to form a unique flavor sensation, so you want to use a healthy slug of vermouth. Vermouth by itself is also a nice aperitif (while gin by itself is a bit hard to take, in my opinion).
- To my palate, vodka doesn’t mix all that well with vermouth. So if you want a vodka Martini, why not just change your order to straight vodka? Served chilled as a shot, or on-the-rocks? It’s a better drink, in my opinion.
- Speaking of on-the-rocks: You should never serve a Martini this way. A Martini is always served “up” (mixed with ice and then strained into a glass). You want some dilution (which happens when you mix with ice) to temper gin’s flavor and kick — but not as much as you get when you serve the drink over ice.
- But you also want your Martini to be cold from first sip to last. So don’t be lured into ordering one of those supersized drinks that some of today’s establishments boast about serving. Unless you’re gulping your drink, you’ll find that the last few sips of those overlarge drinks warm up to the point where the drink tastes unpleasant. The original Martini was a small drink (slightly smaller than my recipe), and remained on the diminutive side through the 1950s and ‘60s. Those businessmen who indulged in the fabled three-Martini lunches actually consumed less alcohol than you’ll find in one of today’s monster cocktails.
To many people, James Bond and the Martini fit together like a Walther PPK in a Berns-Martin holster. His immortal line, ”shaken and not stirred” is familiar to anyone who’s seen a Bond movie. Which is just about everyone.
My recipe says stir, for reasons we’ve discussed. But Mr. Bond may have science on his side. There actually is medical evidence — in the form of a research paper published in the British Medical Journal — that suggests shaking Martinis may increase the antioxidant capacity of the alcohol.
“Isn’t science wonderful?” I exclaimed after reading that article. “Who knew a Martini could decrease my risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes, and cataracts?”
“I suppose this means you’ll be having another one,” replied Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.
So I mixed myself a second drink. This time shaken - for medicinal reasons, of course.
“Just call me Riffs,” I said. “Kitchen Riffs.”
You may also be interested in reading about:
The Pegu Club Cocktail
Classic Daiquiri Cocktail
Gin and Tonic
Corpse Reviver Cocktail