This is an iconic drink that’s name has been distorted by the flavored vodka world. I’m going to leave that alone and just move on. Here, I am talking about the real, classic Martini that is composed of gin and vermouth. (As a note the Vodka Martini actually has its own name as a drink, the Kangaroo, but the vodka version is so common now that, sadly, I often have to ask for the gin, instead of the reverse being true.) The modern age has also dried Martinis out to the point where you are pretty much just getting a chilled shot of gin. While I like gin, the Martini is such a better cocktail than that.

The Dry Martini uses dry (French) vermouth, which is the classic that people refer to today, and is the original concoction. You also have the Sweet Martini as well though. It just uses sweet (Italian) vermouth instead. For completeness, there is also the modern Perfect Martini, called a Medium Martini back in the day, which uses equal parts dry and sweet vermouth.

There are a few key points to consider when making a Martini that you will love:

  1. It’s all about proportions.
  2. You must use fresh vermouth.
  3. Bitters and garnishes can change the drink.

Proportions

The key to a Martini is figuring out the proportions that work best for you. The classic Martini from the 1930s is way wetter, i.e. more vermouth, than today’s, with 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. Compare that to the standard recipe from the American Bar Association today, which is 6 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. I find that way too dry for my taste and I never liked Martinis until I started adding more vermouth. My personal favorite proportion is 3 parts gin to 1 part vermouth. You should experiment with proportions to find what you, and your guests, like best.

Vermouth

Many people do not like the whole group of classic vermouth-based drinks because they hate vermouth. I dare say that closer to the truth is that they hate old, off vermouth. Vermouth is wine-based and will go off relatively quickly (within a month at room temperature). Vermouth is very present in the Martini, so you need to enjoy the flavor of one of the main ingredients, or it just won’t work. Also, find a dry vermouth you like drinking. You’d be amazed at the variety in vermouth.

Bitters and Garnishes

Older recipes call for bitters, orange in particular, which you can play with. I like them in mine. While everyone is familiar with the olive as the traditional garnish, they were also served with lemon twists originally. The 2 garnishes change the feel of the drink, and are worth playing with as well.

Recipe

Served up, 3 oz.

  • 2.25 oz. gin
  • .75 oz dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters (optional)
  • garnish: lemon twist or olive

Stir gin, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into glass and garnish.