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Who Doesn't Want the Perfect Martini?

Who Doesn't Want the Perfect Martini?

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D.C.’s Columbia Room is almost like a friend’s chic, inviting living room — assuming that your friend mixes up classic cocktails like a pro. Lauded by GQ for having the best martini in America (made with gin, of course), this place is all about cocktail craftsmanship.

The Dirty Martini

The dirty martini has a pleasant saltiness that is fascinating against the gin and dry vermouth background. "Dirty" simply refers to the addition of olive juice or brine. It's a classic cocktail that is very easy to mix up and one of the most popular variations on the original gin martini.

You can make this drink as dirty as you like by pouring the olive juice to suit your taste. It may take a few rounds to find a perfect balance for you, but the experiments are fun. As you explore different brands of gin, you will want to make adjustments as well.

The key to making a great dirty martini is to use high-end gin (or vodka, if you prefer) and vermouth and to add just enough olive juice to lightly flavor it. It's very easy to make the cocktail too dirty, so take it easy at first.

Click Play to See This Dirty Martini Recipe Come Together


I like to hug people, and be close to people. I've even been told that my hugs are part of my ministry. It is good to show love to people when they need it. However, I've been challenged recently that a lot of the time, when I do hug people, It's me that wants the hug. I hate to admit it, but I didn't really stop to think much about whether they wanted it or not. So. I'm not actually giving a hug. I'm taking a hug.

C.S. Lewis said " Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less" and this is part of it. Not what I need. Not what I want. I have to admit, I didn't think it was possible. After all. I can't live without the things I need. That's the definition of need isn't it?

Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone but if it dies, it produces much grain : John 12v24

This is an encouragement to let go. To fall to the ground and die. Someone read this verse out at church a few weeks ago, and it really spoke to me. I imagined myself, a grain of wheat. Clinging to the stalk. Clinging to my comforts. If I don't have what I need then I'll die! But what happens to a grain of what when it falls to the ground and dies? IT GROWS!

Falling to the ground is a passive act. Let go of the comforts. Let go of your needs. You'll find that you can live without them. If you let go, you will be cut off from the sun, the air and the light. (I'm speaking mataphorically. Please don't go and bury yourself alive) I can promise you that you won't like it. That's ok. Don't give up. Let yourself fall all the way to the ground. And die. Don't worry about your needs. If we don't give up our attachment, we remain dependant, small, weak and useless. And alone.

When a seed dies, that only means that it's life as a seed is over. God breathes new life into broken seeds. New as in different. New as in better. God sends rain to refresh and fulfill, and the seed will grow into an entirely new shape. It will break out into the sun, which will warm and nourish it. A seed cannot refresh itself, but can only let the sun and the rain do their work. New shape means new purpose, and new seeds.

How to Perfect Your Martini Recipe

The Classic Martini

SURE, a martini can make you feel like you’re in a tuxedo even when you’re wearing golf shorts. But the true reason this cocktail has endured since its birth at the turn of the last century lies in its capacity to be highly personalized.

The basic framework is simple—just gin and vermouth—yet each of us can lay claim to “my martini.” Maybe it’s the 3.7-to-1 gin-to-vermouth ratio Bernard DeVoto recommends in his 1948 cocktail manifesto, ‘The Hour.” Or perhaps you’re a fan of the 50-50. Or an onion garnish, which makes the drink a Gibson. And while a vodka martini is sacrilege to purists, when it comes to this drink, personal preference rules. Plus, it’s great with oysters.

Martini Recipes

While all those variations are deservedly classics, we’ve entered a new era of riffs and refinements to the king of cocktails. I know what you’re thinking: Is this like the 1990s, when the -tini suffix was slapped on anything in a V-shaped glass? God, no. One very good reason for the new wave of martini experimentation is that hundreds of new gins have entered the market. At Chicago’s Maple & Ash and New York’s Slowly Shirley, several martinis are crafted around new, highly distinctive bottles.

Bartenders are pairing gins and vermouths with the vigilance typically applied to finding the perfect tie for a suit. Michael Neff at Holiday Cocktail Lounge in New York likes Beefeater and Maurin dry vermouth in a classic martini. At Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Room (soon to reopen), Derek Brown swears by a 50-50 made from Plymouth gin and Dolin dry vermouth because of “the way the juniper unravels toward the end.” The proliferation of quality vermouths also makes ordering a reverse martini, which flips the gin-to-vermouth ratio, a very good idea.


Even the dirty martini, made with extra olive juice, has been upgraded. Naren Young of New York’s Dante describes the standard iteration as “devil’s urine.” His Upside Down Dirty Gibson is a beautifully balanced take using an onion and a scant splash of high-quality brine. The Filthy Martini created by Richard Woods at London’s Duck and Waffle involves two vodkas—one infused with mustard, the other with pickles—plus vermouth dripped through crushed oyster shells and a freshly shucked-oyster garnish.

Often the innovation is subtle. The Silvertone, a Gibson variation at Midnight Rambler in Dallas, uses highly alkaline local mineral water and a hint of chipotle in the onion brine to reflect Texas terroir. The martini at London’s 69 Colebrooke Row contains vermouth amped up with tannins from grape seeds. The result plays on the palate like a dry wine.

You may remain a Beefeater and Noilly Prat kind of drinker, and that’s OK. It really is about personal preference. But read on, and you might just find yourself a new “my martini.”

Give Your Bottles an Upgrade

If you’re a martini fan, chances are your personal preferences are already established. Great. The cocktail rewards those who know what they want. But if you’re just discovering the drink or want to play the field a little, here are some gins and vodkas, many of them new, that will expand your palette.

Classic and Elegant

From left: Plymouth, St. George Botanivore and No. 3

Stock up on these gins if you prefer a classic martini. Think crisp and subtly layered with typical gin flavors. To many, a London Dry gin is a must, and the newish No. 3 (46% ABV, $45) presents an ur-version of the style—a harmonious blend of juniper, citrus and spice with just enough kick. St. George Botanivore, from California (45% ABV, $40), brings a welcome brightness and freshness to the drink. And if you’re looking for the martini gin that will impress everyone and offend no one, go for the delightfully smooth Plymouth (41.2% ABV, $33). Try it in a 50-50 martini and you may get hooked.

Modern and Distinctive

From left: Unfiltered Gin 22, Sipsmith V.J.O.P. and Monkey 47

These gins make martinis that are like navy tuxedos: a little cheeky yet 100% on point. The brand new Sipsmith V.J.O.P. (57.7% ABV, $50) is a juniper explosion that will warm a gin lover’s heart, literally (just look at that proof). Unfiltered Gin 22 (40% ABV, $45) from up-and-coming Canadian distiller Dillon’s surprises with every sip—is that coriander? lavender?—yet its creativity never gets in the way of drinkability. Bust out a bottle of Monkey 47 (47% ABV, $45) for your guests who’ve tried it all. Weird, wild, mysterious and damn delicious, it makes a martini for a special occasion.

Vodka With Character

From left: Absolut Elyx, Karlsson’s Gold and Aylesbury Duck

An easy-drinking vodka martini—that’s why they’re so popular, right?—doesn’t have to mean a boring one. And you don’t need a gimmicky flavored vodka to make things interesting, just one with texture and purpose. Aylesbury Duck (40% ABV) is wheaty with a mouthwatering dry minerality. Karlsson’s Gold is made from Swedish virgin potatoes, giving the spirit an earthy flavor and more than enough body to hold a martini together. Try it with a garnish of cracked black pepper. Absolut Elyx (42.3% ABV, $50) expresses a kind of terroir not often found in vodkas as it’s made from a single estate’s winter wheat. The result is creamy liquid velvet.

Don’t Overlook the Vermouth

Without vermouth, you’re just drinking ice-cold gin. Nothing wrong with that, but the magic of the martini happens when that spirit marries with the fortified wine. And there are so many new vermouths to choose from. If you have an aversion, chances are you’ve encountered one that’s old and overly oxidized. The stuff should be refrigerated once open and ideally used within three months of purchase. Many vermouths now come in convenient half-size bottles. If you can’t find one of these, simply start making more martinis, or learn to love vermouth on the rocks. It’s an ingredient that deserves more respect.

From left: Ranson Dry Vermouth, Dolin Dry, Carpano Dry, La Quintinye Extra Dry and Noilly Prat Extra Dry

American Beauty | Ransom Dry Vermouth, stellar on its own, makes an incredibly bold martini.

New Standby | For the craft cocktail set, Dolin Dry has become a standard. Super light, with the perfect amount of dry bitterness.

More in Half Full

Italian Twist | Carpano Dry will add a delightful touch of spice and lemon peel. It marries nicely with more citrus-forward gins.

French New Wave | La Quintinye Extra Dry tastes like a cousin of a fino Sherry. Think rosemary, white pepper and lemon zest.

Old Standby | You can’t go wrong with Noilly Prat Extra Dry. Period. A vermouth that happily stands in the background.

Assemble the Right Tools

From left: Y Peeler, Teardrop Barspoon, Yarai Royal Palm Mixing Glass, Koriko Hawthorne Strainer, Victorinox Channel Knife and Stepped Jigger

You might be tempted to forgo the lemon twist at home because you don’t want to bust out a knife and cutting board. This tool makes obtaining a perfect peel segment quick and easy. $9,

Teardrop Barspoon

Plunge in all the way to the bottom of the glass and blend smoothly in wide circles. Shaking over-dilutes a martini. $18,

Yarai Royal Palm Mixing Glass

Classier than a pint glass for stirring up your drink. Instead of gripping the glass, you steady it by setting your thumb on the rim, thereby ensuring secure mixing without transferring heat from your hand. Admire the glass as it gets frosty. $80,

Koriko Hawthorne Strainer

Easily keeps the ice out of your coupe when you pour. You want your martini cold, not chunky. $23,

Stepped Jigger

Victorinox Channel Knife

For those times when you want a fancy, pigtail twist. $30,

Try Some Tricks of the Trade

“Little affectations are what make the best martinis,” said Derek Brown, bartender and president of Drink Company in Washington, D.C. Years ago at Washington’s Columbia Room, which is scheduled to reopen in 2016, he made me a 50-50 martini using a chilled mixing glass and a thermometer to confirm the optimal 29 degrees Fahrenheit. It was one of the best martinis I’ve ever had. Mr. Brown shared some pro tips you can easily institute at your home bar—thermometer optional.

Keep everything super cold. That means gin in the freezer, vermouth and glasses in the fridge.

Try the olives on the side. Olives served in a martini can overpower the drink. Instead, serve them on a plate as a snack.

Think small. A barely cool martini is a fail. Make smaller drinks—under 4 ounces. And drink fast.

More in Eating & Drinking

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This Lemon Drop Martini has been a favorite of mine since I first wandered into a bar in college. When made well, it is the perfect combination of bitter and sweet. It is everything you are looking for in a vodka martini. This is such an easy cocktail to make whether it is for a party with friends, or for a quiet Friday date night at home, make this Lemon Drop Martini! It is made with only three ingredients – vodka, freshly squeezed lemon, and simple syrup.

Lemon Drop Martini
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Traditional martinis start with vodka and vermouth. There are also simple variations like a Negroni cocktail or this lemon drop. You take out the vermouth, and you replace it with simple syrup and freshly squeezed lemon. Save some of the lemons and rim the edge of your martini glass with it and then dip it in sugar, for the perfect extra bit of bitter and sweet with each sip.

As mentioned, this recipe calls for a little bit of simple syrup. While it might be tempting to buy simple syrup, it is so easy to make, that I encourage you to make your own. You could even add a little lemon zest as you are making it to add an extra punch of lemon flavor to this drink.

How to make a lemon drop martini

  • Rim a martini glass with lemon juice and then sugar.
  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add premium vodka, simple syrup, and lemon juice.
  • Cover and shake vigorously.
  • Strain into your prepared glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

When making this drink, make sure that you use lemons that are fresh for the best taste. You also want to make sure to strain the juice, so that you don’t end up with a lot of pulp in your drink. You might also consider using a citron vodka for this drink, it will really drive home the lemon flavor. I have even been known to make a lemon drop martini with limoncello from time to time.

I love to add a lemon curl to the side of my Lemon Drop Martini recipe for a fun garnish! To do this, make a slice in the side of the lemon and then use a spoon to get out all of the lemon insides. Roll the lemon tight and then make slices. Pull the two ends of the slice so the lemon forms a nice coil. Then set it on the edge of the sugar-rimmed glass.

Want more fabulous martini recipes?

Tools used to make this Lemon Drop Martini recipe

Cocktail Shaker: This shaker is a bartender’s best friend! Easy to use and the best way to mix up your favorite cocktails!

Jigger: Every home bartender should have a jigger for measuring their cocktail ingredients. This one has a no-slip grip and is marked with increment measuring lines so you can make the perfect cocktail every time.

Juicer: Having freshly squeezed juice on hand doesn’t have to be a hassle. This juicer is easy to use and perfect for using with lemons and limes.

Glass Rimmer: Adding sugar or salt to the rim of your cocktail glass doesn’t get any easier!

How To Make A Perfect Dirty Martini

A perfectly chilled dirty martini may be one of the sexiest drinks one can order, and understanding its history makes this cocktail even more alluring.

Dirty martinis are a classic cocktail favorite.

The current cocktail we know as the dirty martini is likely to have evolved from the Martinez cocktail, which was mentioned by Jerry Thomas in his 1887 Bar-Tender's Guide.

“This drink called for Old Tom gin (an aged version of the spirit), sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and cocktail bitters,” said Anthony Caporale, director of spirits education at the Institute of Culinary Education.

This cocktail recipe will probably feel rather familiar to those who are fans of the Manhattan, though it has nothing in common with a dirty martini.

“Over the next century, the drink moved east from Thomas' California residence, and when it reached cities that had more regular English commerce, the Old Tom gin was replaced with London Dry and the sweet vermouth swapped with dry as well,” said Caporale.

Of course, it was around then that James Bond enters the picture. He famously was known for shaking his martini rather than stirring and less famously preferring a mix of gin and vodka to gin alone. “It was a slippery slope from there for most American consumers, who found both the gin and the vermouth to be less appealing than the glass in which they were served,” said Caporale.

The answer was the dry martini, said Caporale, which confusingly has less dry vermouth than a classic (or wet) martini, while vodka soon completely replaced the highly-botanical (and polarizing) character of gin.

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“Fast forward to the extra dry vodka martini, which has neither vermouth nor gin, and is in essence pure ethanol and water chilled and served with olives,” said Caporale.

Caporale said this led to no flavor to offend, but also none to attract, with the sole exception being the olives and more importantly, their salty brine. “Consumers continued to want the glass but still weren't enjoying the actual liquid enough, and requests came in for more and ever more olives, until some intrepid customer must have told a barkeep, ‘Cut to the chase, just pour some olive brine in there,’” said Caporale.

According to Caporale, that resulted in: “The story of the dirty vodka martini,” which is: “The story of over a century spent systematically removing flavor from a still-classic drink (essentially a Manhattan), and then in desperation adding one the most common and addictive flavoring chemicals in the world: salt,” said Caporale.

Maybe that’s harsh. But for those of us who love the dirty martini just the way it is, there remains several directions to take it!

"As a bartender, as well as a consumer, I have always felt that a dirty gin martini was what the original creators of the dirty martini had in mind the first time they mixed gin and vermouth,” said Jordan Johnson, lead bartender of The Register in Nashville.

The contrast of the dry juniper botanical of the gin against a bright, nuanced olive brine has proven to be a classic pairing. “The beauty and the challenge of this cocktail is that no two guests ever like it quite the same,” said Johnson.

This, said Johnson, makes it a difficult cocktail, but if you have a good basic recipe to lean on, it can make the process that much more attainable.

In Johnson’s go-to dirty martini recipe, the key to balance is knowing how dry your gin is, compared to the saltiness of the olive brine. “Although there is an endless amount of choices,” said Johnson, when picking your cocktail olives, a good rule of thumb to go by is, “you get what you pay for.”

For Johnson, Castelvetrano olives are hands down the best cocktail olive in the world. “A sort of tree to the cocktail experience,” said Johnson. This nuance combined with a dry juniper note from your gin is then easily tied together with the oil from a lemon peel (there is no rule that says you can’t have olives and a twist).

Once you have your go-to recipe down it’s all about the execution.

Stirring is key

“In my mind, stirring a martini is the only way to properly execute this cocktail unless you are a secret agent that needs to keep his wits about him!” said Johnson. Stirring any cocktail will help to not chip your ice, leaving your cocktail that much stronger and less watered down by the time you pour it into your glass.

Chilling glasses

In order to keep your cocktail at the desired temperature longer, it is always handy to have your martini or coupe glass chilled prior to building your cocktail. “This is easily accomplished by storing them in your freezer for 10-15 min or by icing your glass with ice and cold water while you build your martini. Be sure to thoroughly dry out the inside of your martini or coupe glass before pouring the cocktail into it,” said Johnson. Garnish with olives and or a lemon twist and enjoy!

Not only is flavor important on your quest for the perfect martini olive, but don’t forget texture. “I always am looking for a pitted Sicilian if I can find it,” said Matt Landes of Cocktail Academy. They are buttery and won’t overwhelm the cocktail which will already have brine in it.

Ratio is something that’s personal from martini drinker to martini drinker. “Having served some of the biggest names in Hollywood, we’ve found the ideal number to be 2oz/.5oz/.75oz gin to vermouth to brine - it allows the drinker the opportunity to enjoy the earthy notes of the vermouth and punchy brine without overpowering the drink,” said Landes.

Jordan Johnson’s Dirty Martini Recipe

  1. Express lemon peel into mixing glass by gently squeezing and twisting it skin side down.
  2. Pour 0.5 oz. olive brine, 0.5 oz. dry vermouth, and 2 oz. dry Gin into your mixing glass. Add ice to the top and stir until you see the mixing glass sweat.
  3. Taste every 10-15 stirs to make sure you are not over stirring . The cocktail should be a combined flavor with about 70 to 80 presents of the burn of the alcohol still present.
  4. Strain your martini into your chilled glass to keep out unwanted ice chips, garnish to taste, and enjoy!

So what makes a great dirty martini? Well, it’s all about it being one with components and technique the person drinking it, enjoys. That’s true whether it’s gin or vodka, whether it’s with a twist or dirty, or any other martini variant. Or any cocktail or dish! “As with all cocktails, it's only as good as your weakest ingredient, so obviously use the best vodka, but also fresh vermouth (if you’re using it), high quality olives and olive brine, and good quality cubed ice,” said Gareth Evans, Global Brand Ambassador for Absolut Elyx. Use those and you’ll make a great drink.

Avoiding common mistakes

“I’m hesitant to say mistakes are universal because a martini is personal, one person’s dirty martini trash is another’s treasure,” said Evans. However you like your drink! “However, I’ve never met anyone that enjoyed a warm martini, so always stir or shake until it’s absolutely freezing, winter in Narnia, brain numbingly cold,” said Evans.

Setting up your arsenal

When it’s time to gather your materials for making perfect dirty martinis at home, the right ingredients will make a big difference - that’s valid whether you are a vodka or gin fan, or whatever kind of olives you choose to go with! It’s all about what you enjoy!

A gin martini should invoke herbal, pine notes: like a drinkable ice cube infused with an evergreen forest. A vodka martini should be a blank slate, with nothing but the mildest hint of sweet greenery lingering on the palate. If olives are used, a general saltiness should surround the whole experience.

The greater exposure to air helps the spirit to open up, and its complex Pilex are more discernible than they would be if it were served in a narrower glass. The steeply sloping sides also prevent the cocktail’s ingredients from separating, and help to support a toothpick or cocktail skewer of olives.

How to Make the Perfect Martini

It’s an argument that has plagued modern man since the dawn of time. Well, since the early fifties, at least. Just how does one make the “perfect martini?” If you ask ten different martini drinkers, my bet is you’ll get ten different answers. Most will be crap. Gentle readers, I intend to put this query to bed, once and for all. The following is the only way to make the perfect martini. Read it. Memorize it. Become one with it. For this, indeed, is the ultimate guide to the good life.

First off, you’ll need a few items:

  • Ice. Lot’s of it.
  • Properly chilled, stemmed martini glasses (Properly chilled means your glasses should be in the freezer for a minimum of one hour prior to making the martini. To avoid confusion, or disaster, I suggest putting said glasses in the freezer and leaving them there permanently.)
  • Vermouth
  • A glass pitcher or metal shaker
  • Garnish, be it olives, or lemon peel. These are the only things, garnish-wise, that are permitted. Sure, you can use things like cocktail onions, but then it isn’t a martini, now is it? The answer is no. It’s a Gibson.
  • And last, but obviously not least, gin. Pay attention, dear readers. I said GIN. I did not mention raspberries, chocolate, or anything involving butterscotch. Those drinks may be “martini-like”, by virtue of the type glass in which they rest, but the similarity ends right there, buster. And don’t give me any of this James Bond crap about vodka. No! That is not a martini, either. Case closed.

12 Steps to the Perfect Martini

1. First, grab the vermouth out of the fridge. It needs to be in the fridge, because it’s a perishable item. Take off the cap. Pour the vermouth into the cap. That’s all the vermouth you need.

2. Now, take the glass pitcher, or metal vessel, out of the freezer, where it, too, should remain.

3. Put the ice in the container (a healthy handful of cubes, at least seven to eight, in my opinion), and then pour in the vermouth. You want not only to coat the bottom of the shaker/pitcher, but the ice as well. Give it a swirl, and then out it goes, right down the drain. Now, it’s not necessary to shake it to death. A drop or two of vermouth is in proper proportion.

4. On to the gin, which should be kept in the freezer. Let’s be tasteful here, folks. The contemporary man has been trained by various restaurants and bars that a martini should be somewhere between the size of your noggin and a bowling ball. Nope, nope, nope. Two shots. That’s three ounces. No more. Could be a half oz. less, actually.

5. At this point, it depends what type of container is in use. If it’s a glass pitcher, you stir. If it’s a metal one, you swirl, in a semi-vigorous manner, but not violently. You want the ice friction to cause a chain reaction of cold, but you don’t want to bruise the gin. Gin needs to be gently introduced to the vermouth, and there MUST be some ice melt dilution. So, swirl, or stir, depending.

6. At this point, put your container down and your accoutrements away. Find some good music. In my opinion, all this ultra-lounge stuff is fine. Mancini, Julie London, Les Baxter, et. al. I listen to it, too. But, my first instinct is now, and will always be, to go for the Sinatra. Why mess around? After Sinatra, there’s Dean-o, then Sammy. After I’ve exhausted those, then, and only then, will I go for the lounge.

7. Okay, back to the drink. Swirl it some more.

8. Now put out something to nosh on. My preference is for good old fashioned cocktail peanuts, spanish-variety if you can find ’em. It was always good enough for Dad, so it’s what I go with. I think it’s passed on in the genes, actually. Other options are mixed nuts, or even blue cheese on crackers. As long as it isn’t things like goldfish crackers, chex mix, yogurt-covered anything, etc., you’ll be fine.

9. Back to the drink again. Swirl some more.

10. Grab the olives out of the fridge. Take your toothpick and push out those nasty little red pimento buggers. Mount up two olives.

12. Strain the concoction into two martini glasses (I say two because martinis need to be drunk in the presence of beautiful women. The same logic goes for the olives. You use two, as Sinatra put it, so there’s one for you, and one for the beautiful gal that’s about to walk in the door.) In go the olives. Out go the day’s troubles.

Martini Drinking Etiquette

Martinis are serious drinks, for serious people. Case in point:

As I said before, they aren’t to be made with amaretto, or as big as a football, and they most certainly are never, never, never to be drank while wearing jeans, t-shirts, or ball caps (whether worn frontwards, sideways, or backwards. N. O. means NO!) Of course, a tux is the ultimate, but not practical for most of us. A dinner jacket is nice. Or, a “loose flowing sport shirt,” i.e. a classy, not chincy, Hawaiian shirt. Again, that’s Sinatra, this time from From Here to Eternity. But, you knew that already, right?

You have to remember, the martini is the King of the Cocktails. It’s from a different era. A martini is not something to be raced through, but to take your time with, in a relaxed state of mind. All that hooey-phalooey about vigorous shaking, and drinking it before there’s even a thought of ice dilution is for frat boys. Guys that drink their “martinis” with chocolate in ’em. Or vodka. Just look at movies like The Tender Trap. Now, while I don’t advocate using equal parts vermouth to gin, nor making them in fishbowls, as was done in said film, the point is, it’s a casual thing. Back in my Dad’s day, martinis were made in large glass pitchers, with ice, and left to sit out. Kinda like in The Seven Year Itch. I do, However, recommend taking the cubes out before drinking. Marilyn didn’t seem to mind, I must say.

How to Make the Perfect Martini—3 Different Ways

Jason O'Bryan

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Photo: Shutterstock

Martini drinkers tend to be an opinionated bunch. That&rsquos the nice way of saying it. Another way would be that many if not most martini drinkers&mdashespecially vodka martini drinkers&mdashdeploy a level of zealotry to their martini preferences that is usually reserved for religion, a European soccer team and day trading.

In fact, I&rsquom willing to bet a decent percentage of you clicked on this article advertising a &ldquoperfect martini&rdquo with the sole purpose of confirming that whatever I&rsquom about to say is wrong, because the way you like it&mdasha double measure of Ketel One, no vermouth, shaken hard, lightly strained up so to keep the ice chips on top, with three over-stuffed blue cheese olives&mdashnow that&rsquos the perfect martini.


Listen&mdashI&rsquom not here to fight with you. Vodka martinis in particular are the most extravagantly personalized drinks in the whole classic cocktail pantheon. To a bartender, the phrase &ldquoI&rsquod like a vodka martini&rdquo isn&rsquot so much a request as the beginning of a conversation. What kind of vodka? Shaken or stirred? Vermouth or no? Straight up or rocks? Olives or twist?

If you drink vodka martinis, I&rsquom honestly not sure how much I can tell you that you don&rsquot already know. It&rsquos cold vodka. Shaking makes it colder than stirring. They usually have between no vermouth and almost no vermouth, because vermouth doesn&rsquot really work with vodka. Vodka brands can be quite bad, but above a certain minimum quality level (roughly the $15 to $20 bottle range) they&rsquore all going to be fine. It&rsquos like telling someone how to make the best whiskey on the rocks. &ldquoPut it in a glass.&rdquo

Grey Goose vodka Photo: Courtesy of Grey Goose

If we&rsquore talking about gin martinis, though, there&rsquos quite a bit more to say. At the right ratios, the aromatic complexities of gin and vermouth lock into each other like a vacuum seal, and render the cocktail&rsquos 130-year dominance immediately clear. Gin is the traditional choice: the word &ldquomartini&rdquo more or less exclusively referred to a mixture of gin and dry vermouth for the first half of the cocktail&rsquos life. The vodka version is a spin-off, a completely different drink with different rules, but it kept the name and therefore added confusion. It&rsquos a bit like the word &ldquoliterally,&rdquo which still means &ldquoliterally&rdquo but now apparently also means &ldquofiguratively.&rdquo

In the quest for the best gin martini, you need to assess what you&rsquore aiming for: A proper martini radiates out of the glass. It is a strong, bracing drink that nonetheless charms you with impeccable balance and clarity of flavor, a harmonic resonance that shines like a diamond when it hits just right. But that&rsquos the problem: Every brand is different, and trial-and-erroring the right gin to vermouth ratio for each is a wasteful and intoxicating process, which is why most online recipes are so stunted. A brief digital search will yield a hopelessly diffuse range of advised ratios from 2:1 to 10:1, all from reputable sources, and almost none will tell you for which brands they&rsquore claiming this particular truth.

In this spirit, I humbly offer a road map, based on a dozen years of professional bartending, a couple months of fervent research, and a heedless love of gin martinis. As always, no liquor companies sponsored or affected this in any way.

One small note&mdashDolin dry vermouth is constant as it seems to be the ideal martini vermouth across all tests, right in the Goldilocks range: bolder than the faint, mass-market ones like Noilly Prat and more lithe than the punchy, new wave ones like Mancino.

The Professional

2.25 oz. Tanqueray 10 gin or Aviation gin

0.75 oz. Dolin dry vermouth

Tied for first place, Tanqueray 10 brings remarkably bright citrus notes to its robust backbone of juniper and pepper. Aviation is a more spice-driven drink, with the sasparilla becoming almost anise-like and a lavender echo. Both are profound experiences at 3:1 and are as good an example as any of the magic of cocktails.

Monkey 47 works perfectly in a martini. Courtesy of Monkey 47

The Luxury Edition

Monkey 47 gin is expensive in the same way a Swiss watch is expensive: confusingly so from far away, but completely understandable once you discover what&rsquos inside. Made with 47 botanicals and bottled at 47 percent alcohol (94 proof), it&rsquos delicate and fascinating, with chamomile and evergreen and citrus and tea-tree and cucumber and on and on and on. It&rsquos soft enough to stand with less vermouth, and complex enough that you&rsquod want it to.

The Unusual Edition

Further proof that a recipe without specifying brands isn&rsquot terribly useful, the Botanist, from Scotland, finds its ideal martini expression at a staggering one-to-one ratio with the vermouth. That would overwhelm most gins, but here it&rsquos perfectly balanced with lovely plains flowers and a persistent soft juniper note. This is a wonderful and almost savory experience.

Who Doesn't Want the Perfect Martini? - Recipes

How to Make a Flawless Martini, According to the Experts


Here's how to enjoy this iconic cocktail the right way.

If there is one thing you shouldn’t do when making a Martini, it is listen to James Bond. Yes, the man looks as though he might know a thing or two about imbibing in high society, but all the panache in the world won’t make a shaken (“not stirred”) Martini a flawless one. A proper Martini should be stirred (occasionally thrown), silky, ice-cold, aromatic, and served in only the finest of stemware.

Courtesy Atlas Bar

Take the Connaught Martini for example. The world’s best bar sets the standard for what a Martini should taste, look, and feel like—it’s an iconic drinking experience that every traveling Martini lover must add to their list. “More than a cocktail, the Connaught Martini is an icon,” Agostino Perrone, director of mixology at American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property The Connaught Hotel, says. “It is so famous because it has its own service ritual. It’s designed to revisit the most classic tradition of hotel bars and make the guest the real protagonist of the mixology theater.” They famously serve their house Martini tableside on their Martini Trolley—a way to lure the guests into the art of mixology and witness the elegance of each stir, pour, and detail before it’s served in one of their custom, crystal Martini glasses. Mixing one that’s half as good at home is the goal, but even hitting that benchmark can be difficult.

Jesse Vida, head bartender at Atlas Bar in Singapore, believes that, of all the cocktails, the Martini is probably the most difficult to perfect. “I feel like this is the hardest classic cocktail to master,” he says. “You need to make at least 1,000 to really grasp all of the nuances.” Whilst it’s a seemingly simple mixture of gin, vermouth, and orange bitters, details such as temperature, dilution, glassware, and so on aren’t always given the attention they deserve.

Luckily, Vida and the team at The Connaught Bar have shared some valuable tips on how to take your Martini game to the next level. Just remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a flawless Martini (practice makes perfect!).

Pick Your Gin, Vermouth, and Ratio

Jamie McGregor Smith/Courtesy Connaught Bar

First, and foremost, you need to iron out which products you’re going to use, and what proportions you prefer as there are three common forms of a classic Martini: wet (equal parts gin and vermouth), dry (4 or 5 parts gin, 1 part vermouth), and extra dry (gin and rinsed glass of vermouth). Each version also includes a dash or two of orange bitters. If you typically drink your Martinis without vermouth or bitters, stop right there. That’s just called chilled gin, not a Martini and, thus, needs to be amended. “For us [at The Connaught Bar], the use of vermouth is paramount in order to achieve the perfect balance of botanicals and final Martini texture,” says Perrone. The Connaught Bar’s iconic Martini puts the gin on a pedestal with a 5:1 ratio of gin to vermouth.

Once you decide your Martini preference, it’s time to select a quality gin and vermouth. “Gins and vermouths are highly versatile spirits, therefore the choice of the brand will depend on personal taste,” Giorgio Bargiani, head mixologist at The Connaught Bar, points out. “Where possible, we recommend having different products to experiment at home and find your own perfect blend.”

Gin as a category is wildly vast, and varies significantly in flavor. Your best bet is to stick with a London Dry gin, or a gin with more traditional botanicals (i.e juniper, coriander, angelica root, caraway, etc.). “Sipsmith gin has been a pioneer of the London Dry Gin comeback in the capital [London] and, as such, it features high-quality botanicals and an enviable technique,” Bargiani adds. As for vermouth, there are a few brands to consider. Atlas Bar’s Vida recommends brands such as Mancino vermouth, Noilly Prat, Dolin, or Martini. “The Martini should be mostly about the gin, after all,” Vida says, “that's how I like mine—and with a lemon twist.”

Dial-in the Temperature and Technique

Courtesy Atlas Bar

Making a flawless Martini requires much more than just quality ingredients, it demands attention to every detail—this means dialing in your technique to yield a crisp, silky, serve that is chilled from your first sip to your last.

The temperature of the Martini is one of the factors that really separates the average from the extraordinary, and while there are a few ways to control the temperature of the cocktail, and glass, ice is the primary component contributing to this factor. “Ice is an essential element,” Perrone says, “although it’s too often underestimated when making cocktails at home. Using your own home-made crystal-clear ice will positively influence the texture of your Martini as well as help control and maintain the correct temperature for the drink. Cloudy ice, or cubed ice purchased in supermarkets, has bubbles of air and impurities which means your ice will melt quicker. By using crystal-clear ice while stirring your Martini the dilution of the ice will be more controlled and the final texture silkier.” Depending on the size and clarity of ice, the number of stir rotations needed will vary, but at least 35 is a safe bet. Tasting periodically while stirring is the best way to gauge where the drink is at.'

“Temperature and dilution level are the main aspects that make a great martini,” Vida says, “they need to meet at the exact correct place. It's also paramount to have an ice-cold glass so that the temperature doesn't immediately drop after being poured, [and] make sure the recipient of the Martini gets the finished drink asap.” To ensure that the glass maintains the cold temperature of the Martini, you’ll want to chill your glass in the freezer (leave in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before you get ready to serve), or add water and ice in your glass and stir to chill. (Nude glass has an affordable range of hand-blown glass stemware that we recommend, but The Connaught Bar now sells their luxurious Martini glasses should you decide to indulge yourself.)

All of these details should have you on your way to crafting the best Martini you’ve made to date, but Perrone makes note of one final step. “Last but not the least, a great Martini always comes with a smile therefore: straight up with style and don’t forget the smile.” Seems easy enough.

Here is a list of our favourite Martini variations:

Desert Martini or a Churchill Martini

This is essentially straight gin diluted with ice and garnished with either a lemon twist or olives. The term “Churchill” was coined as the former Prime Minister famously used to enjoy his Martinis so dry that he once said, “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.”

Bone Dry

Almost no vermouth is used.

“Bone dry” is a common way to specify just a whisper of vermouth. If you are in a bar, ordering an extra dry Martini amounts to the same thing. Most people make a Bone Dry Martini by rinsing the glass with vermouth and then discarding the liquid before pouring in the chilled gin, that way only a trace of the fortified wine is left in the overall mix.

Dry Martini

Gin is combined with a small amount of dry vermouth, usually in a 6:1 ratio.

One of our favourite quotes about the Martini directly refers to the Dry Martini. It was popularised in “The Major and the Minor,” a 1942 movie where Robert Benchley says to Ginger Rogers, “Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?” However, the movie’s co-writer and director Billy Wilder said Benchley came up with the line. Benchley, in his turn, attributed it to his friend Charles Butterworth.

Indeed, if one continues the research, in the 1937 “Every Day’s a Holiday” (starring and written by Mae West), Butterworth tells Charles Winninger, “You ought to get out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini.“

Wet Martini

Gin is combined with a small amount of dry vermouth, usually in a 3:1 ratio.

As with Dry Martinis, a Wet Martini can be ordered “extra wet” when in a bar which could go up to as much as 1:1, which incidentally is also known as a Fifty-Fifty Martini.

Dirty Martini

This take on the Martini was popularised by President Franklin Roosevelt, in the 1930’s.

Dirty Martinis are generally served with an equal amount of brine to vermouth and given the former is an intense flavour, they are usually made dry. The dirtier the Martini, the more olive brine one needs to add – so if you are partial to brine in your cocktails order an “Extra Dirty” Martini.

Gibson Martini

Gibson Martinis are no longer that common today, but by no means should they be condemned to the history books. The Gibson Martini is usually served dry and includes pickled onions instead of olives or citrus. It’s quite polarising as a drink, but those who like it, swear by it.

Perfect Martini

This Martini recipe uses equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth before adding gin (60ml gin, 10ml sweet vermouth, 10ml dry vermouth).

The perfect Martini is not quite a Martinez but is sweeter than the average Martini. The term ‘perfect’ is an expression more commonly related to Manhattans, where bartenders ask if you like a sweet, perfect or a dry Manhattan when referring to which type of vermouth you desire.

It’s confusing when applied to the gin Martini because, as explained above, wet and dry for Martinis have nothing to do with the style of vermouth, merely the quantity. Moreover, the term perfect doesn’t really specify how much vermouth to add, only that you want both styles!

Vesper Martini

The Vesper Martini was made famous by the Bond franchise’s 1953 novel and 2006 film 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?”. Casino Royale, Chapter 7

Given the recipe specifies the ingredients and both Gordon’s Gin and Kina Lillet have changed since 1953 (the former dropped it’s ABV, the latter contains less quinine), the cocktail is no longer the same as it was specified. If you substitute the ingredients however (or use Gordon’s Export Strength), it’s a solid variation on the Martini and one that would please many.

There are, literally, hundreds more versions on the classic Gin Martini, and many more cocktails that share the Martini name so happy hunting to find your perfect serve!

Burnt Martini

This is a little known variant calls for a splash of Scotch whisky to be added, usually a peaty single malt.

As its rarely ordered, prepare yourself you may be met with confusion and questions from the barkeep and subsequently, a really bad drink being made. It doesn’t have to be though – a well made Burnt Martini can be complex, layered and a perfect choice come Gin O’clock.

Aged Martini

Use of barrel aged gin or you can create one of the above Martini variations to age in a barrel for several weeks. (or age it in a bottle if you don’t want the woody notes)

It is worth the wait for several reasons. Other than for obvious convenience of pouring straight from the barrel into your glass, we have oxidation to thank for imparting flavour by gradually marrying and mellowing the cocktail.