The Martini is a classic and elegant cocktail that has stood the test of time. It consists of gin and vermouth and takes an olive or lemon twist garnish.
While its exact origin is unknown, the Martini has become one of the most popular cocktails in the world. There are also several variations of the original Martini recipe, including a Vodka Martini. All of the variations are great for National Cocktail Day.
Read on to learn about the history and evolution of the Martini and get our recipe for how to make a Martini. We’ll also provide recommendations for the best gin and vermouth brands to include in your cocktail.
The exact origin of the Martini is vague, but the name may come from the Martini brand of vermouth. Another popular guess is that it evolved from a cocktail called the Martinez.
People ordered a Martinez from the bar at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, CA, in the 1860s. It was a gathering place for people who took the ferry to the nearby town of Martinez, CA.
Citizens of Martinez claim that a bartender in their town created the cocktail. Other people assert that the town gave the drink its name.
Appearance in Cocktail Recipe Books
The recipe for a Martinez first appeared in print in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide, How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks. This publication is regarded by many as the best classic cocktail recipe book and is still in print today. Thomas was a bar owner who is widely regarded as the father of mixology in America.
But there were additional late 19th-century cocktail recipes similar to the Martini. Harry Johnson's Bartenders' Manual, published in 1888, listed a Martini Cocktail recipe that required half a wine glass of Old Tom Gin and half a wine glass of vermouth.
The Martini shares its name with a bartender who made the drink at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City in 1911 or 1912. The "Marguerite Cocktail," first mentioned in 1904, is considered an early version of the Dry Martini. The recipe called for a 2:1 mix of Plymouth Dry Gin and dry vermouth with a dash of bitters from an orange bitters recipe.
Prohibition to Modern Times
During Prohibition in the United States in the 1920s and early 1930s, the Martini became one of the most popular cocktails in the local speakeasy. This resulted from the easy production of gin compared to other banned liquors.
After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the options for quality gin brands increased, and the cocktail gradually became drier. By the 1970s and 1980s, people viewed the Martini as an old-fashioned cocktail until new versions appeared in the mid-1990s.
Best Gin for Martini
Before you prepare your Martini, you’ll want to purchase one of the best gin brands as the foundation for your drink. Here's a list of five of the best gins for your Martini:
Beefeater is one of the highest-quality gins on the market and the perfect example of a London Dry Gin. It's the ideal partner with vermouth for a Dry Martini or a Wet Martini. Beefeater is also a commonly used call liquor in worldwide bars when it comes to gin.
2. Bombay Sapphire
Bombay Sapphire has a smooth taste with citrus notes. It’s based on one of the world’s oldest gin recipes and gets its unique flavor from its vapor-infusion process.
Sipsmith Gin is perfect for your Dry Martini, owing to its balance of citrus notes and juniper berries. It's a classic London Dry Gin that adds floral notes to any Martini recipe.
4. Plymouth Gin
Plymouth Gin adds a bit of spice to accompany its juniper, making it one of the best gins for a Martini recipe. It also presents flavors of coriander and cardamom to pair with a high-quality bottle of vermouth.
5. Tanqueray Ten
Tanqueray Ten has a heavy citrus flavor from the grapefruit, lemons, and oranges in its botanical mix. In spite of its name, Tanqueray Ten features eight botanical cocktail ingredients, including juniper, coriander, licorice, and angelica root.
Best Vermouth for Martini
The other main ingredient for a Martini is vermouth. It interacts with gin to provide the ideal flavor for a Martini. Here’s a list of the best five vermouths for your Martini:
1. Dolin Dry Vermouth
Dolin Dry Vermouth brings delicate floral notes to blend with any brand of gin. It’s a popular choice among bartenders for its perfect taste of citrus. It offers a quality vermouth at an affordable price, which is why you’ll find it included in many home bar accessories.
2. Ransom Dry Vermouth
Ransom Dry Vermouth has a golden color that offers hints of spice and must. It blends with gin to produce the perfect balance of juniper and pine with orange blossom and floral notes.
3. Carpano Bianco
Carpano Bianco is the perfect vermouth for making a Dirty Martini. It’s aromatic and floral with colorful citrus notes. Its residual sugar makes it the perfect partner for olive brine in a Dirty Martini.
4. Noilly Prat Original Dry
Joseph Noilly’s formula from 1813 provides a dry, French twist on modern day extra dry vermouths. It’s the original French vermouth that sources 20 different herbs and spices from around the world.
5. Martini & Rossi Extra Dry
Pick up a bottle of Martini & Rossi Extra Dry to get the taste of a classic Martini. If you’ve ever ordered a Martini at an airport or hotel bar, there’s a high probability that it included this classic vermouth.
Vodka Martinis are in vogue nowadays, but a Classic Martini recipe calls for gin. The earliest recipes from Italy and the United States included gin and were much heavier on the vermouth.
A Classic Martini only needs two ingredients: gin and vermouth. The trick is to get the proper balance of the two to create a Martini with optimal taste. A vital quality of effective bar management is ensuring that your bar staff makes consistently good cocktails with your patrons’ satisfaction in mind.
Before you get started, ensure that you have a chilled cocktail glass ready before preparing the recipe. Fill it with ice to chill it for a few minutes before adding the ingredients. You don’t need any additional bartending tools, as a Martini is a straightforward drink to prepare.
You also want a chilled bottle of vermouth prior to making a Martini. It's one of only two main ingredients, so keep it cool to provide the best flavors. Here's our Martini recipe with the ingredients and directions you need:
- 3 oz. (6 parts) gin
- 0.5 oz. (1 part) dry vermouth
- Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice cubes.
- Stir well and strain in a chilled martini cocktail glass.
- Garnish with an olive or squeeze juice from the lemon peel into the drink.
Effective bar training instructs bartenders to strain a Martini before pouring it into the glass. Fruit pulp or ice chips negatively affect the enjoyment of a smooth Martini.
We recommend double-straining it to ensure you have a clear cocktail. Whether you’re running a bar or entertaining guests at your home bar, it’s a good habit to implement.
The Classic Martini comes in a wide range of variations nowadays. Ingredients like vermouth, olive brine, and Scotch whiskey can alter the type of Martini you prepare.
1. Dry Martini
A Dry Martini refers to a Martini with a lower amount of vermouth. This is probably the most common type of Martini ordered in bar and restaurant operations.
2. Wet Martini
A Wet Martini tastes sweeter than the average Martini. The more vermouth you add, the sweeter the cocktail tastes. The average Wet Martini has about 3 oz. or more vermouth for each ounce of gin.
3. Dirty Martini
Add a bit of olive brine to your Martini to make it a Dirty Martini. It can accompany or replace the vermouth in the recipe.
4. Smoky Martini
This cocktail has gin with a splash of Scotch whiskey (instead of vermouth). Stir it, then garnish it with a lemon twist.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Make a Martini
How Do You Make a Homemade Martini?
Here are four steps for making a homemade Martini:
- Fill a cocktail shaker three-fourths full of ice cubes.
- Add gin and vermouth, then cover and shake until a thin layer of condensation forms on the outside of the shaker.
- Strain into a chilled Martini cocktail glass.
- Garnish with an olive or lemon twist.
Is a Martini Made with Gin or Vodka?
The classic Martini recipe called for gin and vermouth in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, as time went on, bartenders and mixologists started experimenting and created several variations of the Martini. One of the most popular ones is the Vodka Martini.
Do Martinis Need Vermouth?
Make the perfect Martini with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth to go with gin or vodka. Historically speaking, bartenders prepared Martinis with equal portions of gin and vermouth, making them quite wet.
Should I Stir or Shake a Martini?
The method (stirring or shaking) depends on personal preference. Stirring produces a smoother and clearer cocktail, while shaking adds aeration and a slightly cloudy appearance. As long as you follow the Martini recipe, you will get a great cocktail either way.
What Is the Best Garnish for Martini?
A classic Martini is garnished with either an olive or a twist of lemon peel. Some variations may include other garnishes like cocktail onions for a Gibson Martini. For the classic Martini recipe, however, stick to the classic garnishes.
Should I Always Use a Martini Glass for the Martini Cocktail?
The classic Martini is traditionally served in a stemmed glass known as a martini glass or cocktail glass. The wide, shallow bowl allows for easy sipping. However, if you wish to do something different, experiment with other glassware.
"It's Martini Time"
You don't have to listen to Reverend Horton Heat's song "It's Martini Time" to get in the mood for a Martini. Keep gin, vermouth, a jar of olives, and a few lemons in stock to be ready whenever you get a craving for one.
Whether you’re starting a bar or want to make cocktail drinks for friends, it’s good to know how to make a Martini. Follow our suggestions for the best gins and vermouths, in addition to our tips for how to make a Martini to get started.