I love a good margarita. Sitting on a sunny beach with the gentle sound of waves crashing on a shore is always complete with one
The Martini cocktail has been the queen of mixed drinks in bars and pop culture alike.
From H. L. Mencken calling it “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet” to James Bond ordering his “shaken not stirred”, it’s certainly done the rounds in being the star of the cocktail world.
We take a deep dive into the history, procedure, and science that makes this perfectly simple drink a cult classic.
The Martini cocktail in the grand scheme of things is a rather simple drink.
It calls for gin or vodka, vermouth and a martini glass. But as much as you can ruin a good steak, you can also ruin a good Martini.
Let’s take a look at the history of the martini to really understand its evolution to the top of the throne today and how the classic drink has created a family category of cocktails on its own.
It’s first written iteration was found in the 1862 edition of the Bartender’s Guide, How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks written by Jerry Thomas named as a ‘fancy gin cocktail’.
From here it is believed that the cocktail evolved to the Martinez and Margueritte cocktail, the former being described as follows:
Shake up thoroughly and strain into a large cocktail glass. Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve.
If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes of gum syrup. In 1904 a drink named the “Marguerite Cocktail” called for a mix of Plymouth dry gin and dry vermouth 2:1, with a dash of orange bitters.
But it wasn’t until prohibition and 1922 when the dry Martini took centre stage. By this point, London’s dry gin’s popularity had risen especially in the use of this drink.
The ease of illegally producing gin in prohibition America also helped its notoriety.
And to top it all of, The Martini vermouth company had just launched a widespread advertising campaign for their extra dry martini with the slogan “it’s not a Martini without Martini”.
Slowly, the Vermouth took a more supporting role and the curacao and bitters had disappeared.
There are iterations of vodka being used in martini style cocktails before this time. Particularly in 1905, in New Hampshire, a bartender mixed one up for a Russian delegation according to cocktail historian David Wondrich.
But the true rise of the vodka martini was post-prohibition. Americans were tired of poorly made spirits and wanted something more premium.
Fast forward to 1953, Ian Fleming’s classic novel Casino Royale and his infamous character James Bond asked for his iconic Vesper:
This rise in fame soared during the ’70s onwards with a variety of ‘tini cocktails were created.
Drinks with far too much sugar and colours so bright you need sunglasses took the stage with cocktails like Appletinis and the Lemondrop. And further on Popular TV shows through the ’90s like ‘Sex in the City’ gave fame to Cosmopolitans.
Thankfully, Over the last decade, the cocktail has gone back to its roots with Gin making a comeback and the Dry Martini being the tipple of choice worldwide.
Nowadays, it will be hard to find a bar that doesn’t make a martini well! We are fortunate to live in a time where the craft of bartending is a skill that many are honing and bar development programmes usually hold some kind of classic cocktail training.
However, there are some bars out there that stand out from all the rest.
The first one we had to mention is, of course, at the Duke’s hotel, London. Made famous by industry legend Salvatore Calabrese, the legacy of the freezer to glass drink has been carried on since 2007 by Bar Manager, Alessandro Palazzi. You can choose from 15 gins that are kept at freezer temperatures, with the glass being washed with vermouth created by Sacred Distillery in collaboration with Pallazi.
Our second top destination is the Connaught in London’s Mayfair area. The Connaught has an incredible martini trolley bought to you at the table where you will be treated to perfect showmanship by Agostino Perrone’s bar team. The trolley is sponsored by Tanqueray 10 with the number beautifully engraved on the handle.
For a truly memorable experience, the glass is crystal cut and engraved and they offer 7 homemade bitters to choose from. Flavours include extracts of lavender, coriander, cardamom, ginger, grapefruit, liquorice or vanilla.
Our third best place in the world to have a martini is Atlas in Singapore! This Martini is served underneath their iconic tower housing over 1000 different gins. The cocktail has champagne vinegar added to it give the drink a little acidity and zing.
Atlas is one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in the world with its gold-gilded walls and high ceilings so having a Martini here will make you feel like royalty.
Now we compared making a Martini to making a steak earlier and we are inclined to say why. Cooking a steak in Principle is relatively easy right?
Steak on the pan, take it off, on the plate, done? Well as you all know, there are a ton of variables!
Heat, time, seasoning and garnish all play a vital role. A Martini must be treated with the same respect! Therefore we will take you through each step of the process and guide you to the perfect martini.
You can skip ahead to see our recipe card and we even have a ‘Freezer Martini’ for you to look at, but if you follow these steps and treat each part with respect, you’ll impress any cocktail enthusiast.
“Well, the Martini glass of course!” I hear you all thinking, but what about a Nick and Nora or a Coupette?
Or have you checked out your local antique store for a cut crystal sherry glass? All of these would work well. Also, in many venues you will find the glass is kept in the chiller we suggest the same.
Some bars will have specific chillers or freezers for their glass to keep it chilled until the moment the cocktail is ready. If you don’t have the means to do this you can chill your glass with ice and water instead.
Chilling your cocktail glass right until the moment the drink is ready will aid in the longevity of your drink.
Choosing Vodka will give you a more clean and neutral Martini. Choosing a Gin, however, can open the cocktail up to more herbaceous or citrus notes depending on the gin botanicals.
We suggest going for a London Dry Gin, some other gins can be too sweet for this cocktail especially Old Tom types.
From personal choice, we prefer to use Chase distilleries potato Vodka which adds a wonderful creaminess to the drink.
If you go for a gin then we suggest Martin Millers London Dry, very citrus-forward and peppery notes. However, this is all up to your personal preference!
Use a good slug of your spirit ideally around 70ml to really highlight the spirit. Although some bars will add even more! Dukes, for instance, add 5 shots per drink! It’s for this reason they have a 2 Martini limit per guest.
France or Italy and all of them start as wine which is then fortified and aromatised with various herbs, roots, and bark.
Dry Vermouth was originally created by Dolin and its popularity rose during the Mad Men era of America.
Dry vermouth is almost briny in taste with herbaceous taste. It has little to no residual sugar, perfect for your cocktail.
The original cocktail recipe called for equal parts Vermouth to Gin however modern tastes and culture have reduced vermouth use to the bare minimum.
Winston Churchill, for instance, was famous for ordering his Martini with ice-cold Gin and a bow in the general direction of France.
However this once again comes down to personal preference, try a few measurements and see what suits you.
We recommend these vermouths for your cocktail:
As we saw from the Connaught Hotel bar and their outstanding trolley, bitters can add some great flair to the elegant cocktail and the original recipes did call for a few dashes of orange bitters.
We personally like a few drops of a citrus-based bitter like ‘Ms Better’s Bitters Grapefruit’ or Fee Brothers Gin Barrel-Aged Orange Bitters.
Whilst shaken had been preferred during the late 20th century, thanks to certain 007, it is now common knowledge that stirring is the optimum technique for this cocktail.
There does take a bit of skill and practice when stirring as the speed of the stir, duration and the size of the ice all factor into the resulting drink.
When we stir a drink we are trying to achieve two goals: chilling and dilution.
Thanks to the science of thermodynamics, we understand much about thermal equilibriums and we know that as you mix, the ice is absorbing the heat of the liquid surrounding it.
This both melts the ice and cools the liquid.
Spirits, liqueurs and water are soluble meaning they bond together with little effort so as we stir we create a solution.
We want to do this efficiently so aiming to stir our cocktail in the quickest and quietest way to reach the perfect dilution and temperature will take some practice.
Think about the tools you need first.
Now, you don’t need to spend 100’s of pounds to achieve the best results but we do suggest buying a durable kit that is ergonomic.
We recommend checking out our article on what cocktail equipment to buy at home to get an idea of some good value bar tools.
When stirring keep in mind to make minimal noise. You want the ice inside the mixing vessel to move in one solid formation.
You can achieve this by holding the spoon in the centre with two middle fingers of one hand.
Have the spoon against the side and gently push and pull your fingers back and forward.
This will keep the spoon spinning around the edge and Mae sure there is no churning.
Keep the speed at a constant tempo. Around 10-30 seconds the drink will be around 5°C/41°F – 0°C/32°F.
This is the sweet spot and time to get the glass ready for pouring.
The classic choice, of course, is a zest of lemon or olive. Both the Connaught and Dukes use Amalfi lemons for their garnish, due to the large size lending more essential oils.
When using lemon peel make sure to remove with little to no pith and give a good squeeze in the direction of the glass to coat the cocktail and glass with the oils.
We like to give the stem and rim of the glass a good rub too. You can’t go too wrong when using olives but we do suggest using ones held in brine and find a little pick to add it on.
Be sustainable and avoid plastic picks though!
Now, this is where you can impress your guests with your martini making skills. Following the ‘Dukes’ method, we keep our Gin/ Vodka and glass in a freezer at -22 degrees.
Why? you ask. Well here’s the thing.
Sticking any spirit in the freezer has benefits. As the temperature drops, your spirits viscosity, or thickness, will increase to an almost syrup-like consistency.
The texture changes and will make your vodka or gin more viscous and richer. It will coat the mouth as you sip. The vermouth we kept in this Vintage Glass Refillable Perfume Bottle with Spray Atomizer.
Firstly, it looks awesome and secondly, this tool turns the vermouth into a fine mist that can be sprayed in the glass and on top of the cocktail.
That’s all there is to it! Glass and spirit out the freezer, pour to the top and spray.
It seems super simple but I promise, once you’ve tried it this way, you won’t want it any other.
The Genealogy of the Martini has created a vast family of popular cocktails.
From its humble beginnings, it has now created a category of its own. Below you will find recipes for each one to make at home.
Vermouth styles now play a large role and in much the same way as you would order a Manhattan, ‘Wet’ applies to more Vermouth. ‘Dry’ is less or none and 50/50 is of course half and half.
Created by Ian Fleming for James Bond this shaken cocktail has been doing the rounds as 007’s tipple of choice. the cocktail was named after Bond’s first love, the double agent, Vesper in Casino Royale.
This is a shaken cocktail and garnished with lemon peel, However, we usually opt for Grapefruit peel to add a twist.
The Dirty Martini is just one of those drinks many bartenders will shudder at the name. It’s just so wrong but there is something to the salty drink that’s made it popular.
Interestingly, the drink has been around since 1930 onwards and Franklin D. Roosevelt was said to make his Martini with olive brine almost daily.
We also have him to thank for ending prohibition, Cheers FDR. Now there are a few things we can do to upgrade this cocktail and save you from gasps of horror when you make it.
Firstly, we could fat wash the gin with olive oil or why not make your own olive brine at home for some extra salinity?
This is essentially a dry gin Martini with a pickled pearl onion added as a garnish. The onion does add some vegetal and Unami notes to the drink so it’s well worth a try.
Some recipes even call for slightly more vermouth. Stir this drink like a normal dry recipe.
This fruity concoction arose during the ’80s to ’90s period featuring in some of SOHO London’s haunts. Add all the ingredients to a shaker and serve.
The pineapple shaken gives the drink a lovely froth. Have any of those old cocktail umbrellas laid around? Now is the time to use them.
I love a good margarita. Sitting on a sunny beach with the gentle sound of waves crashing on a shore is always complete with one
Ah the Manhattan. A heavyweight cocktail that has stood the test of time. Named after the New York City borough, the Manhattan cocktail is spirit
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