Martini Cocktail Recipe & History

How to Make a Martini

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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.

via GIPHY

What is a Martini?

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 it’s 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’.

fancy gin cocktail recipe
From Jerry Thomas’ Bartender guide 1862

From here it is believed that the cocktail evolved to the Martinez and Margueritte cocktail, the former being described as follows:

  • Take 1 dash of Boker’s bitters
  • 2 dashes of Maraschino
  • 1 pony [1 fl oz] of Old Tom gin
  • 1 wine-glass [2 fl oz] of [sweet/Italian] vermouth
  • 2 small lumps of ice
  • 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.

The Rise of Vodka

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:


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.
James Bond, Casino Royale 1953
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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 come back and the Dry Martini being the tipple of choice worldwide.

Modern Times, The Best Martini’s in the World.

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, licorice 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.

Timeline

January 1, 1904

Marguerite Cocktail

“Marguerite Cocktail” called for a mix of Plymouth dry gin and dry vermouth 2:1, with a dash of orange bitters.

January 1, 1904
January 1, 1922

Dry Martini

Prohibition American
“it’s not a Martini without Martini”

January 1, 1922
January 1, 1953

Casino Royale

Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.

January 1, 1953
January 1, 1862

70’s – 90’s

Appletinis and cosmos. “I’d like a cheese burger, fries and a cosmopolitan

January 1, 1862
January 1, 1862

Modern times, return of the the Dry.

Connaught hotel, Atlas bar and Dukes.

January 1, 1862
martini with three olives

How to make a Martini?

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.

Jump to Recipe

Your Vessel of Choice.

“Well, the Martini glass of course!” I hear you all saying, 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, 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.

Gin or Vodka?

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.

BrandTypeABVTasting Notes
Plymouth Navy Strength Gin57%Lemon, Coriander
Chase Vodka Vodka40%White Pepper, Cream, Wax
Martin Millers Westbourne StrengthGin45.2%Lemon peel, Nutmeg,
Grey GooseVodka40%Aniseed, Coconut, Cream
Tanqueray no.10 Gin47.3%Grapefruit, Lemon

Now, which Vermouth is best?

There are a ton of Vermouths in the world all with their own unique, and often highly private recipes. Most Vermouths are from 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:

Dolin de Chambery Dry Vermouth / 17.5%/ Chambéry, France/ £14.95

Lillet Blanc/ Bordeaux, France/ 17%/ £17.45

Noily Prat Original Dry/  18%/ Marseillan, France/ £13.25

Martini Extra Dry/ 15%/ Turin, Italy/ £8.95

To Bitter or not to Bitter?

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.

The science behind the Martini

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 the stir our cocktail in the quickest and quietest was to reach the perfect dilution and temperature will take some practise.

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 achevie 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.

Garnish

martini being zested with lemon peel

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!

Martini

Course: DrinkCuisine: Martini, classic cocktailDifficulty: Easy
Servings

1

Glass
Prep time

4

minutes

An easy martini recipe, stirred down with your choice of gin or vodka.

Ingredients

  • 70 ml gin/ vodka 

  • 5 – 20ml vermouth

Directions

  • Chill your glass by either adding ice and water or by leaving in a cooler prior.
  • Add ice to your mixing vessel and wash with vermouth.
  • Stir for up to 20 seconds to chill mixing vessel and coat ice with vermouth.
  • With a julep strainer discard half of the excess water and vermouth.
  • Add your Gin/ Vodka and stir for up to 45 seconds.
  • Discard ice in the glass and pour your mix into the glass.
  • Add your garnish and serve.

Freezer Martini

martini on a tray ready to serve

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.

Martini Variations

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.

Martini cocktail family tree

Vesper

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.

Ingredients

  • 37.5ml Gin

  • 15ml Vodka

  • 12.5ml Lillet Blanc

Dirty Martini

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?

Ingredients

  • 70ml Gin

  • 5 – 15ml Vermouth

  • 1 bar spoon of Olive Brine

Gibson

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.

Ingredients

  • 70ml Gin

  • 5 – 15ml Vermouth

  • 1 Pickled Onion

French Martini

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 laying around? Now is the time to use them.

Ingredients

  • 50ml Vodka

  • 40ml Pineapple Juice

  • 20ml Chambord

Espresso Martini

The espresso martini was Created by famed London bartender Dick Bradsell. According to the story, he created it in the ’80s after one of his guests asked for a drink that would “wake me up and then f*ck me up”. When choosing coffee, a ristretto is the best choice due to its high acidity and low bitterness levels. Homemade Cold Brew is also a good choice. You can check out our full espresso martini recipe article here.

Ingredients

  • 37.5ml Vodka

  • 15ml Coffee liqueur

  • 30ml Coffee

  • 12.5ml Sugar syrup

If you enjoyed our article and have your own favourite Martini recipe why not send us a comment below! Stay tuned for more origin series on Gastronomer Lifestyle. our next origin series will be on the mighty Old Fashioned!

What is a Martini cocktail?

Different from the Italian vermouth company, the Martini is served with either vodka or gin and and vermouth. generally served up in a martini V shaped glass and the garnished with either lemon or olive.

Are Martinis better shaken or stirred?

James Bond famously ordered is shaken but we know that it is better stirred. This is so there is not over dilution and the alcohol does not bruise.

Which vermouth for a Martini?

For s martini you want to opt for a dry vermouth, something like Noilly Prat or Dolin dry.

Gin or Vodka for a Martini?

The original recipe called for gin however there is nothing wrong with using vodka. It is all down to personal preference.

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