The Martini is the simplest of classic cocktails. But like almost everything else having to do with cocktails, there’s much debate about what is the “right way” to make a Martini. To me, the only right way is the one that tastes good to whoever gets to drink it. That’s not to say that I don’t have my opinions on the subject, however. So here’s my two cents on the common disagreements … that you’re free to take to heart or ignore. Of course, I think I’m right.
- Gin vs. Vodka: If you want to get technical about it, a Martini is supposed to be made with gin. So if you prefer it with vodka, that would be a Vodka Martini. I don’t care about the semantics, but that will help you if you’re ordering it and don’t want to confuse the bartender. I favor a Martini made with gin, because the flavors of the gin mix well with vermouth and vodka is neutral. But, it’s like your mouth and stuff. So whatever.
- Shaken vs. Stirred: Generally, if a cocktail is made with only lightweight alcoholic ingredients (so no juices, liqueurs, or syrups) then there’s no reason to shake the drink. Stirring is enough to bind the ingredients together as well as chill and dilute the cocktail properly. But some people like it shaken, whether because it’s faster or because they have an affinity for quoting James Bond. I don’t like the ice shards that come from shaking, so I’m heavily biased toward stirring Martinis. (I think you should be, too, but I won’t—and can’t—stop you from shaking.)
- Ratio of dry vermouth to spirit: Some people drink chilled gin and call it a Martini. I don’t know what they have against dry vermouth. I like a dry Martini (recipe below), but even a Martini that uses twice as much vermouth as I did tastes good to me. Experiment and then remember the ratio! My favorite is 4 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth.
- Garnish: Olives or a lemon twist are the traditional garnishes. I like when my drink comes with a snack, so I usually go for olives. But I’ve had them with a cornichon (aka, tiny pickle) and find that to be just as satisfying. (If you add a little pickle or olive brine to the drink, that’s a “dirty” Martini.)
Without further delay, it’s time to actually drink a Martini:
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Pour the gin and vermouth into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive or lemon twist.
Photo by Jackson Stakeman