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What Is a Martini?
A Martini is a cocktail consisting of gin and vermouth, served ice-cold and garnished with anything from a citrus peel to olives or pickled pearl onions. While the classic ratio is 3 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, consider that a starting place in determining exactly what you like. It’s usually served as a pre-dinner drink
Origins of the Martini Cocktail
The Martini has been a pop culture muse in its own right practically since its invention, and perhaps no other cocktail order says so much about the person who orders it, or the mood they’re looking to set. In the collective mind, a Martini drinker is cool, collected, contemplative; a “three-Martini lunch” is code for the kind of luxurious midday indulgence usually reserved for the very rich.
Early recorded versions of the drink featured more accouterments and were sweeter than the streamlined modern recipe. Depending on the location, things like gum syrup, Maraschino, or Curaçao occasionally made an appearance. The first iteration of the modern-day Martini was said to have appeared at New York City’s Knickerbocker Hotel in 1911 or 1912.
7 Different Variations on the Classic Martini Cocktail
Don’t be fooled by the range of sweet drinks claiming to be related: things like Espresso Martinis or fruit-driven vodka cocktails like a pear or appletini get their name from the cocktail glass—not the cocktail itself. Small variations on form, rather than ingredients, are more the norm with true Martinis.
- Dry Martini. Use even less vermouth than the traditional recipe, adding only enough to coat the inside of the glass.
- Dirty Martini. Add a splash of olive juice to the liquid to up the subtle briny character usually imparted by the few olives resting in the drink.
- 50-50. To make a 50-50, use equal parts gin and dry vermouth.
- Perfect. If a Martini is perfect, it features a ½ oz of both dry and sweet vermouth in addition to the 3 oz of gin.
- Reverse. A reverse Martini flips the ratio, using 3 oz. of vermouth to 1 oz gin for something closer to an apéritif.
- The Vesper. 3 oz gin meets 1 oz vodka and the vermouth gets swapped for ½ oz of fruity, aromatic Lillet blanc. It’s shaken in a cocktail shaker over ice (traditional Martinis are stirred, to avoid diluting the cocktail with ice chips) and garnished with a lemon peel to echo the citrusy Lillet. You have James Bond to thank for this one.
- Vodka martini. Replace gin with vodka for a vodka Martini.
Classic Gin Martini Recipe
Total Time5 min
- 3 oz. dry gin
- 1 oz. dry vermouth
- Orange bitters (optional)
- Lemon twist, or 1-3 pitted/stuffed green olives/cocktail onions for garnish
Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass filled with ice cubes. Stir vigorously, then strain into a chilled martini glass. If using, add a dash of bitters. Garnish with lemon twist, skewered olives or onions, as preferred.