The Martini is is not only a classic it's iconic. It is delicate and assertive, simple but elegant. It's also by far my least favorite thing to make when I am behind the bar. Do not misunderstand, I love a good martini when I'm at home or if I'm ordering it at a place I'm confident can make one, but all that love and admiration goes out the window when someone orders a Martini from me. But why? Simply speaking? Everyone likes theirs differently.
There are hundreds of ways to make a martini, and frankly, many people haven't got the faintest idea what they want when they say Martini. Let's go through some words that you can use when ordering a martini: vodka, gin, wet, dry, dirty, bone dry, sweet, with olives, with lemon, with onion (Techically a Gibson), up, rocks, perfect, burnt, shaken, stirred, and the list goes on. Every one of those words changes the drink. So, what is a Martini?
The substitution of Vodka for Gin is common and it's still a martini, any other spirit though and you're just making a different drink. London Dry Gin is typical but with so many different types of Gins on the market today you should play the field. My favorite is Death's Door. If you're using Vodka, buy whatever you like, it's basically all the same anyways. If I had to suggest one, I recommend Aylesbury Duck.
This is the part where I tend to ruffle some feathers. Martini's have vermouth. If you order a Vodka Martini with no Vermouth, you're just drinking cold Vodka, not there is anything wrong with that. The Addition of Vermouth is critical to making the drink what it is. Now I don't begrudge people who shy away from Vermouth; for a long time there weren't any Vermouths worth buying. But with the cocktail resurgence there are a bevy of good options. Here are three to look out for: Vya, Noilly Prat, and Dolin. Some of these you can find at a well stocked grocery store.
Vermouth is a fortified and aromatized wine. Basically: wine spiked with brandy, infused with herbs and spices, and sweetened. There are two types: dry and sweet. For the Martini we'll be using dry, or white vermouth. I recommend starting with a 5:1 ratio of Spirit to Vermouth. Also, the reason that Vodka Martini's caught on, is that Vermouth doesn't really play well with Vodka, because there's nothing really to pair with. It's SUPPOSED to be tasteless. Just try it with a really good Gin. The botanicals compliment each other incredibly well and I promise you'll see why this drink caught on. Or maybe not, who knows.
Shaken or Stirred
Both of these things serve to cool the drink and dilute it. Stirring however will do two things: It will keep the drink crystal clear and it will not chill it so much that you can't taste the subtleties. Shaking, however, will cause the drink to take on tiny bubbles that cloud the drink and it will chill it so much that you'll be hard pressed to taste much of the drink. Why? Because cold kills smell and smell is critical for taste.
Get your Martini's stirred kids, not only will it taste better (or at all) but it will be clear. Plus, shaking waters down drinks far more than stirring. James Bond is ordering a watered down, flavorless Martini and it's offensive.
If you're using London Dry Gin, it's traditional to add a couple dashes of Orange Bitters. Trust me it's worth it.
Dirty: Add Olive Brine
The Traditional Garnishes for a Martini are olives or a Lemon Twist. I like mine with both, but hold the brine please
Sweet: Use Sweet Vermouth
Perfect: Use both Sweet and Dry Vermouth
Burnt: add a little Scotch in there
Rocks: There's nothing wrong with ordering a martini with ice
This is the recipe I would recommend to anyone looking to try their first Martini.
- 2.5 oz London Dry Gin
- .5 oz Dry Vermouth (Use Quality)
- 2 dashes Orange Bitters
- Lemon Peel
Add the liquids to a glass filled with Ice and then stir while doing your best to not let the ice chip. If you don't have a cocktail spoon it's easiest with a chopstick believe it or not. Stir it for a good 30 seconds. You want to dilute it a little. Then strain into a chilled glass. Squeeze the lemon peel over the drink to express the oils and then drop it in and enjoy.
If you find you enjoy the vermouth more than you thought, try using more. Miss the olives? Add them. My problem with the Martini isn't that it's a bad drink, it's that despite it's incredibly small ingredients list, there's so many ways to enjoy it.