Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics




2oz Gin

1oz Dry Vermouth

1 dash orange bitters

1 lemon twist


Add all liquids to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Serve up in a Martini glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.


  • Likely the most famous cocktail of all time, the Martini is a simple combination of Gin and Vermouth, accentuated by a dash of bitters and a lemon twist. This is a drink that every bartender should know, although many will not make well. Despite this, it is often hard to find a truly bad Martini so long as the right ingredients are used and the vermouth has not gone bad.
  • Contrary to James Bond’s feelings, a Martini will have a richer and more complex taste when made with Gin and stirred. The additional botanicals in the gin add to the complexity brought by the other ingredients.
  • You should choose a reasonably good gin for this one as after all the gin is the primary ingredient and much of the flavor comes from it. Bluecoat gin is a good choice if you like a very dry gin. For a less dry taste with more botanical flavor, Plymouth and Hendricks can’t be beat. Best price to taste ratio is probably Beefeater 24, as it typically costs a little less than the other options.
  • For most occasions and people, I have found that a 2:1 ratio of gin to vermouth works well. It results in highlighting the gin, but still getting the taste of the vermouth. See more discussion in variations for other ratio ideas.
  • Also the base spirit used should ideally be room temperature and not have been refrigerated or stored in the freezer. The dilution of the drink by ice is a critical part to any cocktail, most importantly in a martini. If you use cold gin or vodka it will not melt the ice much at all when stirring and leave the drink unbalanced. If the only option is that vodka in the freezer, you may want to add a small amount of water when stirring to dilute the drink appropriately. That being said keep your vermouth in the fridge so it doesn’t spoil as fast.


Like most cocktails, the Martini has a history that varies based on who’s telling the story. The oldest known story involves the Martini originating as a derivative of the Martinez. As the Martinez was produced around 1850, people claim that somewhere along the line the drink was changed to dry vermouth and ditched the maraschino liquor.

Others claim that the recipe for the Martini was created in the town of Martinez and thus called the Martinez. The name eventually changed to Martini.

San Francisco also claims to have originated the Martini

According to the Oxford-English dictionary, the Martini was created by Martini and Rossi in the later portion of the 1800s.

Some say it is named after the Martini and Henry, a british rifle.

Yet others say the Martini started in New York at the Knickerbocker hotel in 1911.  Created by a bartender named Martini, who first made the drink for John D. Rockefeller.

One of the likely reasons for all the claims, besides groups/people trying to take the credit for the world’s most famous cocktail, is that there were innumerable old recipes for various combinations of gin, vermouth and bitters in varying ratios and combinations with other ingredients.


Base Spirit: The other major and more often seen Martini is the Vodka Martini, substituting vodka for gin. While in many ways similar, the vodka martini lacks the botanicals present in the gin resulting in a less flavorful, but to those less akin to gin, a more palatable taste.

Garnish: Alternatively, many people enjoy their martinis with olives or onions rather than lemon. If you were to use a cocktail onion instead as a garnish the drink would then be called a Gibson.

Adding some olive juice is a Dirty Martini. For the dirty Martini, vodka may be a better choice as much of the botanicals in the gin are lost with the addition of olive juice. Some would say that a martini with anything but a lemon should be vodka as some of the added flavor of the gin is lost. That being said if your gin costs less than your vodka, the decision becomes less clear.

Ratios: Another idea to consider is just varying the ratio of gin or vodka to vermouth, using more or less vermouth based on taste. A 1:1 ratio of gin to vermouth is called a 50/50 Martini. Some people prefer less vermouth, using a 3:1 or greater ratio (down to just rinsing the glass or ice with vermouth), known as a Dry Martini. Using no vermouth is an Extra Dry Martini.

Vermouth: For those who like less dryness, a 50/50 mixture of dry and sweet vermouth for the vermouth component makes the sweeter Perfect MartiniAlternatively you could make a perfect martini with equal parts dry and white sweet vermouth (ex. Dolin Blanc) to keep the color clear but sweeten the drink, making it more accessible to some.

You could also swap the vermouth for Lillet. The VesperJames Bond’s original Martini, uses Lillet and a 3:1 ratio of gin to vodka for the base spirit, rather than choosing just one. To learn more, check out Vesper.

Bitters: We’ve talked about switching the main spirit, vermouth and garnishes, but you can also vary the bitters. Lemon or peach bitters change the taste with  a still similar flavor. Being a Chartreuse fan, I like to occasionally add a dash of Elixir de Vegetal or alternatively rim the glass with Green Chartreuse. Another idea is to use a small dash of Lavender bitters, works well with gin. More variations and pictures of some of these are in the works.

18 Responses to “Martini”

  1. New Martinez | The Straight Up

    […] sweeter than the traditional Martinez, this version has a taste somewhere between a Martinez and a Martini; although with the same ratios as the original, this drink much more favors the Martinez. Slightly […]

  2. ABCDEF | The Straight Up

    […] discovering Eeyore’s Requiem, this one tastes in a way like a lighter version crossed with a Martini. The taste is complex as expected with these ingredients. The gin functions as the base, with a […]

  3. Lucien Gaudin | The Straight Up

    […] more “orangey.” If you are at all a fan of the Negroni, Boulevardier, Old Pal, or like Martini’s and Campari, you owe it to yourself to try Lucien Gaudin. It’s dangerously […]

  4. Seraphim | The Straight Up

    […] drier cocktail, the Archangel is the one for you. Think of an orange, rhubarb and cucumber scented Martini/Negroni hybrid with bitter notes from the Aperol (what’s not to like about […]

  5. Poet’s Dream | The Straight Up

    […] honey and citrus nose. Poet’s Dream plays out a bit like a martini variation with that dry martini flavor sweetened by Benedictine. The Benedictine adds a little herbal and honey flavor and gives […]


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