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Nov. 15, 2021
Ordering a martini cocktail can be intimidating enough for some (and we have tips for ordering here). And making one at home? You may feel like you don’t know where to begin. But don’t worry. It’s a simple recipe that allows for lots of customization. Check out our helpful hints for creating the sophisticated signature drink.
A traditional martini cocktail leans heavily on its two main ingredients: vodka and vermouth. That’s why it’s so important to choose a premium vodka that's clear from crop to cork, like GREY GOOSE®, and hiqh-quality dry vermouth, like Noilly Prat®. There aren’t many places for the spirits to “hide,” so you need to make sure they’re true standouts.
Many people also enjoy a dash of bitters to add complexity to the flavour profile. Orange bitters are popular, but you can explore a wide range of flavours from apple to star anise.
And of course then there are the olives. They’re a popular garnish and you may also choose to add olive brine to make your drink “dirty.” But we’ll get to that later.
While you could make do with what you have around the house, a bar mixing kit can help elevate your martini cocktail and make it easier (and more fun) for you. Especially important are a mixing glass, bar spoon, julep strainer and jigger.
A good martini cocktail is always served cold. So before you start mixing, you need to make sure everything is chilled – the ingredients, your martini cocktail glass AND the mixing glass. You may want to keep your vodka in the freezer and your vermouth in the fridge.
One of the beautiful things about martini cocktail is that there are so many ways to serve them. It’s fun to experiment with proportions to discover exactly what you like.
It basically all comes down to the vodka to dry vermouth ratio. If you only add a little dry vermouth, you have a dry martini cocktail. If you add quite a lot more dry vermouth, that gives you a wet martini cocktail (contrary to what you might think with the vermouth being called “dry”). Vermouth is a fortified wine, and it adds a more herbaceous taste to your cocktail.
Less vermouth = a drier martini cocktail. More vermouth = a wetter martini cocktail. Let’s take a look at some options, from extra, extra dry to extra wet:
Literally no vermouth. Seriously. Legend has it that Winston Churchill liked his martini cocktail so dry that he didn’t actually use the bottle of vermouth, but merely glanced at it – or even just bowed in the direction of France.
You can use so little vermouth as to just rinse your glass in it, add a drop or two or just a splash. Up to you how “extra” you want to make it.
Our take on the Dry Vodka Martini Cocktail follows a 5:1 vodka to vermouth ratio, adds a dash of orange bitters and garnishes it with a lemon twist. Classic.
This is often considered a typically proportioned martini cocktail, with 3 parts vodka to one part vermouth.
Our recipe for a wet martini cocktail features a 2:1 ratio, along with some orange bitters and olives.
Just about as wet as you can make them. This recipe has equal parts vodka and vermouth.
While many dry martini cocktails are served with olives, that doesn’t make them dirty. To make a martini cocktail dirty, you have to add olive brine. Any of the proportions above can have brine added to them. One of our favourite recipes for a Dirty Vodka Martini Cocktail skips the vermouth altogether and adds muddled olives.
As mentioned above, you can add a variety of flavours (although orange is probably the most traditional) to your liking.
Add all the ingredients you want (vodka, vermouth, bitters and/or olive brine) into your mixing glass, then add plenty of ice. While we know some notable spies may prefer their martini cocktails shaken, we prefer stirred. That helps prevent ice chips from muddying your glass and results in 10% less water being added to your drink.
A tip: Always stir slowly and deliberately, for about 40 seconds. Think about keeping the bottom of the spoon up against the inside of the mixing glass to create a nice, smooth stir.
Then strain your drink into your chilled glass by holding the julep strainer with the spoon side facing upwards out of the glass. It’s helpful to note that we only use a julep strainer for straining drinks that are usually all spirits-based and stirred. (Hawthorne strainers with their coils are typically used for shaken cocktails made with juices or solids such as eggs.)
Finally, it’s time to top it all off. There are no rules – pick whatever you prefer – but generally speaking, citrus garnishes tend to work better with drier styles of martini cocktail, while savory garnishes often suit a wetter martini cocktail.
Lemon or orange twists add incredible aromas that can transform the drink. If you go down this route, there’s a trick to zesting: hold the zest very gently, like an eggshell in the center of the drink, so the outside of the citrus peel is facing downwards. At the key moment, pinch your two fingers together, releasing the oils over the drink.
This traditional topper adds less aroma but absorbs the flavour of the drink. An olive is a beautiful example of umami – the fifth taste.
This less common garnish turns your cocktail into what is called a Gibson Martini cocktail and can add a surprising zing.
For more on garnishes, check out how to garnish a cocktail article.
And that’s just the beginning when it comes to martini cocktail recipes. You can try the Long Martini Cocktail, which features ginger ale in a tall glass; uniquely flavoured martini cocktails such as the Espresso Martini Cocktail or Parisian Martini Cocktail; or seasonal varieties such as the Christmas Martini Cocktail or New Year’s Eve Long Martini Cocktail.