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Sep. 13, 2021
The martini cocktail is the world’s most iconic cocktail. While it has a reputation for being just “shaken” vodka or gin, a proper martini cocktail is an elegant balancing act that showcases both the base spirit and the skill of its creator.
So when it comes to ordering a martini cocktail at a bar, a restaurant, or perfecting one at home, it pays to know the basics so you get the right mix in your glass.
A martini cocktail is essentially the uniting of three elements – and good things always come in threes: Spirit + vermouth + garnish.
The rules are increasingly blurred (and we like to add a touch of orange bitters to ours) but these are the fundamental building blocks. It’s safe to say that sickly sweet cocktails such as the appletini are a long way off being what we would refer to as a martini cocktail (just because something has ‘tini’ in the end of it, doesn’t mean it’s a martini cocktail.)
We know it might be intimidating to order a martini cocktail at a bar or stirring one at home. Keep the following guideposts in mind:
Most vodkas aim to be neutral — they talk about the number of distillations and purity. But in a cocktail (and particularly a martini cocktail), this can make it bland and characterless. GREY GOOSE® is a bit different – it was created by François Thibualt, a former Cognac Maître de Chai, who set out to create a vodka with real taste and character. This makes it ideally suited to a cocktail like a martini.
Make sure everything is chilled, both the ingredients and the glass. Ideally, Grey Goose and Noilly Prat® vermouth should be stored between 0-5ºc. Remember to ice down your martini glass as you prepare the drink.
The recommended ratio for a martini cocktail is 5:1 vodka to vermouth, but that’s just a starting point. The difference between a wet and dry martini is the ratio of vermouth to vodka. If you like yours drier, 10:1 is not uncommon. Wetter? Try 2:1. Everyone’s palate is unique. Find what’s pleasing to you.
These days there are any number of ways to customize a martini cocktail. Here are some examples.
Adding in olive juice to the mix. Typically, this tends to be a wetter style of martini cocktail.
Made with dry gin, stirred, with an unopened bottle of vermouth waved above the shaker. Winston Churchill liked his martini cocktail so dry that it is said he didn’t actually use the bottle of vermouth, but merely glanced at it. When French vermouth became scarce during the war, Churchill would simply bow across the channel, in the direction of France, when he was mixing his drink.
Made without ice, but with the same ingredients and glass chilled. The vodka is stored in the freezer and the vermouth in the fridge before the two ingredients are mixed. However, it is a VERY punchy drink, without the dilution that is necessary to make the cocktail a bit more comfortable on the palate.
Standard dry martini cocktail garnished with cocktail onions instead of olives.
Ernest Hemingway liked to order a ‘Montgomery’, which was a 15:1 vermouth ratio (these supposedly being the odds Field Marshall Montgomery wanted to have before going into battle): “I have never tasted anything so cool and clean, they made me feel civilized.”
Many bartenders see the vodka martini cocktail as the ultimate challenge — because there’s no hiding place, their skill and creativity is paramount in creating a world class drink, rich in character, subtlety and taste. So next time you walk into a bar, feel free to challenge the bartender to create something to your taste. And don’t be afraid to let them be creative!