Shaken or stirred? Bring up the classic gin Martini cocktail at a party and you’re bound to have at least one friend drag out that tired line. But despite what 007 says, a proper Martini recipe shouldn’t call for consultation. Simple, straightforward and seemingly unchanged for over 100 years, a good dry Martini is one cocktail everyone should be able to master. So, the question begs to be asked, do you know how to make a Martini?
What is a Martini?
A Martini is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth, and generally garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. One of the more simple concoctions in the mixologist’s arsenal, the drink has managed to transcend the barroom altogether, making its way into living rooms across the globe, not to mention an iconic spy film or two. British secret agent James Bond’s affinity for a dry Martini was noted in 1962’s Dr No, where he gets his medium-dry Vodka Martini delivered by room service with a twist. Sure, vodka may not always be the base of choice, but apparently, 007 didn’t discriminate.
Across the entire series of Fleming novels and short stories, Bond drinks 19 vodka and 16 gin Martinis, alongside a healthy dose of cognac, champagne, ouzo, bourbon, fine vintage wine, whisky, and in one obvious example of product placement, a Heineken. But for the true purists, the Martini story starts almost a half-century before the suave Scot ever strapped on his tailored suit.
Variations of the gin Martini have been around for centuries, but the form we most closely associate with today’s drink was first popularised in the 1920s. This instantly recognisable drink sees a London dry gin and dry vermouth combined at a ratio of 2:1, stirred in a mixing glass with ice cubes, with the optional addition of orange or aromatic bitters, then strained into a chilled cocktail glass. Over time, drinkers changed their preference for garnish to a green olive, giving the Martini its iconic aesthetic.
“The Martini, as a cocktail evokes a sense of class, occasion and sexiness. It’s also the simplest drink on the planet,” James Irvine, creative director of gin drinks at Aussie distiller Four Pillars tells Man of Many. “The Martini is almost like a coffee order, Everyone has their preference – wet, dry, dirty, 50/50, upside down, Churchill etc. All dependent on the ratio of gin to vermouth. People live and die by their order and once discovered, it’s the only way.”
As Irvine rightly points out, you have heard of a few variations, such as the ‘dry Martini’. This drink order became incredibly popular in the 1930s and indicates that very little vermouth is used. Other variations you might see include:
- Wet Martini – Contains more vermouth; a 50-50 martini uses equal amounts of gin and vermouth.
- Upside-Down or Reverse Martini – Has more vermouth than gin
- Dirty Martini – Contains a splash of olive brine or olive juice and is typically garnished with an olive.
- Perfect Martini – Uses equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth
How to Make a Martini
If you’ve been wondering what’s in a Martini, or how to make one, there’s good news. While it embodies sexiness and sophistication, the classic gin Martini recipe is far from complex. One of the most simple cocktails in the bartender backlog, a dry Martini requires very little preparation and few ingredients, but therein lies the trap. With a small number of flavours to work with, balance is key and knowing how to put it together is an art all of its own.
“As a cocktail, the Martini is a pure representation of the sum of its parts. If the gin doesn’t show up to work or the vermouth has been on a shelf since 2004 you’re going to have a bad time,” Irvine says. “Use a great gin and keep vermouth in the fridge! Fresh is best and to ensure this, a little trick of the trade is to blend your gin and vermouth ahead of time, using your preferred ratio. This’ll ensure a stabilised cocktail for longer, you’ll also have a ready-to-go Martini.”
If you are ready to up your bartending skills, head to the liquor cabinet. Chances are, you’ve already got half the Martini ingredients on hand. Here’s everything you need to make a classic gin Martini.
- A bold, savoury gin
- Quality dry vermouth, not the same vermouth you use in a Negroni
- Sicilian olives
- Lemons to peel
- Olive oil
Eileen’s Gin Martini Recipe
Irvine also shared his favourite gin Martini recipe, listing off the ingredients for Eileen’s Martini. Here’s what you’ll need to get that started.
- 50ml Olive Leaf Gin
- 20ml Regal Rogue Daring Dry Vermouth
- Sicilian olives
- Lemons to peel
- Cobram Estate EVOO
Once you’ve collated your Martini ingredients, it’s time to throw them all together. We called on Irvine to share his ultimate method for getting the balance of harsh flavours right, first-time, every time. Here is how to make a Martini:
- Build the gin and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice
- Stir for 20 seconds
- Strain into a frozen Martini glass
- Garnish: A few drops of EVOO + expressed lemon oils across the top, stem and base
- Serve with a side ramekin of Sicilian olives.
Common Martini Mistakes
As mentioned, the classic Martini cocktail isn’t particularly difficult to master, but that’s not to say people don’t get it wrong. If you’re hosting a party and want to get the most of your drinks list, there are some things you should, namely Bond’s advice. According to Irvine, a Martini should always be stirred, not shaken. The common theory suggests that shaking over-aerates the drink, muddying the flavours of the cocktail. English playwright Somerset Maugham was often quoted as saying that “a martini should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously on top of one another”. In fact, a shaken Martini isn’t even a Martini at all.
The proper name for a shaken Martini is a Bradford, indicating a variation on the classic recipe. Obviously, James Bond realised his mistake and for Casino Royale, the film adaptation of Bond’s first foray into the world of espionage, the super spy orders a gin Martini, known as a Vesper.
What’s the Best Gin for a Dry Martini?
Got your recipe down and your method to an art, now it’s time to pick your poison. Irvine suggests going for something big, bold, savoury and robust – the perfect backbone for a Martini. With that in mind, here is a list of the best gins to use for a Negroni.
1. Robust – Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin
Irvine’s personal choice for a gin martini, this spirit contains olive leaf and olive oil from Cobram Estate in northern Victoria. The aroma, flavour and texture of fresh olive is stunning, and they did a year of trials before finalising the recipe for this gin.
2. Classic – Tanqueray
One of the most iconic gins on the market, Tanqueray is a great London dry style gin, the perfect match for your at-home Martini aspirations.
3. Budget – Beefeater London Dry Gin
Maybe this is your first experience making a Martini, or maybe you’re on the budget end of the drinking spectrum. Either way, Beefeater London Dry Gin is a decent alternative that provides an entry-level approach to the iconic cocktail.
4. Heavy – Four Pillars Navy Strength Gin
This Navy Strength gin is not for the faint of heart. Four Pillars has loaded this botanical gin with 58.8 ABV, making it ideal for cutting through the sharpness of the vermouth.
5. Aussie – Archie Rose Signature Dry
Australian distillery Archie Rose is picking up awards left, right and centre. If you want to give your Martini recipe an Aussie twist, go for the brand’s signature dry gin and experience 14 traditional native botanicals.
6. Complex – Hendricks
Instead of the regular citrus peels and juniper, Hendrick’s Gin highlights a broad range of flavours like rose and cucumber, giving it a subtle lift. Here you’ll find sweet and floral flavours on the surface.
What is in a Martini?
A martini cocktail is made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist.
What makes a martini dry?
When it comes to martinis, 'dry' indicates that very little vermouth has been added to the cocktail. The typical ratio is 6 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, however, 'extra dry' means you'll get the slightest splash of vermouth, or even just a glass-coating wash.
Should a martini be shaken or stirred?
Despite what James Bond says, the commonly accepted theory is that shaking over-aerates the drink. As such, all traditional cocktails, such as a Martini, should be stirred.