The origin of the martini is sometimes shrouded in myth, but one popular account suggests that it is the natural evolution of the Martinez cocktail:
— 2 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz gin
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 dash bitters
Stir. Strain into cocktail glass.
Garnish with a quarter lemon wheel —
The martini’s popularity skyrocketed during prohibition (1919 – 1933): whiskey took too long to mature; however, gin could be produced quickly and at a low-cost. With the end of prohibition, gin’s quality improved and the classic martini became even more favored by the fashionable crowd.
The concept of a dry martini, contrary to popular belief, had nothing to do with the content of vermouth. Originally, the only available vermouth was a sweet Italian variety. The French, bless them, produced a dry vermouth, which marked the beginning of the dry martini. The concept of a perfect martini has similarly been twisted: the term perfect pertains to any vermouth drink that contains an equal measure of sweet and dry.
So, what is a classic martini? For a start, the martini snob would insist it be stirred: shaking can create air bubbles, which results in a murky drink, indicating that too much water has been released from the ice cubes, causing the gin’s flavor to be ‘bruised.’
I use a metal shaker, but gently swirl the mixture for thirty seconds, which chills the liquid-nectar nicely, but doesn’t ‘bruise’ the gin. I use Bombay Sapphire Gin (not too expensive, pretty smooth), but tastes vary, so you may enjoy another brand more. And I use extra dry, Stock vermouth.
For best results, keep the vermouth in the refrigerator, and cool the gin and the martini glass in the freezer for two hours prior to creation. Also — this is important — have plenty of ice cubes handy (martinis should be cold). Have your favorite jazz (I prefer hard-bop from the mid-50s) or classical music cued on your sound system (if you must, listen to other music; after all, it’s your life). Some connoisseurs insist that the more formally you dress, the better the drink tastes, but I have no problems enjoying a martini in shorts and a T-shirt.
Ingredients (not quite a classic, but I like the measures below. Currently, I prefer close to a 5:1 gin/vermouth ratio, but please experiment: it’s your drink, for your enjoyment. Some people like to add a dash of Angostura bitters; all the power to them, but I don’t. If you don’t like green olives, you can substitute a lemon twist):
Slightly more than 2 ½ oz gin
Slightly less than ½ oz extra dry vermouth
2 or 3 large green olives (even people who don’t like martinis seem to enjoy the ‘tipsy’ olives. I like to share (but not my drink))
Lots of ice cubes
Standard Operating Procedure:
- Fill a metal shaker (or mixing glass) with ice cubes.
- Pour the vermouth and gin into the shaker (or mixing glass)
- Swirl the shaker (or stir the mixture) for thirty seconds.
- Strain the liquid into a chilled martini glass (gently coax the last three drops out).
- Garnish with olives
- Enjoy; drink slowly, and your anxiety will dissolve.
- Repeat steps 1 through 6 as necessary (but be careful; martinis can be dangerous).