Don’t ever walk up to a bartender and ask for a Martini.
There are just too many variables to deal with these days, and too many tweaks that folks want to make to get their “perfect” Martini. Hey, I’m one of them. I don’t order a Martini. I order:
“Gibson, shaken, up with two onions.”
The only question I get back from a competent bartender is:
“Is Bombay Sapphire alright?”
And yes, yes it is.
With that said, let’s run down your basic Martini options and cover what all these terms really mean.
Option One: True Martini?
Legend has it that the Martini itself is just a variation of the venerable “Manhattan.” That a bartender trying to make a Manhattan mistakenly grabbed a bottle of the brand-new aperitif “Dry Vermouth” instead of “Vermouth” (all Vermouth was sweet up until then) and then mistakenly grabbed a bottle of Genever Gin instead of Whiskey. All totally plausible mistakes.
So, it stands to reason that the Martini itself would have its own variations. The only two I’ll over here are The Gibson and The Kangaroo.
The Gibson is, traditionally, a Martini with a full measure of Vermouth and three cocktail onions. (no lemon twist, no olives)
The Kangaroo is the *real* name of a Vodka Martini. #fact No one ever calls it that anymore, which is a shame. I think folks might stop bastardizing the Gin Martini with Vodka if they had to call it something silly.
So, Option set One is: Martini, Gibson, or Kangaroo (Vodka Martini)
These days, no one asks for Genever Gin in their Martini. You want that, make it yourself… at home… while wearing your ironic specs and skinny jeans.
Option Two: You want Vermouth with that?
In ye olden days, there were two types of Gin one could have in a Martini: London Dry or Genever. If you wanted Genever, you asked for a Martini. If you wanted London Dry, you asked for a Dry Martini.
These days, no one asks for Genever Gin in their Martini. You want that, make it yourself… at home… while wearing your ironic specs and skinny jeans. No no, these days, “Dry” is not an indicator of the type of Gin (everyone uses Dry Gin) it’s an indicator of the amount of Vermouth you want in your drink.
Traditional recipes state that a Martini should be made:
3 or 4 parts Gin to 1 part Dry Vermouth
As I cover in my “Martini Variations” post from 2 years ago, the simplest way to cover a 4 to 1 ratio is: 2 ounces Gin, 1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth. These days, this is not a Martini, it’s a “Martini, Wet” or the start of a Gibson. (A Gibson is ALWAYS made 3 or 4 parts Gin to 1 part Dry Vermouth.)
So, if the “Traditional” recipe is now “Wet”… what’s a “Martini”? Modern methods have Bartenders placing 1/2 ounce of Dry Vermouth in the shaker, swirling it, and dumping it. Then the other ingredients go in.
That leaves us with “Dry.” In a Dry Martini, add 1/4 ounce of Dry Vermouth to the cocktail glass, swirl once, and dump it. Stir Gin with ice, and pour the strained cold Gin into the seasoned glass.
So, set Two: No modification (mild Vermouth), Dry (nearly NO Vermouth) or Wet (full Vermouth.)
Option Three: Shall I water that down for you?
All clear cocktails must be stirred. That is the rule, so sayeth Jerry Thomas. Here, we have the option to break that rule.
Stirred: All the ingredients are gently stirred with ice. This slowly chills the drink, but only dilutes it over time.
Shaken: All the ingredients are vigorously shaken with ice. This quickly chills the drink and quickly dilutes it.
As you all know from my previous posts, shaking a cocktail enhances it. So, I prefer mine shaken.
And there we have set Three: Shaken or Stirred.
Option Four: Up or Over?
Option four wants to know: Over ice, or straight up?
Over means that your Martini will be strained into a tumbler (lowball) with ice in it.
Up means that your Martini will be strained into a chilled cocktail glass, NO ice.
Optional: Eron’s Rule –
If you have your Martini shaken, do not order it Over. …you’ll be ordering Gin-flavored water.
Option Five: Shall I wreck your drink?
Option five is what I call “flavor enhancements.” Want a little brine from the cocktail olives in your Martini? That’s “Dirty.” Want a lot? That’s “Very Dirty.” How about a dash of bitters? A squeeze of lemon? A drop of rose flower water? It’s all possible, and all: WRONG. It may be part of our modern vernacular, but that doesn’t make it right.
Option Six: Your garnish?
A Martini implies lemon twist. That’s the traditional.
A Gibson implies two or three cocktail onions. Again, traditional.
Olives came about as a way of introducing color to an otherwise very bland looking drink.
Anyway, most Bartenders will confirm your garnish when finishing your drink, but you can preload them with a not-so-subtle: “One onion” or “Two olives”. If you order more than two onions or olives, just ask for a “Martini Salad” and be done with it.
Now that I’ve run all that down…
How do you take your Martini?
Brandon Snowsell said:
I go slightly dry I suppose with 1/4 Oz vermouth to 2 Oz gin. And, I love olives, so I always have 3. And occasionally (if I’m rationing my gin) I’ve been known to use 1 Oz gin and 1 Oz vodka. The 3 olive rule never changes though.
Nice. Shaken or stirred? Up or over?
Oh, regarding half Gin half Vodka: I’m a fan of the Vesper (as I’ve noted repeatedly up here) but the Gin used really needs to be heavy citrus. In a Martini, I’ve tried Half/Half, but it leaves me cold.
Brandon Snowsell said:
I’d always heard that shaking gin bruised it–although I have no idea what that means. So, with gin, I tend to swirl in the shaker vs. a vigorous shake.
A martini in a rocks glass? Over ice? I shudder.
I’ve tried one martini, probably, in fact definitely wrong from your descriptions above. It was disgusting.
Martini shaken is always a nice starting point. The icy water really helps mellow things out.