What Is a Martini?

Staff Writer
We've got the best martini recipe, plus the scoop on how to tell the difference between a martini and a cocktail

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Any cocktail that isn’t exclusively comprised of gin, vermouth, and an olive isn’t a true martini.

When it comes to martinis, we’ve got bad news and we’ve got good news. Bad news first: your favorite cocktail is most likely not a martini, even though you may think it is. Now for the good news: the fact that your cocktail isn’t a martini doesn’t invalidate your favorite drink. Most mixed drinks may not be martinis, but they are delightful on their own terms. Plus, we’ve got the best martini recipe available for you, should you ever decide to give a true martini a shot.

So how do you tell if what you’re drinking is really a martini? First off, are you ordering it in a self-proclaimed “martini bar” that offers a cocktail menu containing a thousand different options? If your answer is yes, chances are your drink is not a  true martini. The same is true if your cocktail comes in a color other than clear. Pink martinis; blue martinis; rose-colored French martinis; citrine-green appletinis; chocolate-brown mochatinis; rich, ruby pomegranate martinis: these are cocktails, friend, not martinis, and there’s no need to appropriate the martini name for these concoctions of varying levels of legitimacy and deliciousness.

So what actually goes into a martini? Three things: the most important element is gin. A true martini is prepared almost entirely – and exclusively – with gin. Not vodka, not chocolate liqueur, gin. The second ingredient is dry vermouth, and the third is an olive. The ratio of gin to vermouth varies widely, and every martini drinker has their own preferred ratio. Winston Churchill, legendarily, prepared his martini extra dry: he poured gin into the glass, and cast a glance at the bottle of vermouth across the room.

Personally, we’re partial to the vermouth swirl: swish a bit of vermouth around the inside of the glass to coat it, and then throw the remaining vermouth down the sink. This method has the benefit of developing correct proportions for any size glass, but may appear a bit wasteful.

Any cocktail that isn’t exclusively comprised of gin, vermouth, and an olive isn’t a true martini. In fact, if you so much as substitute a cocktail onion for an olive, you’re creating a Gibson (which is a wonderful cocktail), not a true martini.

Try out the Best Martini Recipe.

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