What Is a Martini


It does not stretch the truth to say that the Martini, a simple yet timeless concoction, is the epitome of the cocktail. From the buzzing Manhattan socialites to the timeless cool of James Bond, it seems that everyone has enjoyed the Martini in his or her own special way. This drink, one of the oldest sustained recipes of our time, represents everything the cocktail is supposed to, refinement, class, and a strong appreciation of liquor to boot. It becomes very interesting, then, that such a simple cocktail of gin (or vodka) and vermouth has become such an intricate and monumental study into the exact measurements of perfection. All cocktails that have existed beyond a certain point have something in common: an ongoing debate of just who created it. The Martini, older than most, has therefore had some of the most heated debates of our time, with various recipes resembling the classic Martini and hotel bars on both sides of the coast demanding credit. The most likely story, however, is credited to the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, where after the gold rush miners from the nearby town of Martinez would arrive and demand cheap alcohol with something to mask the taste. The low-quality gin would be mixed with vermouth, and this soon became known as the “Martinez” cocktail. Long after the invention of the Martini, however, came its heyday in the form of Prohibition. Before Prohibition most of society drank liquor straight, with cocktails seeming out of fashion, but once people started resorting to bathtub gin, which had a less than desirable flavor, people needed some kind of cocktail to lessen the punishing taste. Once the recipe for the Martini was discovered, the drink quickly became the standard cocktail to which all others were measured. Of course, if the Martini is in fact the definitive cocktail, it owes its success at least in part to one man: James Bond. His iconic order of a “vodka martini, shaken, not stirred,” inspired a whole new generation to give this iconic mixture a try. While James Bond was always a favor of the newer vodka permutation of the classic gin Martini, his ordering of the drink caused a whole new decade to consider the drink with the respect that it deserves. James Bond also invented variations on the Martini, most notably the Vesper, a drink made famous during Casino Royale, which was a play on a gin and vodka martini with a twist. Other versions include the Bronx, which includes orange juice into the final mixture, but surprisingly many of the drinks ending in “-tini” nowadays, including the appletini and melontini, are only related to the classic because of the glass that they are served in. The Martini is classically made with 2 ounces of gin and half an ounce dry vermouth, although the vermouth is varied based upon how dry one wants the Martini. In fact, very dry Martinis include no vermouth at all, prompting Joel Coward’s quote saying that a perfect Martini is made by “filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.” With all of its time in the world of bartending, the Martini has become endlessly customizable, from up or on the rocks, dry or wet, or even twist, olive or onion (an onion turning the drink into a Gibson). And while everyone has their own personal Martini order, none of them are wrong, and none of them are not the perfect Martini.