The modern mixologist has many drink varieties hiding up their sleeves, with most having their own take on the classic Martini recipe. It is perhaps one of the most highly personalized cocktails, with countless garnishes and ingredient ratios. Different trends over the last hundred years have resulted in endless Martini recipe variations. Explore today’s variety of twists and new takes on this historical favorite.
The History of the Martini
What many believe to be the precursor to the Martini was born in a place called Martinez, California. After finding a significant amount of gold while mining, a miner decided that he wanted to celebrate and ended up with a new drink consisting of gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and bitters named the “Martinez Special.” Historians would later debate if Martinez, California was the drink’s true origin. Some believe that the drink came from a common mixture with Martini & Rossi vermouth and was simply shortened to “Martini” instead.
What we know for certain is in 1888, the first official recipe for the martini was published in Henry Johnson’s “Bartender Manual”. It’s listed as a mixture of old tom gin, sweet vermouth, orange Curaçao, gum, Boker’s bitters and a lemon twist. There are similar cocktails published in the same era by other names which have slight variations however, no others were recorded as the Martini.
Over the next half a century, the Martini’s notoriety grew in popularity, earning it James Bond’s famous endorsement, “shaken, not stirred.” By the 1950s and 1960s, the Martini was a favorite in the hands of businessmen who embraced the “three Martini lunch” rule during the work week. The 80s ushered in a new category of Martinis or “-tinis”, which have little to do with the classic other than their V-shaped glassware and their use of vodka. Today, the craft cocktail renaissance has born modern variations that hold truer to the classic.
The Martini Recipe Variations
The Martini has had well over a hundred years to adapt and evolve in response to the tastes of those who enjoy them. As is the case with many old classics, more people began to explore minor variations of the Martini to see how little changes could influence the flavor.
The Spirit Ratio – Depending on who you ask, a Martini recipe might include any number of ratios and fluids when it comes to mixing ingredients.
*Extra Dry – 1 ½ parts gin & 1 part vermouth *50/50 – 1 ½ parts gin & 1 ½ parts vermouth *Reverse – 1 part gin & 2 parts vermouth
The Garnish – You can find Martinis with everything from olives to onions to citrus twists, with some cocktails characteristically garnished with a specific one.
The Preparation – Few mentions of the Martini are more famous than those referenced in James Bond with the iconic line, “shaken, not stirred,” a quote that refers directly to the preparation of the Martini.
*Shaken – Drinks should be shaken when there are ingredients that are not exclusively alcohol-based included in the drink. The flavor is generally well-mixed and can be diluted by the ice. *Stirred – Drinks should be stirred when they contain only alcohol-based fluids in different varieties. This allows the flavors to blend without overwhelming each other and helps to avoid watering them down with chipped ice.
There are many variations of the Martini, each one offering a new twist or flavor. When it comes to Martini variations, there is always something for everyone to enjoy.
1. The Classic Martini
The classic Martini Is a simple yet potent cocktail that brings together gin, dry vermouth, and orange bitters. It is most commonly paired with an olive or lemon twist for garnish, giving it its distinguishing appearance from all other cocktails.
Many people believe that the Martinez was the precursor to the Martini, but modern bartenders relate it more to the Manhattan. It combines London Dry Gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Angostura bitters.
The Reverse Martini recipe reverses (hence the name) the standard ratio 2:1 of gin to dry vermouth, creating a vermouth forward cocktail. This subtle swap creates a lower proof cocktail that’s perfect for those who appreciate a quality vermouth.
This Martini variation takes its name from the exclusive New York suburban hideaway, Tuxedo Park. The recipe pairs mild gin with Fino sherry in place of dry vermouth and orange bitters for a delicious and delicate finish.
First introduced in the 1980s, the Espresso Martini combines vodka and espresso. The creation of this Martini variation ushered in a new era of drinks that are generally made with vodka and include “Martini” or “-tini” in the name. While not regarded as a true “Martini”, it receives an acknowledgement here for it’s impact.