Martinis 101

“Shaken, not stirred.”

Well to that, I say, “That’s just one way to order a martini, James Bond.”

I’m talking about vermouth on the blog this month, and I couldn’t not dedicate a whole post to this quintessential cocktail. 007 would approve, I’m sure.

The classic martini is made with 1 ounce dry vermouth, 2 ounces gin, maybe a dash or two of orange bitters and an olive garnish in a cocktail glass.

All those drinks your local sushi bar sells on martini night? Yeah, those aren’t really martinis. Just fancy drinks served in martini glasses.

(Hey, I’m guilty of enjoying those too. Check out this Peppermint White Chocolate Martini and this Birthday Cake Martini recipe for proof.)

However, there are a ton of ways to order a true martini at a bar. Try them, find your favorite and — most of all — sound like a pro when you talk to the bartender.

If you’re a martini newbie, I recommend ordering a martini with the classic 3:1 ratio, then trying other variations to see what you like.

Martinis 101, a guide to ordering and mixing the classic cocktail // Feast + West

Ways to order a martini

“A martini, please”

The classic martini is made with 1 ounce dry vermouth, 3 ounces gin, a dash or two of orange bitters and an olive garnish in a cocktail glass.

Dry martini

The less vermouth used in the cocktail, the drier it is. If you order a ‘very dry martini,’ the vermouth is just lightly sloshed around the glass instead of actually getting mixed in. A ‘desert martini’ — Winston Churchhill’s favorite — is made without vermouth at all. ‘Bone dry’ means it has very little vermouth.

Wet martini

Quite contrary, use more dry vermouth in a wet martini.

50-50

This version has equal parts dry vermouth and gin.

Perfect

A perfect martini has equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, plus gin of course.

Upside-down / reverse

This version utilizes more vermouth than gin.

Martini mixing techniques

Stirred

Stirred in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass.

Shaken

Mixed in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass. (Even though James Bond ordered his martinis this way, it’s technically wrong. But you do you!)

Straight up

If a martini is served straight up, it’s shaken or stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass without ice.

Ice, ice baby

Neat

In a martini served neat, no ice is used. Whether it’s shaken or stirred, this one is usually served close to room temperature.

On the rocks

Shaken or stirred, this is a martini poured over ice into a rocks glass. As the ice melts, it will dilute the potency of the cocktail.

Bruised

A martini shaken so vigorously, that little tiny ice chips float on top. Shaking the ice also dilutes the mixture just a bit, so this is great for anyone who finds martinis a bit strong.

Garnishes

Dirty

A dirty martini has a splash of olive brine added to the drink and is garnished with an olive. Order it ‘very dirty’ and you’ll get extra olive brine and extra olives.

You can also try this pickle martini made with pickles instead of olives.

With a twist

This one will come with a twist of thinly-sliced lemon peel. Be sure to specify if you’d prefer not to get a skewer with an olive on it.

Martini variations

As with all classic cocktails, there are a few variations that turn into totally different drinks.

Vodka martini

If you’re not a gin fan, you can opt for vodka in lieu of gin. James Bond is also a vodka martini fan, so you’ll be in good company here.

Gibson

Garnish the martini with a cocktail onion and it becomes a Gibson. Also, it’s often made with Plymouth gin.

Martinez

This is the drink that inspired the martini. Make one with 2 ounces gin + 3/4 ounce sweet vermouth + 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur + a dash of Angostura bitters + a lemon twist for garnish.

Marguerite

Equal parts gin and dry vermouth and a dash of orange bitters, the Marguerite is served with a lemon twist for garnish.

French martini

A fruity cocktail, this one’s a mixture of vodka, pineapple juice and crème de cassis, which is a sweet, dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants.

Vesper

Another James Bond favorite, this one is shaken with 3 ounces gin, 1 ounce of vodka and 1/4 ounce Lillet Blonde and garnished with a thin slice of lemon peel.

Rob Roy

More of a cousin to the Manhattan than the Martini, this one is worth a mention for whiskey drinkers who’d like to foray into martinis — or martini drinks who’d like to try whiskey.

Make it with 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 1/2 ounces Scotch whiskey and a dash of Angostura bitters, served straight up or mixed in a rocks glass, with a garnish of a cocktail cherry or a lemon twist.


Me? I’ll take a very dirty martini, bruised, with extra olives. (Actually, you can just give me the whole jar of vermouth-brined olives on the side, please and thank you.) // susannah 

(Sources: The Gin FoundryLiquor.com, Esquire, Imbibe Magazine

How do you take your martinis?

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  1. gayle Carbajal says

    I love Vodka and cocktail onion juice, I have three jars of onions no juice. They need to sell it like they do olive juice.

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