Classic Martini

Meet the Classic Martini, made with gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters, and its many variations from dry to dirty. It’s stirred, not shaken (sorry, James Bond), and oh-so-smooth. Learn how to order one at a bar and make this cocktail at home just to your liking — the martini never goes out of style.

Two classic martini glasses with lemon slices in them.

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Classic Martini recipe

When I was in bartending school I learned how to make martinis and its many, many twists — but I wouldn’t drink one. Fast forward a decade, and I fell in love with these olive-studded drinks. Now they’re my go-to cocktail.

Martinis are definitely an acquired taste: They’re dry, not sweet, and have hints of herbs and citrus, thanks to the gin and bitters.

But if you’re ready to learn how to make this delicious classic cocktail at home, this is the guide for you.

Below we will go over all of the many martini variations, from dirty to dessert. We’ll talk about whether you should shake or stir your martinis, what tools you’ll need and the best martini glasses.

And, of course, how to adjust the dryness, temperature and garnishes to make this drink your own. I’ll even teach you how to order a martini at a bar!

More classic cocktail recipes: NegroniOld-FashionedGimlet

A classic martini with a lemon garnish.

Why you’ll love this recipe

If you love martinis, you’ll love making this classic recipe at home. They are the pinnacle of classiness!

  • They’re classic recipe that every home bartender needs to know how to make.
  • You only need three ingredients to make a martini at home.
  • Once you know the classic recipe, you can tweak it to make them just how you like them. There are so many variations to try!

Enjoy one after a long day or serve them for happy hour. Make a pitcher for a party (à la Gilmore Girls’ Friday night dinners) or have a few at a business lunch (like Don Draper in Mad Men).

Classic martini with lemon garnish.

What is a martini?

The martini is a classic cocktail made with gin, dry vermouth and orange bitters. In its most classic form, this mixed drink is served straight up and with a lemon twist in a chilled, stemmed martini glass.

But that’s just the start. Martinis have dozens of variations. You can use vodka instead of gin and more or less dry vermouth. You can serve them cold or room temperature. You can add a splash of olive brine and garnish it with olives.

Though classic martinis are savory cocktails, we can’t ignore the existence of the dessert martini. From the espresso martini to the peppermint martini to the lemon drop martini, there are tons of martinis that have a sweet flavor profile. Though they are served in martini glasses, they are not really martinis in the classic sense.

History of the martini

Like many classic drinks, this simple cocktail’s history is more muddled. According to Food52, the history of the martini could have come from a bar in Martinez, Calif. during the mid-1800s Gold Rush.

A struck-it-rich gold miner ordered champagne to celebrate his good fortune at a local bar, but they were out; instead, the bartender concocted a drink with ingredients he did have: gin, vermouth, bitters, maraschino liqueur and lemon. That drink became known as the “Martinez Special” and gained so much popularity, it was published in the Bartender’s Manual in the 1880s.

Other stories credit the recipe to the brand of vermouth Martini & Rossi created in the 1800s, to a bar in San Francisco for a customer headed to Martinez and to the bar at Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City.

Wherever it came from, the martini hasn’t gone out of style since its inception. It was popular in the 1950s and 1960s as a lunchtime drink for businesspeople and as a dinner party cocktail.

And it’s seen its fair share of stardom in Hollywood, too. Agent 007 ordering them in the James Bond movies. Don Draper mixed them up in his office in the show Mad Men. And it was the Friday night dinner drink of choice for the Gilmore Girls.

Two classic martini glasses with lemon wedges in them.

Tools & glassware

Making a martini is simple. You are not going to need a cocktail shaker here. Contrary to James Bond’s usual order (”shaken, not stirred”), the best martinis are stirred.

You will want to use a mixing glass and a bar spoon. (However, you can use the shaker as a mixing glass if that’s what you have.) You’ll also want a jigger and a Hawthorne strainer.

To serve the drink, you’ll need a martini glass, of course! There are lots of kinds of martini glasses. Traditional martini glasses are V-shaped vessels with a stem. However, stemless martini glasses are a bit sturdier and coupe glasses have wider cup-shapes.

 
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Martini ingredients

The martini is a fairly simple cocktail. It’s made with three ingredients:

  • Gin: Gin is classic but vodka can also be used. London Dry Gin is most popular, but you can use any kind of gin. Some have more floral and herbal flavors, while others taste more like pine and juniper berries. Vodka is also a light, crisp and clean substitute. 
  • Dry vermouth: Dry vermouth is a fortified wine with a pale color and slightly sweet flavor. It also goes by French vermouth, white vermouth or vermouth secco.
  • Orange bitters: Bitters add extra flavor to a cocktail. Orange bitters offer a slight zing of sweet citrus to balance the drink.
  • Lemon twist: A piece of lemon zest is the classic martini garnish. However, you can substitute olives (especially blue cheese olives) or a cocktail onion.
decorative icon of a martini glass.

How to store vermouth

An opened bottle of vermouth should be stored in the fridge. It will taste best if enjoyed within a month, but will still taste okay for about two months total. After that, it’s time to toss it and open a new bottle of vermouth.

A classic martini with a lemon slice in it.

How to order a martini

On this page, you will find the classic gin martini recipe, made with dry vermouth, gin, orange bitters and a lemon twist garnish.

But there are so many ways to make a martini! Here are some of the top ways you can order them:

Dryness: This refers to the gin to vermouth ratio. Order it dry (less vermouth), wet (slightly more), upside-down (lots more) or 50/50 (equal parts).

Preparation: You’ve heard of shaken (made in a cocktail shaker) and stirred (made in a mixing glass). Once combined, the mixture is then strained into a glass.

Temperature: Most martinis are served straight up, meaning they are prepared with ice but served without it, usually in a chilled glass. If you want your martini room temperature, order it neat. If you like them ice cold, you can order them on the rocks, meaning over ice. You can also order them bruised, because they are shaken so hard, little ice chips float on top.

Flavor and flourish: With a twist of lemon peel and a dash of orange bitters is the ultimate classic. If you want some extra flavor, you can order it dirty which means it comes with a splash of olive juice and an olive garnish. Extra dirty will get you more brine and more olives. Prefer a cocktail onion? That’s called a Gibson.

How do I take mine? I like a very dirty martini with vodka, extra green olives, served straight up and a little bruised.

Two classic martini glasses with lemons and gold spoons.

Dry vs. wet martini

Dryness refers to the amount of vermouth in your martini. Vermouth has a very slightly sweet flavor, so the more you adjust the ratio to feature more gin flavor, the dryer and less sweet the cocktail is. However, you can also add more vermouth or equal parts gin and vermouth if that’s what you like.

Dry martini: Add more gin

If you like these drinks drier, choose a recipe with a higher gin to vermouth ratio.

Dry martini: The less vermouth used in the cocktail, the drier it is. In general this is just called a

Very dry martini / bone dry martini: Very little vermouth here. A touch of vermouth is lightly sloshed around the glass instead of actually getting mixed in.

Desert martini: Winston Churchill’s favorite martini is made without vermouth at all. 

Upside-down martini: If you use more dry vermouth than gin, you will wind up with an upside-down martini, AKA reverse martini.

Wet martini: Add more vermouth

But if you like the sweetness that dry vermouth brings, you can pare down the gin instead.

Wet martini: This one uses a splash more of dry vermouth than in the classic.

50-50 martini: This version has balanced, equal parts dry vermouth and gin.

Perfect martini: A perfect martini has equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, plus gin of course. It is more brown in color thanks to the addition of sweet vermouth.

A classic glass filled with ice and a gold straw.

Shaken vs. stirred martini

You’ve probably heard that some martinis are shaken and some are stirred, but what does that mean exactly?

The stirred martini is is the most proper way to prepare a martini. The ingredients are stirred in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass filled with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass.

Then there’s the shaken martini. It’s mixed in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, then strained into a cocktail glass. Good old James Bond famously orders his martinis this way in the movies, but he was technically wrong… This method has too much friction, overmixing the ingredients and diluting them with ice faster than a gentle stir.

Martini temperature

Martinis are usually served cold, sometimes even in a chilled martini glass. But you can prepare them even colder or room temperature. Here are the main ways:

Straight up: If a martini is served straight up, it’s shaken or stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass without ice, making it nice and chilled. Most martinis are served straight up without you having to ask.

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: But if you want to sip your martini over ice, you can order a martini on the rocks. It can be shaken or stirred, then poured over ice into a rocks glass. As the ice melts, it dilutes the potency of the cocktail.

Bruised: A martini shaken so vigorously, that little tiny ice chips float on top. Shaking with ice also dilutes the mixture just a bit, so this is great for anyone who finds martinis a bit strong or who wants them super duper cold

A classic Martini with lemons and garnishes on a marble table.

Flavors & garnishes

The martini can usually go two different ways when it comes to seasonings and garnishes: something citrus or something pickled.

With a twist: A classic martini often gets a lemon twist and a few dashes of orange bitters.

Olive garnish: A few olives on a cocktail pick are classic too. A few drops of of olive juice adds saltiness and brininess to the drink.

  • Dirty martini: If you prefer, you can add ½ ounce olive juice to make a dirty martini.
  • Extra dirty martini: And if you want to add even more, call it extra dirty

Pickles: You can substitute pickle slices or cornichons for the olives and use a splash of pickle juice instead of olive brine to make a pickle martini.

Cocktail onions: You can also use pickled pearl onions called cocktail onions to garnish your martini. But if you do, it’s called a Gibson!

Variations of the martini

As with all classic cocktails, there are a few variations that turn into totally different drinks. Here are some of the top types of martinis:

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 + ¾ ounce sweet vermouth + ¼ 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.

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 drinkers who’d like to get into whiskey. Make it with 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 ½ 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.

Mexican Martini: This spin on the classic martini is made with tequila and lime juice, plus olives and vermouth. It’s almost like a cross between a martini and a margarita.

A classic martini being poured into a martini glass.

How to make a martini the right way

Sorry again, James Bond, we will not be shaking our martinis! Shaking a martini invigorates the ingredients with ice, causing the ice to melt faster and dilute the drink.

(But if you like it that way, I’m not going to stop you! Martinis are all about making them to your individual taste.)

A classic glass filled with ice and a gold straw.
A classic martini being poured into a martini glass.

So get out a mixing glass (or use any glass or shaker) and add a few ice cubes. Stir the gin and vermouth together using a bar spoon, gently, until the mixture is chilled.

Then, strain the drink into a martini glass. Add a dash or two of orange bitters and garnish with a lemon twist.

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making a martini:

  • Stir, don’t shake. This will keep the drink from getting too diluted with ice, while still chilling the ingredients enough.
  • Try variations like the original Martinez or the dirty martini to find your go-to recipe.
  • Play with the ratio of gin to dry vermouth to make it dryer or wetter and perfect your favorite martini.
  • If you want to make martinis for a crowd, you can stir up a big batch and serve them from a large pitcher. You can also stash it in the fridge for yourself so you can have martinis ready to drink anytime.

What to serve with martinis

Martinis are a great happy hour drink to enjoy before a meal, especially because they are savory cocktails.

Enjoy them with appetizers like spinach & artichoke dip or a charcuterie board.

For dessert, you might want to make a dessert martini instead, such as a tiramisu martini or strawberry martini.

a sliced strawberry on a gold cocktail pick over a pink cocktail.

Dessert martinis

Speaking of dessert martinis, if you want to try your hand at some sweet martinis after dinner, these are some great recipes to try:

FAQ

What is in a classic martini?

Martinis are made with gin, dry vermouth, bitters and a lemon twist for garnish. However, some people prefer vodka, more or less vermouth or a splash olive brine and an olive garnish.

What type of gin is best for a classic martini?

London dry gin is the most common type of gin for a classic martinis, but you can use other types of gin depending on your taste. Some gins have more floral and botanical flavors, while others are more herbal and juniper-forward.

Should a martini be served with an olive or a lemon twist?

This is a matter of personal preference. The classic martini has a lemon twist for a citrusy aroma, but others opt for olives which have a briny and savory note. Some folks like cocktail onions, which rebrands the drink as a Gibson.

More gin cocktails

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Classic martini with lemon garnish.

Classic Martini

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
The gin martini is a classic cocktail every home bartender should try making once. From there, you can experiment with the recipe to perfect your martini game.
5 from 36 votes
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ingredients

  • 2 ounces London Dry gin
  • 1 ounce vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 1 lemon twist for garnish

instructions

  • Add a few ice cubes to a mixing glass. Add the gin and dry vermouth.
  • With a bar spoon, gently stir together until the mixture is chilled.
  • Strain the drink into a martini glass.
  • Add a dash or two of orange bitters and garnish with a lemon twist.

notes

If you don’t have a mixing glass, you can use a cocktail shaker or any type of glass. 
If you want to make martinis for a crowd, you multiply the recipe to make a big batch and serve them from a large pitcher. You can also stash it in the fridge for yourself so you can have martinis ready to drink anytime.
To make a dirty martini, add a splash of olive brine instead of bitters and garnish with green olives. 

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nutrition information

Yield: 1 drink

amount per serving:

Serving: 3ounces Calories: 158kcal Carbohydrates: 2g Protein: 0.02g Sodium: 1mg Potassium: 1mg Sugar: 0.1g Iron: 0.02mg
did you make this recipe?Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #feastandwestrecipes!
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