Vodka Martini

Shaken or stirred, with a twist or an olive — few cocktails evoke the same sense of sophistication as the iconic vodka martini. Learn how to make this alluring cocktail at home, perfectly every time.

Two vodka martinis with olives in them on a white table.

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Vodka Martini recipe

If you’re looking for a cocktail steeped in history and elegance, start with a vodka martini.

From its origins in the early 20th century to its iconic status today, the martini’s cultural significance and enduring appeal make this sophisticated cocktail a great choice, time after time.

While normally made with gin, the vodka version is just as delicious. In fact, this rendition was James Bond’s famous preference.

It’s one of my favorite cocktails — let me show you how to make it to perfection every single time.

More vodka drink recipes: Moscow MuleVodka CranberryGuava CosmopolitanScrewdriver

Olives in a vodka martini glass with a toothpick.

Why you’ll love this recipe

You’ll love this classic cocktail recipe, for a few big reasons:

  • The vodka martini exudes sophistication and class. It’s a drink every home bartender should know.
  • With variations in preparation, garnishes and ratios of vodka to vermouth, it’s customizable to your individual preferences.
  • Its prominent place in pop culture, from literature to film, adds to its allure and taste of classic glamour.

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, 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.

Olives on a plate with a spoon and fork, perfect for complementing your vodka martini.

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.

Ingredients

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

  • Vodka: Gin is classic but vodka works really well. Gin is more herbal and floral, while vodka has more of a clean flavor. Use a high-quality bottle.
  • 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.

Don’t miss Vodka 101 where you can learn more about which bottles to buy.

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.

Two vodka martinis garnished with olives on a white surface.

Garnishes

The Vodka Martini can be garnished a few different ways. Here are some common garnishes you can try in this cocktail:

  • Lemon twist: A piece of lemon zest is the classic martini garnish and adds a spritz of citrus aroma, flavor and flair.
  • Olives: Green olives — especially blue cheese olives — are another iconic choice.
  • Cocktail onions: A classic garnish for the Gibson variation, these pearls of onion add a punch of flavor and fragrance.
  • Pickles: Try a pickle martini for a delicious twist on the classic with pickle brine and a pockle garnish.

Types of martinis

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:

Gin martini: If you’re not a vodka fan, you can opt for the classic martini recipe.

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.

Two glasses with vodka martinis garnished with olives and a spoon.

Customizing your martini

There are a few ways to adjust the recipe to yield different flavors and textures in the martini.

Dry vs. wet

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.

Shaken vs. stirred

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

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

Shaken martini: These are 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, over-mixing the ingredients and diluting them with ice faster than a gentle stir.

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

How to make a Vodka Martini

Sorry, 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.)

Here’s how to make them the right way:

A person pouring a vodka martini into a glass pitcher.
A vodka martini cocktail glass with a gold spoon in it.
A person pouring a vodka martini into a glass.
  1. Add a few ice cubes. Stir the vodka and vermouth together using a bar spoon, gently, until the mixture is chilled.
  2. Then, strain the drink into a martini glass.
  3. Add a dash or two of orange bitters and garnish with a lemon twist or an olive or two.
Two vodka martinis garnished with olives

Tips & tricks

Here are some tips and tricks for making the best vodka 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 or a 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 a Vodka Martini

Martinis are the perfect 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 pomegranate martini or an apple martini.

Two vodka martini glasses with olives in them.

FAQ

What is in a vodka martini?

While martinis are usually made with gin, they can also be made with vodka. A Vodka Martini is made with plain vodka, dry vermouth, bitters and a lemon twist for garnish. However, some people prefer gin, more or less vermouth or a splash olive brine and an olive garnish.

What do you call a martini with just vodka?

When a martini is made with vodka instead of gin, it’s typically called a vodka martini. Sometimes it is called a vodkatini or a kangaroo martini.

Is a vodka martini just straight vodka?

Vodka martinis are based on the classic gin martini recipe. They contain vodka, dry vermouth and a splash of bitters. To garnish, they are usually served with a lemon twist or a green olive.

More classic cocktails

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Two vodka martini glasses with olives in them.

Vodka Martini

Yield: 1 drink
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Whip up a classic Vodka Martini with your favorite vodka instead of the usual gin.
5 from 1 vote
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ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • olives or lemon twist, for garnish

instructions

  • Add a few ice cubes to a mixing glass. Add the vodka and vermouth.
  • Stir the vodka and vermouth together using a bar spoon, gently, until the mixture is chilled.
  • Strain the drink into a martini glass.
  • Add a dash or two of orange bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist or an olive or two.

notes

Here are some tips and tricks for making the best vodka 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 (with gin) or a dirty martini (with a splash of olive brine) 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.

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As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

nutrition information

Yield: 1 drink

amount per serving:

Serving: 3ounces Calories: 176kcal Carbohydrates: 2g Protein: 0.1g Fat: 2g Saturated Fat: 0.2g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g Monounsaturated Fat: 1g Sodium: 188mg Potassium: 6mg Fiber: 0.4g Sugar: 0.2g Vitamin A: 47IU Calcium: 6mg Iron: 0.1mg
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