The martini is a classic American cocktail with timeless popularity. Made with varying proportions of gin and dry vermouth, the martini is an alcoholic beverage with endless variations. Figures throughout history, both real and fictional, have been known to adopt martinis as their drink of choice. One of the most widely recognized examples of this is the infamous fictitious British government agent, James Bond, who coined the phrase “shaken, not stirred” in relation to his regular martini drink order.
The original martini was a concoction of gin, vermouth, and orange bitters or an olive. In the years and decades following its conception, people created new twists and interpretations of the classic martini. Nowadays, martini varieties are endless, and many are unrecognizable from the recipe of the very first martini. What remains the same is this cocktail’s reputation as a clean and crisp drink. In fact, bartenders throughout its history have called martinis by other names to reflect its refreshing flavor, including “crisp cocktail” and “silver bullet”.
The martini is an offshoot of the Martinez, a cocktail that includes many of the same ingredients as the classic martini. The ingredients in a Martinez are one and one half parts gin (classically Old Tom style), one and one half parts sweet vermouth, one quarter parts maraschino cherry liqueur, and two dashes of bitters. This combination is then shaken with ice, strained, and garnished with an orange twist.
Olives are an iconic inclusion in the martini, but the reasons behind this fact are difficult to prove. The most commonly accepted reason behind the olive’s role in martinis states that it was the contribution of the grandfather or Dr. Ammar Martini, a Syrian man belonging to the Syrian Red Crescent. Dr. Martini says that his grandfather moved to Paris in the mid-1940s – there, he managed a restaurant and began adding olives to the classic martini cocktail. Olives were his addition of choice because his home province in Syria was known for their olives.
Martinis may have an unclear history, but their reign as an emblematic American drink is far from over. All types of martinis exist today, with new takes on the classic being adopted all the time. People differ greatly in preference when it comes to ratio of alcohols in martinis, as well as how the drink is prepared. But, with all that said, one thing is for sure: martinis won’t be going out of style anytime soon.
A dry martini is, in essence, a classic martini. It’s made using the “regular” amount of dry vermouth in proportion to gin. This means that the drink will consist of five parts gin, one part dry vermouth. A dry martini may also mean that the orderer wants a smaller amount of dry vermouth than is usual. Most martinis that were drunk during Prohibition in the United States were dry. Prohibition drastically changed American cocktails and, with vermouth rarely an option, martinis at this time typically consisted of diluted gin and an olive. Gin was one of the spirits of choice in America at this time, and dry martinis were one of the characteristic cocktails of the era.
Main Features of Dry Martinis
- An extra dry martini is for those who would like a very small amount of dry vermouth in their cocktail. This may mean that only a dash or a drop of vermouth will be added. Or, the vermouth may just be swirled around the glass, to create a super-thin layer.
- Sometimes, a dry martini is used as a tongue-in-cheek way to order a martini without any vermouth added at all. Bartenders may go through the motions of pouring the vermouth – but with the cap on the bottle – when an extra dry martini is ordered.
- The first-ever dry martini was made using Plymouth gin in 1904. Dating back to 1793, Plymouth gin uses a blend of seven different botanicals with a softer, smoother, and less sharp taste than many other gins. The included botanicals are juniper berries, coriander seed, orange peels, lemon peels, angelica root, green cardamom, and orris root.
A wet martini, in contrast to a dry martini, includes a higher amount of dry vermouth. This can range from just over a drizzle of vermouth to a drink consisting of 20% to 50% vermouth. But, the majority of accepted wet martini recipes call for one part vermouth and three parts gin or vodka. As you can tell, there are endless variations even on the wet martini.
Main Features of Wet Martinis
- Wet martinis are somewhat sweeter than dry martinis. This, of course, is due to the larger proportion of vermouth.
- Vermouth doesn’t have as high of an alcohol content as gin. So, incidentally, wet martinis are less alcoholic than dry martinis. As such, a wet martini may be a good choice for drinkers looking for something not quite as strong, but with a similar martini taste.
- A Fifty-Fifty is a type of wet martini that’s made up of half dry vermouth and half gin. This can also be called an “extra wet” martini, because it contains a very high amount of vermouth in relation to gin.
Shaken martinis are characterized by the way this classic cocktail is prepared. The drink is quite literally shaken – the alcohol is combined with ice, then shaken (normally using a cocktail shaker, which makes the process easy), and finally strained into the glass.
Shaken martinis are the iconic preference of the James Bond character (“shaken, not stirred”). This memorable movie moment is perhaps a contributing factor to the shaken martini’s level of popularity among cocktail lovers.
Some people may be skeptical over whether shaking a martini will provide a noticeable difference in flavor. For one, shaking the alcohol with ice will cause the ice to break apart slightly, watering down the drink by a small margin. Some say that the ice “flakes”, adding tiny bits of ice to the drink. This dilutes the alcohol for a somewhat less strong version of the notably strong martini.
Also, it’s a fact that shaking a drink makes it colder. By shaking a drink, its temperature can drop below freezing. This is a phenomenon that works to the advantage of many different types of cocktails, especially the martini. When shaken, the contact between the ice and the drink itself is heightened. The “surface area” of the drink is increased, which may attribute the fast drop in temperature.
Bartenders and alcohol aficionados will attest that shaking a drink takes away unstable organic compounds found in alcohol. Additionally, when air gets into the martini as its shaken, it oxidizes other compounds in the drink. This will alter the flavor of the drink, further proving that a shaken martini will taste different from one that is stirred.
Main Features of Shaken Martinis
- Shaking cocktails causes small air bubbles to enter the drink. This makes for a slight foaming sensation, which isn’t noticeable in the martini where it would be in other mixed drinks, namely those including cream, fruit juice, or some form of egg. Margaritas, Cosmopolitans, and Daiquiris are classic shaken drinks other than the martini.
- The small bits of ice that enter the alcohol when a martini is shaken will “cloud” the drink, lessening the purity of the alcohol.
- To make a shaken martini, it’s recommended to fill the cocktail shaker about halfway full with ice. This ratio will create the desired effect and cool down the drink without overfilling the shaker.
- Shaken martinis may often be described as having a lighter taste and texture than stirred martinis. This is because during the shaking process, the drink is aerated and develops a borderline bubbly quality.
In general, most bartenders will say that martinis are meant to be shaken, not stirred. This is because drinks that consist entirely of alcohol will be diluted, or become cloudy when shaken.
When a drink is stirred, the alcohol isn’t treated forcefully and doesn’t have as much movement when being combined. As a result, the texture of the alcohol remains the same and air doesn’t enter into the drink.
Main Features of Stirred Martinis
- Bartenders and drink makers will commonly stir a drink for a minimum of 30 seconds. Shaking a drink typically has a shorter duration than 30 seconds, but the long stirring technique will thoroughly mix the components of the drink while providing a minimal amount of dilution from the ice melting slightly.
- It’s impossible to get a stirred martini as cold as a shaken martini, although the gentle mixing process of a stirred martini will maintain the original consistency of the alcohol.
- Many people prefer a stirred martini to a shaken one because it’s said that shaking the martini will “bruise” the gin.
- The alcohol in a stirred martini is less diluted than in a shaken martini. This is because stirring is a gentler mixing process that causes less ice to enter into the drink. So, stirred martinis are generally a bit stronger than shaken ones.
The Gibson is an adaptation of the classic martini – more specifically, the dry martini. The main distinction between a dry martini and a Gibson martini is found in the garnish. Whereas a traditional dry martini is topped off with an olive or the rind of a citrus fruit, a Gibson has a less orthodox finishing touch: a pickled onion.
An onion is the crucial component of a Gibson and can enhance the flavor of the alcohol in the cocktail. Since onions have such a pungent flavor, you may find that the gin and vermouth hit new, complex flavor notes when you take a bite of the onion before taking a sip.
The creation of the Gibson is most recently thought to be thanks to Walter D.K. Gibson. D.K. Gibson, a businessman who lived in San Francisco, started enjoying this cocktail back in the 1800s. Gibson’s family has said that Walter believed pickled onions to be an effective remedy for the common cold.
Gibson martinis are far from mainstream in the modern world of cocktails. While they’re often seldom ordered in bars and restaurants, you can easily find a Gibson recipe online, as well as find several fans of this old-timey drink.
Main Features of Gibson Martinis
- Gibsons are garnished with a pearl onion or a pickled onion. But, Gibson’s may also be made with one of these onion varieties in addition to an olive.
- Some people may make a Gibson with such a dry recipe that it’s virtually just cold gin, plus the characteristic onion garnish.
- The Gibson cocktail made a memorable cinematic appearance in the 1950 film “All About Eve”. Starring Bette Davis, Gibsons are sipped onscreen in the film during the iconic party scene.
The Vesper martini is a take on the classic martini that’s been around for decades. Its claim to fame is as the drink of choice for James Bond. Specifically, this infamous British agent ordered a Vesper in Casino Royale, which is both a popular book and movie.
According to the James Bond book, which was released in the year of 1953, the Vesper that Bond ordered consisted of one measure of vodka, three measures of Gordon’s, and a half measure of Kina Lillet. This concoction was shaken over ice, poured, and garnished with a spiral of lemon peel. Gordon’s is a variety of dry gin and is native to London, United Kingdom. Kina Lillet is a type of wine with an unmistakable aroma. This wine contributes a special bitterness to the iconic Vesper.
Unfortunately, Kina Lillet is no longer available. In 1986, the Kina Lillet winemakers had to adapt to the world’s shifting alcoholic preferences. The name of the wine was changed to Lillet Blanc and the majority of its quinine, the reason behind the alcohol’s bitterness, was taken out. This resulted in a fruitier wine that seriously alters the taste of Bond’s signature drink. However, modern Vesper’s do generally use Lillet Blanc, accepting that the original Vesper had a taste that likely won’t be experienced in modern times.
Main Features of Vesper Martinis
- A Vesper is a notoriously strong drink, given that three measures is the approximate equivalent of four and a half ounces to six and three-thirds ounces of alcohol in the United States. This is just about double the amount of alcohol found in the typical cocktail.
- The Vesper martini is entirely alcoholic. James Bond’s favorite drinks are famously strong, so this is hardly surprising. But, know that if you opt for a Vesper as your drink of choice, you’ll likely need to cap it at one or two.
- According to the 1953 James Bond book, Bond’s Vesper was served in a “deep champagne goblet”. Nowadays, Vespers are usually just served in a regular cocktail glass.
- The Vesper gets its name from Vesper Lynd, a fictional main character in Casino Royale and one of the most memorable women in the Bond series.
A dirty martini has a splash of olive brine as the ingredient that separates it from a classic martini. Dirty martinis also usually have an olive as a garnish.
The olive brine in a dirty martini contributes both a touch of saltiness and acidity. This interesting, borderline savory flavor profile is what makes a dirty martini distinct and memorable. Dirty martinis are known for having a very strong, pungent flavor. Simply put, it’s not for everyone – people who enjoy dirty martinis must like a strong tang with salty and sour flavors. In fact, some may find that the intense flavor of the olive and olive brine cover up much of the alcoholic taste.
- There are different levels for how “dirty” people like a martini. Martinis are dirtier when they contain more olive brine. A very dirty martini will have an extremely strong sour and salty zip to it.
- A filthy martini is a dirty martini spin-off that takes out the olive brine and olive garnish, using a caperberry and caperberry brine instead.
- A caperberry is often mixed up with the caper, a commonly used ingredient in savory dishes. Caperberries are the fruit portion of the flower, while capers are the buds. Caperberries in brine are sour and have a flavor somewhat reminiscent of a pickle. Caperberries also have a stem, which is kept on when the berry is added to a filthy martini.
If you love the taste of coffee like so many other people across the world, you may be partial to an espresso martini. This variation on the typical martini may not be recognizable to cocktail classicists, as the ingredients are, for the most part, wholly dissimilar from that of the original martini. However, it uses a similar number and ratio of ingredients, is served cold, and is served in the traditional martini glass (though espresso martinis are also often served in coupes). Additionally, espresso martinis are shaken. It’s the shaking of the martini that adds air to the drink and, therefore, creates the creamy, coffee-flavored foam. The foam, or “crema”, is one of the most beloved elements of an espresso martini and adds a rich, decadent element to the cocktail.
Espresso martinis contain two parts vodka, one half parts simple syrup, one half parts coffee liqueur, and one part espresso. The cocktail is commonly garnished with three coffee beans, placed to look like the petals of a flower. Extra simple syrup may be added to the mixture to balance out the coffee flavor if an extra-strong espresso is used.
Espresso martinis were originally called vodka espressos. This drink is the invention of Dick Bradsell and dates back to 1983. While working at the Soho Brasserie in London, Bradsell created the concoction for a customer asking for a drink to “wake her up”. The coffee machine was stationed beside the drinks area, so the combination quickly came to Bradsell’s mind. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Bradsell changed the name of the drink from “vodka espresso” to “espresso martini”, then later in 1998 to the “pharmaceutical stimulant”, which is served on the rocks. Nowadays, all three names refer to virtually the same drink, made with slight variations (as almost all cocktails are).
Due to the inclusion of simple syrup, espresso martinis are quite sweet in flavor. This is different from the typical martini, which has a notoriously strong alcoholic taste. The sweetness that’s added to an espresso martini softens and complements the sharp kick from the espresso, as well as from the coffee liqueur. The sweet flavor also makes the espresso martini a common choice of after-dinner cocktail, consumed in place of a sugary dessert.
Main Features of Espresso Martinis
- Coffee has a strong, distinct flavor and gives espresso martinis a wholly unique flavor. Espresso tastes somewhat acidic, with an intense kick and notes of chocolate. Many coffee roasts also hit flavor notes of citrus.
- Espresso martinis are made with coffee and, therefore, contain a significant amount of caffeine. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it may cause you to fall asleep more easily. Caffeine, on the other hand, has the opposite effect and can inhibit sleep. So, when you drink an espresso martini, the coffee will negative the depressant side effects of alcohol. You’ll feel more focused and energized than you usually would after drinking alcohol.
- The simplistic mixed drink of vodka and the energy drink Red Bull may be said to be a distant, less complex cousin of the espresso martini. The two drinks are likened because of their caffeine content and the use of vodka.
The apple martini is a popular fruity cocktail. Sweet, tart, and alcoholic, the apple martini is served as cold as possible for a crisp, refreshing quality.
The apple martini is commonly called the “appletini” and is a well-known take on the regular martini, although its date of creation is relatively recent. As with any cocktail, the early history of this drink may be easily disputed. But, the most commonly accepted theory is that the appletini was conceived in Los Angeles at Lola’s West Hollywood restaurant. It was first made in 1996 during a Fourth of July party. The first apple martini (dubbed “Adam’s Apple Martini, for the name of the bartender present at the time) was made with DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker and Ketel One in a one-to-one ratio.
The trend caught on, and Lola’s restaurant began cutting people off of apple martinis at two. Soon, word of the apple martini craze spread to other major U.S. cities. Other restaurants began putting their spin on the drink; an LA restaurant called Linq makes their appletini with a splash of 7-Up lemon-lime soda to bring a note of effervescence to the drink.
Apple martinis are meant to be shaken. There are many different recipe variations out there for this prominent cocktail, but most include three parts vodka and one part apple schnapps (or apple juice/cider). The mixture is shaken, strained, and poured into a chilled cocktail glass. The most common garnish for the appletini is a slice of Granny Smith apple.
Main Features of Apple Martinis
- The apple martini is a drink of choice for many on St. Patrick’s Day because of its vibrant green hue.
- Since green apples, the defining flavor of apple martinis, are in season during the autumn months, many people may reach for an appletini in the fall more than any other time throughout the year.
- Some people choose to add vermouth to their appletini recipe for a taste that’s somewhat more reminiscent of a classic martini. Gin may also be used in the place of vodka.
While a traditional martini contains gin and dry vermouth, vodka martinis, which use vodka in place of gin, are extremely popular.
The replacement of gin with vodka in a vodka martini greater alters the flavor of this cocktail. Gin is a spirit with a characteristic flavor of juniper berries, paired with other extracts and aromatics. Since gin was so popular during Prohibition in the United States, gin was used as a base for many of the first cocktail recipes. Vodka, in contrast to gin’s herbal notes, is meant to be colorless and flavorless. This clear spirit is unique for its lack of original flavor or smell. As such, in a vodka martini, the dry vermouth often shines.
Vodka came to the United States in 1934, just after the end of Prohibition. Vodka wasn’t widespread in its popularity at that time. But, among those who enjoyed it, it was beloved. Vodka became popular across the board in the US by the early 1950s. In Russia and Poland, this type of alcohol had already been a huge favorite for hundreds of years.
Main Features of Vodka Martinis
- “Silver bullet” the old-fashioned nickname for martini cocktails, is often used exclusively to refer to vodka martinis.
- A vodka martini may also be called a vodkatini or even a “kangaroo cocktail”.
- Vodka martinis are one of the simplest cocktails that can be made. This martini type may even be called minimalist for its short list of ingredients.