What is in a martini?
The martini is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. However, saying that, even though the martini is one of the most iconic cocktails there is, there is also a lot of ambiguity surrounding how one should quaff it:
- Gin or vodka?
- Stirred or shaken?
- Lemon twist or olives?
- Dry or dirty?
It seems as if the list is endless, and that’s before we even look at the modern takes on it: the Porn Stars, the French one, the Espresso…
So, because there are so many variations and because everyone likes theirs differently, let’s tie down what we call a Classic Martini:
The Classic Martini (as the late Queen Mum took it)
Main alcohol: Gin
Ingredients: 1/2 oz (1 part) Dry vermouth, 3 oz (6 parts) Gin
Preparation: Straight: Pour all ingredients into mixing glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Strain in chilled martini cocktail glass. Squeeze oil from lemon peel onto the drink, or garnish with olive.
Served: Straight (or on the rocks)
If you’re going to go down the gin route, your gin should be of the best calibre you can get your paws on, think craft or at the very least, high end - something like Plymouth Gin, Tanqueray, or Hendrick's will suffice.
Gin is quite a divise spirit, its botanical flavours aren’t to everyone’s taste and that is OK, you can substitute it for vodka, if that is your tipple of choice.
Bear in mind vodka is tasteless, whereas the floral flavours of gin muddle magically with the Vermouth (a type of fortified wine, blended and infused with different herbs and botanicals) - again use a decent brand, something like Noilly Prat (and once opened keep it in the fridge, it is a wine after all and it will quickly turn to vinegar if left out in a warm kitchen).
Shaken or stirred is up to you.
People tend to shake their martinis because stirring the drink through ice doesn’t get it ice cold enough. But then others believe shaking it ‘bruises’ the gin and the ice masks the botanical flavours that you want to taste.
It’s really all down to personal preference here.
Lemon or olive?
Lemon peel will add a zingy twist to your cocktail, an olive will enhance its savoury notes - again, each to their own.
So what makes a martini dirty or dry?
Well, a dry or dirty martini is a standard twist on the classic martini, without adding in too many other flavours that detract from the key two.
A dry martini used to be made with white vermouth, which was much drier than other variations, but today a dry martini just means using less vermouth in the mix.
A dirty martini on the other hand gets its kick from the addition of a bit of olive brine, bringing acidity and salt to the drink.
You can, if you so wish, order a dry, dirty martini, meaning you’ll get a drink with less vermouth, a little olive brine and as appropriate, garnished with a couple of olives.