How to Make a Martini

by on February 13, 2011

I just spent the last two Saturdays whipping up some cocktails at the LCBO and came to the realization that there are some big gaps in the knowledge people need to make a decent martini, or any cocktail for that matter. Art of Drink has always been about the dissemination of information for the betterment of cocktails so we’re going back to basics. Even though a lot of us are good at discussing the minutia that makes cocktail really interesting, we sometimes need to come down from our glass towers and share the basics of good drinks. We don’t want to become hipsters do we?

The most surprising aspect of the classic cocktail tasting was how many people have never tried a proper Martini—a proper Martini being gin and a recognizable quantity of vermouth. Let’s not talk about vodka or vividly coloured fruit juices.

A basic modern Martini recipe would be as follows:

Martini Recipe

2 oz gin
1 oz dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters

Stir and strain. Garnish with a lemon twist or olive.

The orange bitters are optional, but a nice touch if you have them.

Martini Making Tips

1. Vermouth

A martini isn't a martini unless it contains vermouth. More importantly, vermouth is a key ingredient that makes this cocktail actually taste good, so it should never be considered “ice cube wash”. Obviously tastes vary, but a ¼ ounce of vermouth in a 2 ounce cocktail is a good start, but feel free to increase it. Martini recipes from the early 1900s were equal parts gin and vermouth.

2. Ice and Dilution

A properly made martini should be well chilled, with ice. Don't put the gin in the freezer to make it extra cold because this just makes it impossible for the gin to melt the ice and dilution is important. Nobody drinks a 26% ABV Shiraz, well the Australians would if they could, but the point is that cocktails need some water to balance out the potency of the spirit. Warm gin and cold ice are perfect partners.

3. Stirred, not Shaken

Savages shake martini’s. The reason we stir a martini is to avoid making it hazy. When you shake a drink vigorously it incorporates tiny air bubbles that make the martini opaque. Stirring keeps it clear and elegant. Don’t be lazy either, stir for a good 30 seconds. And no you can’t bruise gin.

4. Chill Your Glassware

A cold glass is always a good idea for any cocktail.

5. Consumption Time

A martini is a bracer that is consumed to break the daily stresses, it’s not meant to be lingered over until it's room temperature. You don’t need to down it like a shooter, but don’t nurse your Martini either.

This seems simple enough, but so many people fail to execute these basic rules, which leads to another round of bad Martini's.

Now that we have some of the basics on how to make a good martini, here’s some required reading to help your pursuit of cocktail appreciation.

The Big Old Boring Vodka Martini
Vesper Martini
The Margarita
What's Vermouth?

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