The Classic Gin Martini: The World's Most Famous Cocktail

Classic Gin Martini with Olives
Cappi Thompson/Moment/Getty Images
  • 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1 serving
Ratings (77)

The classic Dry Gin Martini is an iconic cocktails and one that should be on every bartender's list of drinks to know. Though there have been many martinis created, there is only one Martini and few drinks can beat it.

There is no mystery to the Martini. It is, quite simply, gin and dry vermouth. However, personal preferences among martini lovers make it a little more complicated than that. The Martini comes with a number of ways to customize it so it fits your personal tastes and there are no right or wrong answers.

The debate over the 'proper' way to make a Martini will never die. What is more important is how you as the drinker enjoy it best.

The nice thing about the Martini is that after you fall in love with it, you will know exactly what you like. You will also know how to adapt it to a particular gin or vermouth. Once you learn how you like this classic cocktail, you may quickly join the community of devoted martini connoisseurs.

What You'll Need

How to Make It

  1. Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes.
  2. Stir for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Add a dash of orange or Angostura bitters, if desired.
  5. Garnish with the olive or lemon twist.

A Simple Cocktail with Complications

No longer can you walk into a cocktail lounge and simply say "I'll have a Martini." It often becomes a game of twenty questions:

  • Gin or vodka?
  • What brand of gin (or vodka)?

It's one drink, yet there are so many options. Among all of those, there are a few common ways to customize your Martini.

  • Dry Martini - Traditionally, this used more dry vermouth (which is logical), however, recent trends define a Dry Martini as using little or no vermouth. Some drinkers will even simply wave a bottle of vermouth over the glass (without adding any). It's said that Winston Churchill was known to make his Dry Martinis by merely chilling gin and bowing in the direction of France.
  • Bone Dry or Desert Martini - No vermouth.
  • Gibson - Garnish with a cocktail onion.
  • Perfect Martini - Use equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth.
  • Dirty Martini - Add a small amount of olive brine.
  • 50-50 Martini - Use equal parts of gin and dry vermouth.
  • Vodka Martini - Replace gin with vodka.

More Tips for Making the Best Martini

Quality Counts. The key to a great Martini is to begin with great ingredients. Start off with a top-shelf gin and a decent vermouth. This is not a cocktail where you want to be frugal because there are only two ingredients and if one is inferior, it will bring down the entire drink.

Also, as a number of Martini fans will tell you, every gin is different. You may want to change the ratio between the two ingredients when switching from one gin to another.

About Those Olives... If you are opting for the olive garnish, use either one or three olives skewered on a cocktail pick. Some people say that an even number of olives is bad luck, though I think it just looks better.

If the olives are big or stuffed with jalapenos, garlic, or the like, one olive will usually do. You will find that the flavor of the olive will slowly infuse into the drink and add just a little more dimension as it rests.

What Do Drinkers Prefer?

From 2006 through 2015, I had a poll on this page asking readers how they prefer their Martini. While the poll is now closed, I think that the results are an interesting look at modern drinkers:

  • Gin and Vermouth, Stirred: 18,321 votes (20%)
  • Gin and Vermouth, Shaken: 23,685 votes (26%)
  • Gin and Little or No Vermouth, Stirred:  6,717 votes (7%)
  • Gin and Little or No Vermouth, Shaken:  6,098 votes (6%)
  • Vodka and Vermouth, Stirred: 11,285 votes (12%)
  • Vodka and Vermouth, Shaken: 18,148 votes (20%)
  • No Martini for Me, Thanks: 5,819 (6%)

Total Votes: 90,073

These are not the only options, of course. I continually hear from readers about their personal preferences for making the Martini.

Among those is the choice of chilling both the gin and vermouth. One longtime Martini drinker states that he stores both bottles in the refrigerator so they're always nice and cold. This then allows him to skip the ice dilution completely.

This is one approach that will get you the most flavorful Martini and it is a very nice drink. Yet, you must also remember that without dilution, the drink will reman at bottling proof. For most people, one of these drinks a night will be more than enough.

How Strong is the Martini?

The martini is not a light drink and that is why they are so short and rarely poured over 3 or 4 ounces. With the standard 80-proof gin and a light 15% ABV vermouth, the Martini in this recipe's proportions weighs in at right around 31% ABV (62 proof).