The first time I had a martini was at the tender age of 21. It was on my first business-class flight (I wasn’t paying) and I ordered one from the hostess because I thought it was the sophisticated thing to do. To this day I remember my disappointment when I was served a glass of something that tasted like it came from the plane’s fuel tank: industrial, toxic and not for human consumption. The olive wasn’t much better.
At that point I learnt three key things:
- I’m not James Bond
- Not to order cocktails on planes
- A poorly made martini can taste disastrous.
It took me years after that before I fell in love with martinis again, but even so I just couldn’t make them at home. I consulted books and websites, bought enough gin and vermouth to become a 1920s bootlegger and yet every martini I made didn’t taste a whole lot better than my first airplane-made one.
Yet then I tried something new out of desperation – and it worked.
Actually, I tried something old: I went back to the original recipe for a dry martini of using two parts gin to one part dry vermouth – and now I’m obsessed again.
These days the 2 to 1 ratio isn’t dry at all, considering how little vermouth most people put in their drinks – sometimes when I order a martini I’m simply served gin in a glass with a mere hint of vermouth, which can work ok if they’re using fantastic gin but still, to me, defeats the purpose.
Prep Time: 4 minutes
- 30ml (one shot) dry vermouth
- 60ml (two shots) gin
- olive (good quality!)
- dash of orange bitters
Put the vermouth, gin and ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake, strain into a martini glass, add olive and a dash of orange bitters. Voila!
The other gripe I have with martinis I order elsewhere is the quality of olives used, so I take delight in using great olives that are stuffed with anchovies (an idea which I shamelessly stole from the Gin Palace’s 1951 martini). Incidentally, the 1951 martini also uses the trick of rinsing Cointreau around the inside of the glass first, but I’m still not sophisticated enough to do that at home.
Another thing to remember, of course, is to chill the martini glass first by filling it with ice. Also, if you do shake your gin and vermouth (and remember to add lots of ice to the shaker as well) then double strain it as you pour it into the glass so you don’t have ice shards floating on the surface (although I’m usually too lazy to do this).
As for whether martinis should be shaken or stirred: most people in the know seem to believe gin martinis should be stirred, not shaken, but as a hypochondriac who believes everything I read, I prefer to shake mine after reading this article in the British Medical Journal.
For those too lazy to follow the link, the gist is that the boffins discovered that shaken gin martinis are healthier for you than stirred ones, since they’re better at deactivating hydrogen peroxide – which apparently is a good thing. I myself like the fact that it makes sure the drink is ice cold, although a knowledgeable bartender friend of mine assures me you can get equally cold martinis by stirring.
The BMJ article also talks a bit about James Bond, who – especially in the movies – popularised the idea of vodka martinis, which I personally don’t approve of (when writing an article about martinis I feel it’s de rigeur to sound like a snob). Even though vodka purists tell me different vodkas have different tastes and mouth feels – and I’m sure they’re right – there’s something fantastic about a great gin’s botanical goodness that to me is an essential part of a martini (I think the next gin I’m going to buy myself will be Hendricks).
But, as I said, I’m no expert. If you have any martini tips or experiences then feel free to leave a comment below: