Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About “Martini”

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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About “Martini”

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Photo By - THOR

Photo By – THOR

Martini, the Drink!

According to popular belief, everything poured into a long-stemmed “V” shaped glass is a martini. To professionals, it is invariably a mixture of gin and vermouth.

A classic martini in recent times can be defined as a mixture of gin or vodka and a squirt of dry vermouth along with olives or a lemon twist garnish.

A very interesting Background!

It goes as far as the period of gold rush in San Francisco. Jerry Thomas, a bartender known for his impeccable mixology, working at the Occidental Hotel during the 1870s, faced a situation involving an unusual barter. A miner was looking for something special in exchange for a gold nugget. And much to his obligation, dear Jerry not only came up with a fresh new drink for him but also named it Martinez, as that was the city the miner was going back to in California. And yes the ingredients being a dash of bitters, two dashes of maraschino (a cherry liquor), a vermouth (most likely sweet), probably the Old Tom gin (a sweetened gin) and a quarter slice of lemon – a recipe that is significantly different from the modern day martini.

As a century passed by, few bar menus started including a martini that was made by mixing same quantities of sweet vermouth and gin, sometimes with a tinge of orange bitters. Still no similarity to the modern classic variations :))

First claimant to the invention of Martini was an Italian immigrant bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia working at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City. He used dry gin and dry vermouth in equal quantities, and orange bitters to make his version of it. One more story from a legendary bartender is that it got its name from the Martini & Henry rifle used by the British Army for 2 decades between 1870 and 1890 as both the rifle and the drink delivered a strong kick. :p

The quantity of dry vermouth started decreasing as compared to gin by the turn of years. Amusingly, martinis consisting of three quarters gin and one quarter vermouth are considered extremely “wet”, despite the use of substantial amount of “dry” vermouth which is distinctly different from the current recipe for a “dry” martini that is made of 25 parts gin to one part vermouth.

Hollywood sets the Tone!

Martinis started climbing the popularity charts when corporate entities started spending big on advertising gin and vodka starting from the 1950s and the 1970s respectively. Smart marketing strategies such as branding and endorsements in movies and by celebrities played a vital role. When famous personalities with the likes of Marlene Dietrich, David Niven and Ernest Hemingway were spotted having martinis on and off the screen, it was a trend set to be followed by many inarguably. But perhaps no real or fictional character has drawn as much popularity to the classic martini as James Bond :))

Bond’s Connection to Martini

Photo By - Themeplus

Photo By – Themeplus

Shockingly, it is not common knowledge to most Bond movie fans, but in Ian Flemming’s James Bond books, the agent had a variation of a martini only once. In Casino Royale, a drink made of half gin and half vodka and a Lillet was named after and symbolised the double agent Vesper Lynd, Bond’s love interest. But after she commits suicide he decides not to have another.  Later on, Bond was told drinking everything from bourbon to champagne, everything other than the Vesper, but Flemming instituted the martini in the films throughout and made the famous quote, “Shaken, not stirred.”





How it evolved??

Jerry Thomas, the superstar bartender from San Francisco, started it all by printing a bartending manual with a mention of a Martinez, a drink made of  one dash of bitters, two dashes of maraschino, a vermouth, two lumps of ice and an Old Tom Gin, served with a quarter slice of lemon all the way back in 1887.

Next you know is in 1911, one of the biggest business tycoons and philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller is seen being served a drink by Martini di Arma di Taggia, head barman at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, which consists of a mix of half London Gin, half Noilly Prat Vermouth and orange bitters cooled on ice and poured into a chilled glass. The Hotel loyalists ordered the drink with slight variations and added the olive to the recipe.

The Martini got even more famous during the Prohibition period of 1918 to 1933 due to easy access to its main ingredient gin, as it did not have to be aged like whisky and was readily available. The 1940s and 50s saw a downfall in the use of bitters in gin martinis and in the importance of vermouth as an ingredient. Nowadays Martinis are typically made with dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth.

James Bond left the unforgettable impression of the martini on peoples’ minds as he uttered “Vodka martini, shaken, not stirred” in the movie Goldfinger in the 1960s. This made the martini globally popular and now it was considered traditional and suburban. Americans started preferring milder and fruitier drinks through the 1970s putting Wine and wine spritzers ahead in popularity. But the martini made a comeback during the 1980s as Americans earned a massive economic advantage and regained interests in premium appeasements like red meat, cigars, and super-premium spirits.

This encouraged bartenders to experiment with the Martini through the 1990s and thus were invented the green apple martinis, chocolate martinis and Cosmopolitans which shot in popularity after being shown on the TV show Sex and the City. The trend of new garnishing styles with stuffed olives, capers and herbs began during this phase. Next decade saw bartenders serving half the cocktails in a martini glass.

The cocktail industry has been active more than ever in the 21st century, with varied tastes and choices being developed globally and the positive willingness of bartenders to include new garnishes, aromas, aromatic perfumes and what not to appease their customers. People still largely prefer the dry martini but at the same time vermouth is being appreciated more as a category. Hard to guess what the martini would look like a decade from now :))


How do I have my Martini!

Well, basically, when you order a Classic Martini it means it’s a gin martini. Only when someone specifically calls for some other martini should it be served differently. No wonder even James Bond has to specifically say “Vodka Martini”. Anyway, some of the seemingly infinite variations of the Martini are –

  • Shaken or Stirred – As the names suggest, Shaken means shaken along with ice in a cocktail shaker while stirred means stirred along with ice in a cocktail shaker for a while before being strained in a glass.
  • Wet or Dry – Most importantly, a dry or a wet martini is determined by the amount of vermouth used in it and not by the type of vermouth used. More the proportion of vermouth, the wetter the Martini is considered to be.
  • Straight up or On the rocks – “Straight Up” means that it will be poured in a tall martini glass that has been chilled. While “On the rocks” means that you should expect it being poured in a tumbler over ice.
  • Naked Martini – It is called naked because of the absence of vermouth and dilution, it is just gin or vodka thoroughly chilled and garnished with an olive or a twist.
  • Gibson Martini – Not so common, a Gibson Martini is usually served dry and garnished with pearl onion or pickled onion instead of an olive or a twist.
  • Vesper Martini – Made popular by Casino Royale, the Bond franchise’s novel turned movie, the Vesper Martini is made of gin, vodka and Kina Lillet and named after Bond’s love affair with double agent Vesper Lynd. It is a strong drink and not suitable for lightweights. “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” – Casino Royale.
  • Dirty Martini – Addition of a little splash of olive juice in the martini makes it dirty. Add and olive garnish to that to make it really dirty!
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Mixologist working in Dubai..passion is all I have, to keep myself going..best part about my job is that "it allows me to be as creative as possible"

1 Comment

Michael Mann

August 12, 2015 at 8:49 am

Jerry Thomas died in 1885. The 2nd edition of his cocktail book was published posthumously. As far as I know, he never made any claim to have invented the Martinez when he was alive and he seems like the kind of chap that would.

For a great overview of the origins of the Martini and more about Mr Thomas and cocktail history check out David Wondrich’s amazing book ‘Imbibe’.

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