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The Original, Classic Dry Martini

The Martini is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist and is served in a chilled Martini glass, (as pictured above).  

Originally, the famed cocktail was served in a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass or "coupe". Over the years, the Martini has become one of the best-known mixed alcoholic beverages. H.L. Mencken called the Martini "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet" and E.B. White  called it "the elixir of quietude". The martini is one of the most widely known cocktails and is also an IBA Official Cocktail. Although the classic recipe calls for gin, it is also acceptable and common to use vodka instead.


"Classic Dry Martini" recipe:                                           

Special equipment: 1 coupe glass, stemmed cocktail glass or martini glass


  • 3 ounces London dry gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • Speared olives or lemon twist garnish

Although originally a martini was made with the optional addition of orange or aromatic bitters, modern practices    have strayed away from the use of bitters in a standard dry martini.


Combine the gin (or vodka if desired), dry vermouth, (and bitters if requested),  in a glass cocktail shaker, add ice, and stir until chilled. Strain the mixture into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with the olives or lemon twist and serve immediately. If lemon twist garnish is used, squeeze oil-mist from lemon peel onto the drink surface, and rub on rim on glass before placing in drink. 

*Pro Tip: Be sure to use The BarBack Tool Fruit & Veggie Peeler for a PERFECT lemon twist!

(May also be served on the rocks)


What does the term "dry" refer to?

Dryness is a property of beverages that describes the lack of a sweet taste. This may be due to a lack of sugars, the presence of some other taste that masks sweetness, or an underabundance of simple carbohydrates that can be converted to sugar by enzymes in the mouth. The term "dry" may be applied to types of beer, wine, distilled spirits, or any other form of alcoholic beverage.

In a dry martini, "dry" refers to the type of vermouth used, sweet or dry, not the amount of vermouth used in the drink. A "perfect" martini — or any other cocktail that uses vermouth, such as a Perfect Manhattan — is a martini made with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth. 


Stories, Legends and Original Recipes & Variations


By the Roaring Twenties, Martinis became an overwhelming "norm" for drinkers

By 1922 the Martini reached its most recognizable form in which London dry gin and dry vermouth were combined at a ratio of 2:1, stirred in a mixing glass with ice cubes, with the optional addition of orange or aromatic bitters, then strained into a chilled cocktail glass. Over time the generally expected garnish became the drinker's choice of a green olive or a twist of lemon peel.

Some Martinis were prepared by filling a cocktail glass with gin, then rubbing a finger of vermouth along the rim. There are those who advocated the elimination of vermouth altogether. According to Noel Coward, "A perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy," Italy being a major producer of vermouth.[8]

Luis Bunuel used the dry Martini as part of his creative process, regularly using it to sustain "a reverie in a bar". He offers his own recipe, involving Angustora bitters, in his memoir.

In 1966, the American Standards Association (ASA) released "Safety Codes and Requirements for Dry Martinis," a humorous account of how to make a "standard" dry martini. 

The latest revision of this document, was published by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1974, the successor to ASA, though it is no longer an active standard.

There are a number of variations on the traditional Martini. The fictional spy James Bond sometimes asked for his Vodka Martinis to be "shaken not stirred," following Harry Craddock's The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), which prescribes shaking for all its Martini recipes.

The proper name for a shaken Martini is a Bradford
However, Somerset Maugham is often quoted as saying that "a Martini should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously on top of one another."[14] A Martini may also be served on the rocks, that is, with the ingredients poured over ice cubes and served in a "rocks glass" or an Old Fashioned Glass. 

Origins and Mixology

The exact origin of the martini is unclear. In 1863, an Italian vermouth maker started marketing their product under the brand name of Martini, after its director Alessandro Martini, and the brand name may be the source of the cocktail's name.

A dry Martini is made with dry, white vermouth. Over the course of the century, the amount of vermouth steadily dropped. During the 1930s the ratio was 3:1, and during the 1940s the ratio was 4:1 which is considered to be a LOT of vermouth in modern standards.

A dirty Martini contains a splash of olive brine or olive juice in place of vermouth and is typically garnished with an olive.

A perfect Martini uses equal amounts of sweet and dry vermouth and is garnished with a lemon twist.


What is a "Classic Martinez Cocktail"?

Another popular theory suggests the Martini evolved from a cocktail called the Martinez served sometime in the early 1860s at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, which people frequented before taking an evening ferry to the nearby town of Martinez. Alternatively, the people of Martinez say the drink was first created by a bartender in their town, or maybe the drink was named after the town. Indeed, a "Martinez Cocktail" was first described in Jerry Thomas' 1887 edition of his "Bartender's Guide, How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks":

  • Take 1 dash of Boker's bitters
  • 2 dashes of Marachino 
  • 1 pony [1 fl oz] of Old Tom Gin
  • 1 wine-glass [2 fl oz] of [sweet/Italian] vermouth
  • 2 small lumps of ice
  • Shake up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail glass. Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve. If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes of gum syrup.

Numerous cocktails with names and ingredients similar to the modern-day martini were seen in other bartending guides of the late 19th century.

For example, in the 1888 Bartenders' Manual there was a recipe for a drink that consisted in part of half a wine glass of Old Tom gin and a half a wine glass of vermouth.

  • Fill the glass up with ice
  • 2 or 3 dashes of "gomme syrup", which is a thicker type of simple syrup
  • 2 or 3 dashes of bitters (Boker's genuine only.)
  • 1 dash of Curacao
  • ½ wine glassful [2 fl oz] of Old Tom Gin
  • ½ wine glassful [2 fl oz] of Sweet Italian Vermouth
  • stir up well with a spoon, strain it into a fancy cocktail glass, squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top, and serve.


The first dry martini is sometimes linked to the name of a bartender who concocted the drink at the Knickerbocker Hotel of New York City in 1911 or 1912. 

The "Marguerite Cocktail", first described in 1904, could be considered an early form of the dry Martini, consisting as it did of a 2:1 mix of Plymouth dry gin and dry vermouth, with a dash of orange bitters.

During Prohibition, the relative ease of illegal gin manufacture led to the martini's rise as the predominant cocktail of the mid-20th century in the United States.

With the repeal of Prohibition, and the ready availability of quality gin, the drink became progressively drier. In the 1970s and 80s, the martini came to be seen as old-fashioned and was replaced by more intricate cocktails and wine spritzers, but the mid-1990s saw a resurgence in the drink and numerous new versions.


What is a "Gibson Cocktail"?

The Gibson is a mixed drink made with gin and vermouth, and often garnished with a pickled onion.

William Boothby's 1908 Gibson Recipe is the oldest published recipe for the Gibson and is found in his book, 'The World''s Drinks And How To Mix Them'.

Other pre-prohibition recipes for the Gibson exist. They all omit bitters and none of them garnish with an onion. Some garnish with citrus twists. Others use no garniture at all. No known recipe for the Gibson garnishes with an onion before 1922. Some sources persist in using other garnishment than the onion into the 1930s and beyond, but still none use bitters.

The drink is traditionally made with gin, but the Vodka Gibson is also common.

The exact origin of the Gibson is unclear, with numerous popular tales and theories about its genesis. According to one popular theory Charles Dana Gibson is responsible for the creation of the Gibson, when he supposedly challenged Charley Connolly, the bartender of the Players Club in New York City, to improve upon the martini's recipe, so Connolly simply substituted an onion for the olive and named the drink after the patron.

Gibson could have been the Californian popular onion farmer as seen in the publication Hutchings' illustrated California magazine: Volume 1 by James Mason Hutchings in 1857:

O      . During the winter of 1852 and '53, snow fell in Onion Yalley to the depth of twenty-five feet, ... Even the towns of Gibson- ville, Seventy-Six, Pine Grove, Whiskey Diggings, and several others, did their trading here.

Other stories involve different Gibsons, such as an apocryphal American diplomat who served in Europe during Prohibition. Although he was a "teetotaler", (someone who is adamantly against alcohol consumption), he often had to attend receptions where cocktails were served. To avoid an awkward situation, Gibson would ask the staff to fill his martini glass with cold water and garnish it with a small onion so that he could pick it out among the gin drinks. 

A similar story postulates a savvy investment banker named Gibson, who would take his clients out for the proverbial "three business martini lunches". He purportedly had the bartender serve him cold water, permitting him to remain sober while his clients became intoxicated; the cocktail onion garnish served to distinguish his beverage from those of his clients.

Another version now considered more probable of the origin story given by Charles McCabe of the San Francisco Chronicle states it is from San Francisco. In 1968 McCabe interviewed Allan P. Gibson (1923–2005) and included the story in his Dec. 9, 1968 column, as well as in his book The Good Man's Weakness. A.P. Gibson remembered that when he was a boy, his great-uncle, prominent San Francisco businessman Walter D. K. Gibson (1864–1938), was said to have created it at the Bohemian Club in the 1890s. Charles Clegg, when asked about it by Herb Caen, also said it was from San Francisco. Eric Felton, writing in the Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2009 "A Thoroughly Western Cocktail" considers this version correct; he cites Ward Thompson, a Bohemian Club member whose mention of it in 1898 is the first recorded in print. Although bartenders' guides sometimes gave the recipe as 50/50 gin and vermouth, Gibsons in the early days were much drier than other martinis.

A third version, supported by Kazuo Uyeda in "Cocktail Techniques", states that Gibsons started as very dry martinis garnished with a cocktail onion to distinguish them from traditional martinis, but as the fondness for drier martinis became popular the onion became the only difference.

There is no direct evidence that Charles Dana, or any other Gibson, created the drink. But, Charles Dana Gibson was certainly the artist who created the 'Gibson girl' illustrations—popular from the 1890s through about the time of the first world war. It has been suggested that the Gibson girl was the first widespread visual standard for beauty in American women. Given that ubiquity and popularity, it is also very possible that the drink was simply named after the Gibson girl. This possibility is, perhaps, less appealing to some who prefer to associate famous drinks with notable historic persons.


How does a Gimlet fit in to the Martini's history?

The gimlet  is a cocktail traditionally made of gin, lime juice and a lime wedge garnish. A 1928 description of the drink was: "gin, a spot of lime, and soda." The description in the 1953 Raymond Chandler novel 'The Long Goodbye' stated that "a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else". This is in line with the proportions suggested by The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) which specifies one half Plymouth Gin and one half Rose Lime’s Juice Cordial. 

However, modern tastes are less sweet, and generally provide for at least three parts gin to one part of the lime juice. A variant of the cocktail, the vodka gimlet, replaces gin with vodka.

The derivation of the name of cocktail is contested. It may be named after the tool used for drilling small holes (alluding to its 'piercing' effect on the drinker), or after Surgeon Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (1857-1943), who is said to have first added lime cordial to the daily gin tot of the men of the Royal Navy to help combat the ravages of scurvy on long voyages.


"Modern Martinis"

Some newer drinks include the word "martini" or the suffix "-tini" in the name (e.g., Apple-tini, Peach-tini, chocolate martini, espresso martini). These are named after the martini cocktail glass they use and generally contain vodka but share little else in common with the drink. 

Modern martinis are also almost always shaken and strained to blend the various ingredients, which is another major difference. The closest relation and best known of these is the "vodka martini". 

The "Vodka Martini", previously existed starting in the 1950s under the name "Kangaroo Cocktail" before taking over the Martini moniker.


OriginalBarBack.com will soon feature an entire blog segment dedicated to the "Modern Martini" phenomenon in a later series.


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