There’s no other cocktail as iconic as the classic martini that has divided people over which ingredient goes best with it – gin or vodka?
Regardless of how you like your martini, stirred or shaken, olives or lemon twist, dry or dirty, there’s one thing that we can all agree on and that is, there’s something unmatched about the satisfaction of making your own martini at home.
The experience alone teaches you a great deal about how important it is to have the right ratio of ingredients when you’re switching from one brand to another.
While I’m usually partial to the simple flavors of a vodka martini, I believe that the ultimate way to prepare it is by starting with the tried-and-tested recipe before going your preferred route.
In this blog post, we’ll be taking a look at the difference between using gin vs. vodka in a martini, how to prepare it at home, and some tips that will make a world of difference in how the finished cocktail turns out.
What's in a Martini?
There are only two ingredients that are needed to make the perfect martini: vermouth and spirit (gin or vodka). Vermouth is basically a fortified wine that has been flavored with botanicals.
Even though the original recipe for a martini involved gin, it won’t be wrong to say that both gin and vodka martinis taste equally divine. Martini made with vodka is known to have a lot cleaner and a more neutral mouth-feel.
Regardless of where your preference lies, you need to make sure you’re using a spirit with an alcohol by volume of at least 40% or higher, so that your cocktail tastes just like it’s meant to.
Gin vs. Vodka
The classic recipe for a martini, as we’ve established, includes gin instead of vodka. Since gin is packed full of herbal flavors, it works surprisingly well against dry vermouth. If you’re more of a gin martini kind of person, I suggest using only the best quality gin like Plymouth Gin, Hendrick’s, or Tanqueray.
And then, on the other side, we have the classic vodka martini. Most cocktail drinkers regard it as being quite flavorless, but you can’t argue that despite being more on the neutral side, it’s actually quite smooth and seems to work just fine with dry vermouth.
Dry martini was a term that was used to describe a martini that was prepared with white vermouth, which is known to be drier than other kinds of vermouth. However, if you order a dry martini today, then that just means you’re asking for a martini with little to no vermouth.
The standard recipe for a dry martini has only about 1 part vermouth to 5 to 6 parts gin. Dry martinis are usually served with 1 or 2 whole olives.
Dirty martinis, on the other hand, contain a little bit of olive brine. The addition of olive brine is supposed to give the martini a saltier and acidic flavor. Now, the reason why it’s called dirty is because the original martini is supposed to be clean and dry.
But when you add olive juice to it, it gives it a cloudy and hence, ‘dirty’ appearance that adds another dimension to the flavor profile but works just as well.
How to Make a Classic Martini
What You Need
- Before preparing the martini, chill your martini glass by putting it in the freezer for a couple of minutes.
- Pour dry vermouth and your gin (or vodka) into a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice cubes and shake it vigorously for around 10 seconds.
- If you want your martini with ice cubes floating on the top, then simply pour it into the chilled martini glass. If you don’t want the ice cubes, then use a fine-mesh strainer to strain it into the glass.
- Take a lemon peel, rub it around the rim of your martini glass, and then drop it inside.
- You can also garnish with olives.
- Pre-chill the glass before pouring your gin/vodka and vermouth into a mixing glass.
- Drop in some ice cubes to the mixing glass and stir it for about half a minute until the drink is chilled.
- Pour the drink into the chilled martini glass.
- Garnish with olives skewered on a cocktail pick or a lemon peel twist.
Martini lovers can argue about what’s the ‘proper’ way to prepare a martini all they want, but one thing they can agree on is that choosing high quality ingredients is the key to making the perfect martini.
The great thing about this cocktail is that after you’ve familiarized yourself with the flavors, you’ll know just what your preferred ratio of spirit to vermouth is and what kind of garnish seals the deal for you.
It’s safe to say that a martini is far from a light cocktail and that’s why it’s rarely ever poured over 3 to 4 ounces.