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What is a Martini?

bartender holding a martini

Unlike the drink itself, the Martini’s history is murky and shrouded in mystery; no one actually knows where it came from or who invented it. Nevertheless, there are plenty of interesting titbits that we do know for certain. And, luckily for you, we felt like sharing these tasty morsels to explain what a Martini actually is in today’s blog, including some of our favourite Martini recipes!

5 things you should know about Martinis:

We’ll start with something a little contentious…

1. Martinis are stirred, not shaken

Sorry Bond, but the majority of mixologists and bartenders would disagree with you on your drink choice. Shaking a Martini will fragment and disperse the ice, leading to a cloudy and diluted cocktail. In our humble opinion, clarity and potency are the most captivating aspects of this classic beverage. So if you’d like to experience a truly authentic Martini, then we recommend you ask for yours stirred, not shaken.

We feel Bond probably asks for his Martini shaken for dramatic effect anyway; he’s sort of known for shaking things up a bit!

martini in a bar

2. Martinis contain gin, not vodka

We’re certainly not against Vodkatinis, far from it, but using vodka instead of gin is not very authentic. For a more traditional tipple, gin is the spirit you’re going to want to choose! Harry Johnson’s Bartenders’ Manual, the first known publication of a Martini Cocktail recipe, calls for half a wine glass of Old Tom gin and the same of vermouth. Heard through the grapevine, the drink may have evolved from the Martinez, a much sweeter gin cocktail.

3. Martinis can be enjoyed wet, dry and dirty

Or naked, burnt and perfect! Like the Mojito, the preparation of Martinis can be pretty versatile. Whilst the most common recipe is 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, the ideal ratio is as personal as how to make the perfect cuppa. Therefore, you’ll find that bars will offer this cocktail in a variety of formats. Here’s a quick glossary of terms to help you navigate a Martini cocktail menu:

Dry Martini

A Dry Martini will contain little to no residual sugar, meaning your cocktail will contain less vermouth (or none at all).

Wet Martini

Yes, we know, all Martinis are technically wet…but a Wet Martini is named as such due to it being the opposite of a Dry Martini. In other words, it contains more vermouth. How much more vermouth?

- Perfect Martini

Otherwise known as the 50:50 Martini, this version contains - you guessed it - equal parts gin to vermouth. The name can be a little misleading since, unlike the recipe we’ve listed below, it doesn’t mean a Martini that has been expertly executed; we’ll leave the aptitude of your cocktail maker down to your judgement!

- Upside Down Martini

Also known as Reverse Martini, this cocktail contains more vermouth than gin. How much more depends on the bartender, venue or your personal preference.

Dirty Martini

A cocktail for the olive lovers amongst you, the Dirty Martini contains olive brine or juice. This can sometimes be used as an additional cocktail ingredient or as a substitute for vermouth.

Naked Martini

If you weren’t sure how Martinis could get any dirtier than the Dirty Martini, then feast your eyes on the Naked Martini: straight gin served chilled with an olive…pretty naughty but perfect for anyone watching their calories!

martini with olives

4. Garnish according to hunger levels

Whilst a lemon twist or single olive are the classic garnishes, we’ve come across plenty of unusual options over the years, some of which double up as a tasty bar snack: pickled onions, orange rind, singed rosemary, gherkins, seaweed, tentacles…ok, we’ll probably stick to the lemon twist! Squeezing the peel before wiping it around the edge of the glass will help release the oils to give your Martini an extra zingy hit.

5. Serve in a glass with a long stem

It’s common to associate the Martini with the Martini glass but you may be surprised to learn that the two were not always linked! In fact, whilst the Martini was most likely originally served in Champagne coupes, the Martini glass appeared on the cocktail scene as a general “cocktail glass” around the Prohibition Era. According to some, the wide rim of the glass was designed so that drinkers could easily pour out their beverages during prohibition raids in the 1920s. It wasn’t until the 1930s that the receptacle picked up the name Martini glass.

Nowadays, the Martini glass is far from practical; the upside-down pyramid on top of a fragile stem has led to uncountable spillages. Nevertheless, it’s still regarded by many as sophisticated and stylish and the long stem prevents drinkers’ hands from warming up the chilled Martini resting inside the glass.

Martini Recipes

We couldn’t write a blog titled What is a Martini without sharing a few of our favourite recipes!

martini recipe from the guardian
Credit: Felicity Cloake

The Perfect Martini Recipe

We love Felicity Cloake’s take on this classic cocktail. With 4 parts gin, 1 part vermouth, 5g fine salt, ice and 1 strip of lemon peel, this Dry Martini will have your mouth tingling!


crossip alcohol free martini recipe

Non-Alcoholic Pornstar Martini Recipe

Fight the stigma of not drinking and order yourself a non-alcoholic Martini next time you’re at one of these bars serving alcohol-free! Alternatively, why not try making your own with this 0% take on a Pornstar Martini? And yes, we know this recipe tells you to shake…we’re just channelling our inner Bond!


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