It’s Friday … Have a Drink: Gin Martini

gin martini recipe
It’s Friday … Have a Drink: Gin Martini
Our weekly recommendation.

We’ve decided to take a step back with this series and start highlighting some classic drinks – both common and lesser known – that can be easily ordered in a quality cocktail bar in addition to being something you can make at home. We’ll scale back a bit on recipes that bartenders won’t have heard of, and focus instead on things they should know, or at least be able to quickly look up.

To that end, let’s start with one of the platinum standards in cocktailing. The Gin Martini is a drink that has survived prohibition, a general anti-vermouth campaign from people with undeveloped palates, and an all-out assault by vodka in the second half of the 20th Century. Despite all of that, it’s still here, and actually regaining some of its popularity as more and more people discover that vodka is basically just boring gin.

Gin’s delicious. I covered it at length in Primer’s Great Gin Roundup, so I won’t go too far into it here except to explain that it’s a distilled liquor like vodka that’s given subtle flavor via various ‘botanicals’, most prominently the juniper berry. When mixed with a quantity of dry vermouth – white wine fortified with extra alcohol and flavored with its own set of botanicals – and perhaps a touch of bitters, and both chilled and diluted a bit by stirring with ice, it forms one of the world’s most perfect cocktails.

Any bartender, professional or amateur, worth his salt should know how to make a good martini. Hint: it never involves dumping olive juice into your drink. In fact, I would argue that a gin martini isn’t really suited to an olive garnish at all. A citrus twist works much better and helps bring out the slight sweetness of the vermouth.

Don’t be afraid to tell a bartender how much vermouth you want, either. These days most of them err on the side of “dry to very dry” … I’ve visited restaurants where my “martini” was a glass of slightly-watered gin. That’s nice I suppose if you’re just looking to get tanked, but if you want to experience real, delicious elegance in a glass, try the recipe below.

Oh, and I’ve noted it before, but it’s essential that you store your vermouth in the fridge, and that you work through it within about a month or so. It won’t poison you if you leave it warm, even for long periods of time, but the vermouth will oxidize and taste like garbage. Do yourself a favor: get a 375ml bottle instead of a 750ml, keep it cold, and replace it often. At $6 a pop for something as highly drinkable as Noilly Prat, it’s not even a big deal if you don’t make it through the whole thing in time.

  • 3 oz. London Dry Gin (Broker’s is a steal at its price)
  • .5 oz. Dry Vermouth (Noilly Prat is a good, cheap brand)
  • Dash Orange Bitters (Regans’ are indispensable)

Combine all ingredients in a pint glass over ice and stir thoroughly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

This article is a modified and enhanced version of a post that ran on my nightly cocktail blog, DrinkShouts.

Christopher Buecheler is a novelist, a web developer, an award-winning amateur mixologist, a brewer, a guitarist, a drummer, and an NBA enthusiast. He lives a semi-nomadic life with his wife and two cats, currently residing in Providence, RI. You can learn more at his website, cwbuecheler.com.

  • Peter Larson

    by gin martini, you mean martini?

    • http://cwbuecheler.com/ Christopher Buecheler

      The vodka martini’s been around long enough and gained wide acceptance enough to be considered an official variant. Kind of like how a Manhattan is a Manhattan whether made with bourbon or rye.

      Anyway, vodka’s just unfinished gin.

      • Perry

        “…vodka’s just unfinished gin”… or ouzo, or whisk(e)y, or a few dozen other local variants since vodka is essentially distilled plant matter before we apply maturation, flavorants, or legal regulations.

        P.S. I prefer Hendrick’s in the summer months. Much more refreshing, but London is a good starting point for anyone finding what they enjoy.

        • http://cwbuecheler.com/ Christopher Buecheler

          Certainly true, but vodka is more quickly and easily turned into gin than just about anything else. Nonetheless, you’re right — vodka is basically unfinished booze.

          Hendrick’s is a very tasty gin. I don’t like it as much as Broker’s or No. 9 (both juniper-heavy London Dry gins) or as Greenhook (an artisanal western-style gin), but it’s in my top six or seven.

  • SolefulStrut

    Thank you for dialing back the complexity of the drinks you feature!

    Any recommendations for speeding the process of getting over a bad experience with a particular alcohol? Had a few too many gin & tonics one night a few years(!) ago; recently tried a Negroni at a quality joint but the gin still turned my stomach.

    • Guest

      Gatoraide actually. It’s got electrolytes! I should say, it’s worked for me, ymmv…

    • http://cwbuecheler.com/ Christopher Buecheler

      Believe it or not, I’ve never had a bad experience with alcohol. Not once in 16 years of drinking (I didn’t start ’til I turned 21) have I spent a night bent over the toilet thanks to booze.

      That said, my recommendation would be pretty much the approach you took — try drinks that don’t really taste like the booze in question. When you find one that doesn’t turn your stomach, drink that, and gradually start lessening the other ingredients to let the gin shine through. Repeated exposure seems to be the best way to get over that kind of association. At least, that’s what worked for me with tortilla chips, which were involved in an extremely regrettable night of food poisoning, for me, several years ago.

  • Jason Siegel

    Technically, a martini is ONLY made with gin. A similar drink made with vodka is actually called a Kangaroo. It just gained the name “vodka martini” due to being called such by a certain British spy who likes his drinks “shaken not stirred”….

    • http://cwbuecheler.com/ Christopher Buecheler

      Can you find me the law that says a martini is only made with gin?

      I get what you’re going for but … technically, an “entree” is an appetizer, not a main course, but try ordering your entree as your first course in an American restaurant and see the confused looks that gets you. Common usage causes words to evolve – the English language we use today is a barely recognizable offshoot of the language our ancestors used. “Vodka Martini” is the name by which the entire world knows a drink containing vodka and dry vermouth, so arguing over whether it’s technically a martini seems like pedantry.

      To put it another way: if you ask 10,000 bartenders to make you a “kangaroo” without looking it up, maybe one of them will get it right. 10,000 of them will get a “vodka martini” right. That makes the latter term the correct one.

  • Josh

    Personally I really dig a dirty martini, the brine seems to just set off the gin and vermouth in a great savoury way. It may be that I am not accustomed enough to gin itself.

    • http://cwbuecheler.com/ Christopher Buecheler

      Your personal taste is the most important thing by far, for sure. I used to like dirty martinis, but as I’ve grown more fond of both gin and dry vermouth, I’ve come to find the brine too aggressive and overwhelming. Overall, though: drink what works for you!

  • Just A Bloke

    A can of ice cold cider for me, thanks.

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