How To Make a Classic Martini

How To Make a Classic Martini

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Elliott Clark
Feb 10, 2017
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

A Martini is one of the most iconic and classic cocktails around. It's also one that not a lot of people agree on when it comes to making it the best way. Gin or vodka? Stirred or shaken? Ice shards or double strained? Lemon twist or olives? Blue cheese stuffed? Dirty?

Point being, how you like your Martini is probably different than how your aunt likes hers. Despite this, you and your aunt can both agree that crafting a great Martini at home can make you feel as classy and sophisticated as they come!

Because there are so many options, it's always good to start with the tried-and-true classic recipe for a Martini before you get to customizing your own. As we dive into the recipe, let's take a look at how such an elegant two-ingredient cocktail can have so many people divided.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Gin or Vodka?

A classic Martini calls for gin. Some people love it, while others feel like drinking gin is like biting into a pine cone. Gin is full of botanical flavors, most of which are juniper-forward. It's like the friend who's always wearing a bright, funky-colored shirt and despite how you feel about it, it just works. Gin works because it pairs really well with the herbal qualities of dry vermouth, the next key ingredient in a classic Martini. If you're going the gin route, I recommend using something high-quality. Some common ones are Beefeater, Plymouth Gin, Tanqueray, or Hendrick's.

In the other camp, we have vodka. It's a neutral spirit that tends to take a little bit of a beating amongst cocktail enthusiasts for being flavorless. Yet, it's smooth and a lot of people prefer it over gin. If you like vodka, I recommend purchasing a premium bottle like a Belvedere or Ketel One. Don't skimp on ingredients here because every drop matters. I'd say $25 to $35 is a great price range for a quality bottle.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Who Is This Dry Vermouth Character?

The second ingredient in a Martini is dry vermouth. It's a type of fortified wine, blended and infused with different herbs and botanicals. Use a quality, well-preserved bottle of vermouth. By well-preserved I mean refrigerated after it's opened. It's still a wine and begins to oxidize after opening, so be sure you keep it cold. There's nothing worse than a left-out bottle of vermouth that has turned to vinegar. Not tasty. A recommended bottle of dry vermouth is Noilly Prat or Dolin.

Read more: What Is Vermouth and Why Is It in My Drink?

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Stirred or Shaken? (I'm Looking at You, James Bond.)

By rule of thumb, if your cocktail contains only booze, then you stir. By this rule, a Martini should be stirred. James Bond would probably disagree. On any other day I wouldn't fight him, but on this matter I advise you to stir your Martini, especially when going with gin. Shaking can "bruise" the gin and mask the botanicals you want to taste.

Want an Ice-Cold Martini?

The reason people shake their Martini is because they don't feel stirring the cocktail yields a cold-enough martini. If you want your cocktail arctic cold with ice shards floating on top, shake it.

Lemon twist or olives?

A martini should always be served up in a chilled glass, but the garnish you use is up to preference. Squeeze the back of a lemon peel over the glass to release the lemon oils into the martini, then rub the peel around the rim of the glass. This enhances the aroma and brings a fresh zest to it. Either drop the lemon peel in, or discard and garnish with several fresh olives.

Most importantly, drink your martini pinky up because now you're fancy!

Classic Cocktails with Apartment Bartender
Elliott Clark, home cocktail enthusiast and founder of Apartment Bartender, joins us this week to open class on classic cocktails to pair with your Great Steak Dinner. Whether you're new to making Martinis or a pro at mixing Old Fashioneds, Elliott has tips on everything from better booze to better barware to improve your home bar.

How To Make a Classic Martini

Makes 1 cocktail

What You Need

Ingredients
2 1/2 ounces gin or vodka
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Ice
Lemon peel twist or olives, for garnish

Equipment
Mixing glass or cocktail shaker
Hawthorne Strainer
Fine-mesh strainer (if shaking the martini)
Bar spoon
Jigger or small liquid measuring glass
Martini or coupe glass
Paring knife or Y-Peeler

Instructions
Stirred

  1. Chill the glass: Before you build your Martini, put your Martini glass in the freezer to chill.
  2. Build the drink: Place the gin or vodka and dry vermouth in a mixing glass.
  3. Stir and strain: Add cubed ice and stir for 30 seconds until the Martini is chilled. Strain the drink into your chilled Martini glass.
  4. Garnish the drink: Pare a lemon peel, and express (pinch) the back of the lemon peel over the martini. Rub the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and drop it into the glass. Alternatively, garnish with speared olives.

Shaken

  1. Chill the glass: Before you build your Martini, put your Martini glass in the freezer to chill.
  2. Build the drink: Place the gin or vodka and dry vermouth in a cocktail shaker.
  3. Shake the drink: Add cubed ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
  4. Strain the drink: If you prefer ice shards floating at the top of your Martini, then simply strain the drink into your chilled Martini glass. If you don't want the ice shards, then strain the drink through a fine-mesh strainer to catch the ice shards.
  5. Garnish the drink: Pare a lemon peel, and express (pinch) the back of the lemon peel over the Martini. Rub the lemon peel around the rim of the glass and drop it into the glass. Alternatively, garnish with speared olives.
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