Drinking a really good dry martini is a sublime experience...tinged by disappointment. Sublime because you suddenly realize what dazzling magic gin, vermouth, bitters, and lemon peel can make; disappointing because you also realize that you've suffered through a sad, shuffling parade of subpar, thoroughly ungifted-with-magic martinis over your drinking years. Let's vow never to drink bad martinis again.
I can still remember having my first exceptional martini — at the Scofflaw, Chicago's gin-focused cocktail bar, not long after it opened, a few years ago. The orchestra of factors that make for a well-made dry martini played in perfect harmony: a balance among the midrange flavors of juniper and herbs; the low notes hit by the orange bitters and the dry vermouth's more brooding flavors; and the bright, fresh aroma of citrus that crowns the drink with a finishing twist of lemon peel.
What's more, the strength, temperature, and viscosity of the cocktail were all in perfect calibration. A dry martini should have a certain richness of mouthfeel and a firm presence, just on the happy side of boozy, yet be refreshing and approachable at the same time.
Below is the recipe that made the Dry Martini one of my all-time favorite cocktails.
The Dry Martini
2 1/4 ounces London dry gin
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Combine the gin, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes and stir for about 30 seconds. Strain contents into a chilled cocktail glass. Express the lemon peel over the drink and add as a garnish.