The Perfect Martini is simply one that is perfect for you; starting with good gin and vermouth can make all the difference!
I originally created this post to celebrate the one year anniversary of Friday Cocktails…and that was FIVE years ago! A lot has changed since then but one thing has not. This is still my way to make a perfect martini and I thought a reboot in order.
While I have lamented my desire to hang on to summer for dear life; today it’s clear that I’m starting to lose ground. When it’s 59 degrees outside and I’m determined to still have breakfast on the patio you have to start accepting reality. I needed socks and a jacket! So, to that end, I simply could not post another fruity summer drink today (although tomorrow is supposed to be back in the 90’s!). I wanted to make something transitional and nothing really works quite like the martini…it’s a favorite all year round; spring, summer, fall or winter.
I read an article once that said a good dry martini is like an Ernest Hemingway short story; deceptively simple (only three ingredients), but the product of a deft, confident hand. You don’t just throw a good martini together – it’s the cocktail that many professional and home bartenders consider the most difficult. I love to make them at home and I serve them with a simple appetizer too…these crackers with a dollop of cream cheese and black olive tapenade (pretend it’s caviar!) are perfect!
I know, in my heart of hearts, that in it’s purist form, a martini is quintessentially just two things. Gin and Vermouth. Many purists (who the heck are those people anyhow) would cry foul with anything but a lemon twist for garnish but I occasionally like an olive or two (or three) in mine; try them both to find which you prefer. I think as much as the martini itself I just LOVE an olive that’s been marinating in some gin for a bit. Before I ever came to enjoy the cocktail itself I would meet a friend for a couple of drinks on Friday night. He was a martini man through and through…and I stole his gin soaked olives every chance I could get!
With just gin, vermouth and a garnish, it’s a tough act to get just right. Too much gin and it tastes like you’ve ordered it straight, too little and you’ve got a vermouth cocktail. It’s all about balance and personal taste and that personal taste part simply can not be denied; to me it is simply the most important ingredient.
The history of the Martini
The origins of the martini cocktail are diverse and as a result only add confusion to any history. One story tells of a drink made during the gold rush of the 1800s in Martinez, California, in which barman Julio Richelieu mixed a drink he called “The Martinez,” that was comprised of one part Sauternes wine with three parts gin, garnished with an olive. Another attributes the name to a rifle used by the British Army in the late 1800s called the Martini and Henry and yet another story gives credence to a New York bartender in the 1900s who mixed a drink comprised of equal parts London Dry Gin and Noilly Prat vermouth with orange bitters.
The Best Martini?
The arguments on how to best make the perfect martini are as many as the stories of origin. What kind of Gin? Beefeaters may often be cited as the gin of choice but I still love Bombay Sapphire. Chill everything to within an inch of its life or do you just chill the glasses? How much vermouth? I’ve heard that some prefer such a delicate whisper of vermouth that you should pour the vermouth first, swirl it in the glass and then empty it before adding gin…now that is a DRY martini! More choices? Lemon twist or olives. Shaken or stirred? Remember the purists? They will rise up and claim that vigorous shaking “bruises the gin,” whereas others swear that you need to shake the cocktail to chill it to the right temperature. Can you see how that personal preference ingredient is so important?. Personally? I like mine shaken; I like them ice cold and I’m OK if the shaking tempers the alcohol with a bit of water…that’s MY preference!
Maybe the reason it is so difficult to make the perfect martini is because with so few ingredients and all of those personal preferences, it is almost impossible to discern how others will love one. This is why so many find their perfect martini is one made at home. This recipe is one that suits me; vary the vermouth up or down a bit as you find your nirvana and then garnish as you see fit! Yes, that’s perfect!
The Perfect Martini
We like our dry martini chilled and powerful, with a good kick from the gin tempered by the vermouth.
For the Martini
- 4 oz gin
- 1 oz dry vermouth (I like Noilly Pratt)
- 1 inch strip of peel from an un-waxed lemon or skewered olives
For the Olive Spread
- 1 cup assorted black olives, pitted
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
To Make the Martini:
- Pre-chill your shaker, glass, gin, and vermouth.
- When cold, add ice to the shaker and measure in the required amounts of gin and vermouth. Shake or stir as required.
- Strain into your chilled glass and twist the lemon peel until it leaves a spritz of lemon oil on the surface of the cocktail; add the lemon to the glass.
- Alternately, skewer 2 to 3 olives on a cocktail pick and put into the martini glass.
- Serve, holding by the stem.
To Make the Olive Spread:
- Put the olives, salt, and garlic in a blender on low and blend while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Increase the speed a bit and blend until combined.
- I like mine to be almost smooth but still just a tiny bit chunky.
Chilling all of your components is critical. The ice will take the cocktail to a super chill which won't be tempered by warm glasses. Love me an almost icy martini!