Creation myths of the Martini are many and varied and we are unlikely to ever find out which of them are true. What we do know is that by the first years of the 20th century the Martini existed as an equal mixture of gin and dry vermouth with a dash of orange bitters and spent the rest of that century getting dryer and dryer. For the uninitiated, the less vermouth the “drier” the Martini. However the definition of a “dry” Martini is somewhat contextual. In 1910 a Dry Martini might have meant two parts gin to one part vermouth but fifty years later it largely meant drinking some chilled gin whilst looking at a bottle of vermouth. A 10:1 ratio was not at this time unheard of and the orange bitters had been quietly dropped. In the 1950s and 1960s the Martini reigned supreme, untroubled by other cocktails and ensconced firmly in the famous three-Martini lunch. The end of the Martini began with James Bond’s “Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred” which was, frankly, not a Martini at all but just try telling that to, well, anyone. By the late Dark Ages almost every drink in the cocktail lexicon had become a [insert fruit flavour]tini. These drinks were evil giant vodka and artificial flavour based monstrosities and the damage to the original stirred gin Martini was pretty much complete. Of course things have improved and those Frankentinis have found their deserved place down the drain of cocktail history. Yet our cocktail revival seems to still be a touch wary of the Martini for reasons that are quite understandable, if none-the-less misplaced. It wasn’t the poor Martini’s fault that it was so horribly debased and we should really cut it a bit more slack – and indeed some enlightened drinkers now are. While to many the Martini may still seem a tad prosaic, the classic Martini appears to be on the verge of reclaiming its rightful place in the cocktail canon. We should also acknowledge many tipplers who have stuck with the Martini through thick and thin, including the Queen of England who reportedly enjoys a dry Martini. Every. Single. Day. In its new found acceptance we see the Martini returning to its early years with preferences looking decidedly “wetter” – 4:1, 3:1, 2:1 and even 1:1 Martini requests (aka the “Fitty-Fitty”) will no longer result in a look of utter disgust from the bartender. And the dash or two of orange bitters is back – largely because you can actually buy orange bitters again after a near total drought in the late 20th century. Furthermore we now have the luxury of a veritable plethora of quality and innovative gins and dry vermouths to endlessly pair up in search of Martini nirvana. For the true Martini is a thing of undeniably pristine, piercing, primordial beauty. It is at once a perfect diamond, a crystal clear mountain stream, the light of the evening star. It is as crisp and pure as the first snow of winter. It is, at once, both demanding yet accessible. Simple yet complex. Egalitarian yet decadent. Whether you’re a stranger to Mr Martini or it’s just a long time since you last spoke, it’s time to put things right. Pick up your favourite dry gin, an excellent dry vermouth and take a step into the past. Or is it the future?
2oz / 60ml quality dry gin of choice (I used Blackwood’s).
0.5oz / 15ml dry vermouth – or anything between 1ml and 2oz. (I used Dolin dry.)
2 dashes orange bitters (I used Regan’s No.6).
Stir well with ice and strain into a well chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with either a lemon twist or a green olive.
Toast Queen Elizabeth II – keeping the Martini alive, one day at a time, since 1953.
If making your first Martini I suggest a 4:1 ratio. Thereafter adjust to your taste. Make sure your glass is well chilled – preferably having spent at least a few hours in the fridge. In this case do NOT peel the lemon over the glass; we don’t want to be making a Lemontini here. Make sure your vermouth is as fresh as possible. Not. Ever. Vodka.