My Dad always loved a good Martini and I always loved stealing the olives that were soaking in his Martini. The way I saw it, I was doing him a real favor getting rid of those pesky olives from his drink. So yum! The first few times I did it…he never said anything. He acted like nothing had happened. This drove me nuts!
“How could he not say anything,” I thought.
I mean, I was a kid, for Pete’s sake, and I had stolen olives out of an alcoholic beverage.
“Did he not notice?”
That was my dad. He knew what I was up to, but there was no way he was going to say anything. Instead, he let me sweat it out until I just burst at the seams and had to confess that I had stolen his olives.
“Didn’t you notice I’ve been stealing your olives!!”
A deep, hearty laugh was his response. I can hear it like it was just yesterday. At that point, I knew he knew…and he got me good!
Today, I enjoy a good Gin Martini on occasion…and when I do, I make sure to stock it full of olives as a tribute to my dad…and just in case someone wants to steal one.
Good Gin Makes a Good MartiniThere is not a lot to a Martini—one to two ingredients with ice—so this is one of those times when I truly believe to have to find a variety of alcohol that you like. A couple of good quality gins I like are Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray No 10 (or “Tanq 10,” as it’s known). Both of these are really nice, smooth gins with great flavor.
So what is Gin? Essentially, it is a neutral alcohol (like a grain alcohol) that is redistilled with a number of botanicals, most prominently Juniper Berries. You can’t have gin without juniper. Aside from that, some other common botanicals are coriander, lemon, angelica, cardamom, cassia, licorice.
The redistillation process with the botanicals generally occurs either by steeping the botanicals with gin or infusing the gin with vapors of the botanicals or a combo of the two processes. Both methods give you a pretty potent alcohol, with gin coming in over 40% ABV. Both the US versions of Bombay Sapphire and Tanq 10 have about 47% ABV (94 Proof).
But What About a Vodka Martini?
Whatever your preference is what you should go for. A gin martini will definitely have more character as gin has a more distinct taste to it than does vodka, which oftentimes is described as a neutral alcohol, making it great for mixing.
With that said, some folks don’t like gin for that exact reason. As I see it, though, if I am going to have a drink that is almost exclusively alcohol and water, then I want that alcohol to bring some flavor to the drink and that’s why, for me, if I’m having a martini, it’s gonna be a gin martini.
But if you prefer Vodka, sounds good to me!
Shaken or Stirred?
The age-old question of shaken or stirred is still a question for one reason: people have different opinions. The bottom line, in my opinion, is that you’re going to get a great martini either way.
If you’re using Vodka, there is less of a dispute when it comes to shaking or stirring. Remember how I mentioned that Gin had a more distinct flavor. It is because of that distinct flavor that you can more easily denote differences when you shake it versus when you stir it.
When you shake the gin (or any alcohol) vigorously, you’re doing a few things: 1) you’re aerating it, which can intensify flavors, because you’re bringing down the top notes of the alcohol. However, some feel that Gin becomes too sharp because some of the top notes (like the juniper) are reduced to an extent that it mutes the flavor or becomes “bruised”; 2) your watering it down; 3) your chilling it to the extreme, which can also serve to mute flavors.
But, again, I go back to: have your drink the way you like it. And if you’re not sure, experiment a little bit. (Man, doesn’t that sound terrible.) 😉
Vermouth or Not to Vermouth, That is the Question
When you hear “Extra Dry Martini,” that is basically a martini without Vermouth. The standard Gin martini is a 5:1 Gin:Vermouth ratio, but again, like everything, figure out a ratio that you like.
Vermouth is simply a wine that is fortified with brandy and then aromatized with different herbs and spices. In a traditional martini, you will use Dry Vermouth. This is where it can get a little confusing: The dryer the martini, the less of the Dry Vermouth you use. Despite being labeled Dry, it can tend to sweeten the overall martini. So remember, the dryer the Martini, the less Vermouth (if any Vermouth at all).
The Sky’s the Limit
There are so many different types of Martinis. Perhaps you’ve had one. If not, perhaps you should:
Dirty: with olive juice (olive brine) added
Wet: use more dry Vermouth
Sweet: use sweet Vermouth instead of Dry
Dry: use less dry Vermouth
Extra Dry: use even less dry Vermouth or none at all
Perfect: equal parts sweet and dry Vermouth with Gin
Shaken: the default way for Vodka
Stirred: the default way for Gin
Twist: twist of Lemon
Olive: with an Olive (shocking, I know!)
Gibson: with a pickled Pearl Onion
Ways to Serve:
Straight Up (usually just “Up”): served with no ice in a traditional Martini glass (the default way it is served)
On the Rocks: poured over ice in a Rocks glass
Neat: not mixed with or served with ice
How to Order a Martini
If you order a Martini, your bartender will likely ask you a few questions. So to order like you know, here’s your little cheat sheet:
I’d like a:
[Pick a Brand or Pick “Gin” or “Vodka” if you want the house brand] Martini,
[Add Modifications (optional)],
[Up (default). So order “On the Rocks” or “Neat” if you want different],
with [Add Garnish]
“I’d like a Bombay Sapphire Martini, shaken, extra dry, two olives please.” My go-to: I will get a Bombay Sapphire Gin Martini, shaken with little or no Vermouth, served in a standard Martini Glass with two olives
“I’d like a gin martini, dirty, on the rocks, please.” You’ll get a house gin Martini mixed with olive brine, stirred and served in a rocks glass over ice with olives (automatic on a dirty martini).
“I’d like a Ketel One Martini, please.” You’ll get a Ketel One Vodka Martini, shaken with Vermouth and served in a standard Martini Glass.
“I’d like a Tanq 10, Gibson Martini please.” You’ll get a Tanqueray 10 Gin Martini, stirred, and served in a standard Martini glass with a pearl onion.”
Hope this helps…let me know your fave!
SO WHAT YOU'RE GONNA NEED IS:
- 2 1/2 ounces Gin
- 1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth
- 1 cup Ice
- 2 Manzanilla Olives (Large, Pimento-stuffed)
- Add Ice to Cocktail Shaker until it is half-way full.
- Using Jigger, add Gin and Vermouth
- Stir for 45 seconds or until frost starts developing on the outside of the Shaker
- Strain into chilled Martini Glass
- Garnish with Olives on a Cocktail Spear
- Add Ice to Cocktail Shaker until it is half-way full
- Using Jigger, add Gin
- Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds.
- Add about a teaspoon of Vermouth into a chilled Martini Glass. Swirl around to coat glass. Shake out and discard any excess.
- Strained Gin into Martini Glass
- Garnish with Olives on a Cocktail Spear