Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Martini

with 18 comments

The Martini is among the best of cocktails, if not the best. (Cocktails, unlike highballs, are undiluted with water, juice, soda, etc.)

The Martini was so popular and well-known that Ian Fleming, to characterize James Bond as a person who flouted convention, had him favor a vodka Martini (a true Martini uses gin) and had it “shaken, not stirred.” Unfortunately, the “shaken, not stirred” line lived on in the public mind as Martini knowledge waned, so that today some believe that the Martini is supposed to be shaken and not stirred, a major mistake: if you use the Martini ingredients and shake rather than stir, you get not a Martini, but a Bradford, a drink that resembles the Martini except that it’s polluted with tiny ice chips that melt rapidly and dilute the taste.

UPDATE: The above paragraph is wrong, alas. Here’s the true reason why Bond wanted a (vodka) Martini shaken rather than stirred, from New Scientist:

In our quest to establish the difference between a shaken and a stirred martini, we published a reply from Anna Collins of Washington DC (8 May). She informed us that Bond ordered his martinis shaken so that the ice helped to dissipate any oil left over from the manufacture of vodka from potatoes – the base vegetable for many vodkas at the time Ian Fleming was writing the James Bond novels. Anna added that with the rise of higher-quality grain vodkas this method of preparation has become unnecessary. One reader decided to check out whether this really was the case – Ed

Anna Collins is correct, according to our blind trial. We bought two bottles of vodka, one grain, the other potato-based. First we tasted the vodkas. In the blind trial all six people in our sample said the potato vodka was oily, and the grain vodka wasn’t. Then we made two vodka martinis using the potato vodka. One was stirred with ice, the other shaken with ice. The difference was quite distinct and in a blind tasting every one of the six drinkers characterised the shaken martini as being much less oily. But the martini had to be consumed quickly. If left to settle for 5 minutes or so, the shaken martini became oily again.

Peter Simmons, London, UK

Here’s the way to prepare a true Martini:

a) Put the Martini glass in the freezer well before the cocktail hour. This is important. (I keep a Martini glass in the freezer all the time.) If the glass is not thoroughly cold, it will immediately warm the drink. (The shape of the Martini glass is, I speculate, to make the drink seem smaller (i.e., shallower) than it is, encouraging the drinker to believe that s/he is drinking less than s/he is.)

b) Get out the refrigerated olives and spear one or two with an appropriate implement (a small bamboo olive pick, a sterling silver olive pick, or even a toothpick).

c) Fill the pitcher or shaker with ice cubes—not shaved ice nor crushed ice, which would dilute the drink excessively. Use a lot of ice compared to the amount of gin and vermouth so that the liquids will be quickly chilled. Since refrigerator cubes will adsorb odors, they should be rinsed before use. (With adsorption, the odors are confined to the surface.)

d) Pour room-temperature gin (Seagram’s Extra Dry, Gordon’s London Dry, Hendrick’s, Bombay, Bombay Sapphire, Boodles, Tanqueray, etc.—any excellent London Dry Gin—or, best of all, Plymouth gin, which is not a London Dry Gin) and Noilly Prat dry vermouth (no substitution here) Vya dry vermouth (see Update 3 below) over the ice in the ratio you favor. I go for 4 or 5 parts gin to 1 of vermouth. Ratios of 7-1 or 8-1 seem ridiculous. The vermouth is part of the drink. If you chill the gin ahead of time (some keep it in the freezer), you don’t achieve enough melt for a proper Martini.

e) Stir—do not shake—for the time it takes to sing two verses of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”: about 21 seconds. I use a cocktail shaker with an integral strainer, and I swirl the liquid around in the shaker while I sing.

f) Strain immediately into the pre-chilled Martini glass, and add the speared olive(s).

g) Twist a lemon peel over the surface of the drink and discard the peel. This puts a few tiny droplets of lemon oil on the surface to add to the aroma of the drink.


You can find a small atomizer that purports to be a way to spray a mist of vermouth over a glass of chilled gin to make a Martini. This use is a joke (and a poor one), but the atomizer is useful if filled with lemon oil to spray a mist of the oil over the surface of the Martini (or Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or other cocktail). Boyajian sells 5-oz. bottles of lemon oil (the oil from 355 lemons) that works well. Note that you want lemon oil, not lemon-flavored oil (e.g., olive oil infused with lemons). The lemon oil is to be refrigerated once the bottle is opened, but the atomizer works even if it’s kept in the refrigerator.

UPDATE: Note to self: Try Citadelle gin and Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry, dry white.

UPDATE 2: The NY Times evaluated a number of gins as “Martini gins.” Take a look.

UPDATE 3: BAD NEWS: Noilly Prat is now (Jan 11 2009) changing their formula to make their dry vermouth much sweeter—and totally unsuitable for a Martini. One suggested vermouth to replace it: California’s premium vermouth, Vya. More information here.

UPDATE 4: Roger Moore describes his perfect Martini, which would not have enough vermouth for me.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2006 at 9:57 am

Posted in Drinks, Recipes

18 Responses

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  1. Reminds me of “Gracious Living” at the institution before Friday night lecture.

    Happy Jack the early bird

    12 June 2006 at 10:20 am

  2. How is it a vodka martini when it’s made with 3 oz of Gordon’s Gin.

    A. McNair

    2 December 2006 at 3:37 pm

  3. You’re referring to the recent James Bond movie with Daniel Craig, I believe. Actually, the history of James Bond goes back much further than that, and I was referring to the original novels by Ian Fleming.
    But, to answer your question, a Martini made with gin is indeed not a vodka Martini (made, as the name suggests, with vodka). That said, Gordon’s (obviously a product placement) would definitely not be my choice for a Martini gin. YMMV.


    2 December 2006 at 3:41 pm

  4. I am a bit of a non-conformist and love to make a “dirty” martini. Mine are dirtier than you get at bars. At the neighborhood pub a dirty martini will fetch the above (probably shaken) with a splash of olive juice from the jar of olives mixed in. I go a step further and sqeeze several drops of lemon (including some pulp) into the mix along with olive juice. It comes out fresh and tangy. Now, this drink may have another name out there, but I like to call it a “dirty” martini. BTW, olives stuffed with smoked garlic or bleu cheese are an added treat.

    David F,

    30 December 2006 at 11:44 pm

  5. great post…I do LOVE a good martini. I will have to try the vermouth you mentioned (Noilly Prat). I especially liked how you pointed out that the vermouth actually does need to be added to the drink to make it a martini…otherwise it would be chilled gin.

    BTW, just got some QED soaps I can’t wait to try!


    10 January 2007 at 1:41 pm

  6. I drink my martinis the way Mr David does, and I have tried the olives stufed with bleu cheese; they’re great!

    Mr. Santoro

    4 March 2007 at 3:33 pm

  7. I’ve always liked the silver onion garnish of a gibson martini.

    Andrew Hammond

    19 March 2007 at 4:23 pm

  8. well, I am from Chile, and the best I ever knew about a good Martini, is the one I found already bottled!! nothing like this one, I enjoyed it a lot, and now I think I am able to make it myself without feeling ashamed.
    Very good tips aswell.


    18 April 2007 at 5:57 am

  9. Indeed, do try Citadelle Gin as noted. It tastes like Chanel perfume smells. Wow.


    5 June 2007 at 1:51 am

  10. I remembered to come back here to say thanks for the recipe – we used it last night, although to be fair I can’t remember much about it!

    Thanks again


    13 February 2008 at 10:10 am

  11. 9AKhfm Hello! I’m Samuel Smith, i’m from Switqerland i and find your site really brilliant!


    2 May 2008 at 2:31 pm

  12. The late lamented Bruno Mooshi, owner and chief bartender of the Persian Aub ZamZam Room in San Francisco’s Haight district, was famous for his martinis. They were, um, unconventional. Bruno’s martini, whose recipe he gladly disclosed, was:

    1. Stirred, not shaken
    2. 4-to-1 ratio of gin to vermouth
    3. Boord’s gin (which he praised as “a clean gin”)
    4. Boissiere vermouth.

    Boord’s is a low-priced gin ($10 per 1.75 liters) but is, as he indicated, “clean”. Unpolluted by silly extras — unlike, say, Bombay Sapphire. You can buy it at the Longs drugstore chain just down the street from the Aub ZamZam room, and at BevMo, Lucky supermarket, etc.

    Boissiere is slightly harder to find, but worth the search IMHO.


    14 February 2010 at 8:34 pm

  13. I’ll definitely give Boissiere a go. Many thanks for the tip. I certainly agree with 1 and 2 of his recipe, but I definitely would go with Plymouth gin. YMMV.


    14 February 2010 at 9:20 pm

  14. Well if you are a hardcore afficianado of Plymouth gin, permit me to introduce you to Aviation gin from Portland, Oregon, USA. It is all that Plymouth is, and more. AND it has got that west coast mojo. Support your local businesswoman. Yeah baby. You can order it over Da Intanet since Oregon and Monterey California have got Tax Reciprocity working. Oh yes.

    But some find Boord’s superior. Your mileage may vary.


    14 February 2010 at 9:31 pm

  15. Bruno used Boodles gin in his ‘generic’ martinis at the Persia Aub ZamZam, at least when I was in there the late 80’s and early 90’s. Specifically asking for any other brand was a sure ticket out of the bar.

    I prefer my martini dry. I of course wouldn’t dare ask Bruno for such. But when I’m mixing, I pour a surfeit of vermouth onto the ice in the mixer, swirl, and then pour out and discard the liquid. Only then do I add gin, stir, wait, and drain. The only vermouth in the drink is that which coated was coating the ice. It’s my ideal.


    10 March 2010 at 2:25 pm

  16. Reblogged this on Ice & Bitters and commented:
    Leisure Guy’s selfless testing of potato versus grain vodkas, and their effect on Vodka Martinis…


    23 February 2014 at 8:16 am

  17. […] Back in 2006, the LeisureGuy blog followed up on research in the New Scientist, which carried out a taste test on two Vodka Martinis, one using a potato-based vodka, the other with a grain-based spirit, and […]

  18. Best description ever about how much vermouth to put in a dry Martini: Make sure you’re preparing it while an Alitalia flight is crossing overhead! I am, like you. a 4-5:1 man. Plus a drop of Angostura bitters for each serving. Shaken when using a shaker, stirred when I’m lazy and making it directly in the serving glass. So many variations, one could spend a lifetime of study, especially considering the number of new artisanal gins.


    11 February 2015 at 9:51 am

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