The Martini

By • January 10, 2013 • 15 Comments

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Some things just go together -- and the obvious accompaniment to food is drink. Welcome to Booze52, in which we explore all manner of libations, from A to Z, that do much more than just wash down a meal. 

Today: We’re stirring up the most classic cocktail of all.

In the 50s, martinis were what Mom and Dad sipped before a dinner of meatloaf, garden salad, and creamed corn. 

Not anymore, of course. Cocktails have made an extraordinary comeback and the martini is undoubtedly leading the charge. It has a clean, bracing taste, and we won’t lie -- drinking one just makes you look classy. 

Where was the cocktail born? The most referenced story in the history books is that it all started in the 1860s with a cocktail called a Martinez -- made of gin, sweet vermouth, bitters and maraschino liqueur. Recipes evolved from there, but the martini pioneer is still largely unknown: “It’s kind of like asking who made the first airplane,” cocktail author Barnaby Conrad said in one interview. 

Ratios back in the early days were often 1:1 gin to vermouth. From there, they’ve skyrocketed as high as 100:1, but below is my favorite blend. (Read even further to discover yours.)

Gin Martini

2 ounces gin
1 ounce vermouth
Green olive or lemon twist for garnish 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


How to Make the Perfect Martini for You

 Never freeze your alcohol -- the ice you use during stirring not only chills the liquid down efficiently, but it infuses it with enough water to temper the alcohol burn. Water is an essential component of a well-mixed martini.
• Feel free to play with the vermouth ratio a bit according to your own palate. 
• Many classic recipes call for orange bitters -- I like a few drops for extra complexity, and if you make yours this way, invite me over.
• Whatever you do, drink your martinis in moderation. Heed the words of Dorothy Parker:

I like to drink a Martini
But only two at the most.
Three I’m under the table,
Four I’m under the host.

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: booze52, martini, classic cocktails, drinks, recipe

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Comments (15)


almost 2 years ago Christopher Whittington

My mother and father taught me to make martinis very, very dry, which meant that there was a dusty old bottle of vermouth in the back of the liqueur cabinet. The martini was made with good vodka, stirred with ice, strained into a chilled martini glass, with an olive, and the only presence of vermouth was that it remained unseen in the liqueur cabinet gathering more dust.


about 2 years ago JadeTree

Thanks to the Valentine's Day menu suggestion, I made martini's for the first time on Valentine's night (why did I ever wait so long?!). Made one as here, the 2:1 ratio, and the other 4:1, both with a twist. Absolutely delicious no matter what, but the husband loved the 2:1 and I the 4:1. Totally Jack Sprat and his wife; happiness all around, which seems indeed to signify the importance of individual preference. We drank them while catching up on Downtown Abbey - this is crazy romance with two small children sleeping nearby!


about 2 years ago Erika Kotite

Erika is the founder of Toque magazine and is guiding us through classic cocktails from A to Z in the Booze52 series.

haha, Downton Abbey and downing martinis. I like your style JadeTree!


over 2 years ago retired expat in Mexico

Well, I like a Viper Martini, the original 007 recipe is equal parts gin and vodka, a cap of Lillet, our into ice and stir, stir, stir....and two olives and one onion. Because all our friends want at least one martini this recipe is perfect when made in a pitcher. Do not forget to remove the ice.


over 2 years ago Erika Kotite

Erika is the founder of Toque magazine and is guiding us through classic cocktails from A to Z in the Booze52 series.

Wow, haven't heard of this version, will need to try.


over 2 years ago Jim Rain

I'm fully behind a dash or two of orange bitters. But I'll so a 2:1 gin:vermouth ratio makes for a pretty wet martini. For me, 4:1 is the right recipe.


over 2 years ago Jim Rain

I must have had too much gin. I have no idea what "I'll so" was supposed to mean.


over 2 years ago Erika Kotite

Erika is the founder of Toque magazine and is guiding us through classic cocktails from A to Z in the Booze52 series.

ha ha - I finished it as "I'll so bet a 2:1 gin:vermouth ratio ... " My ratios are on a sliding scale based on the kind of day I had.


over 2 years ago Mlouise

To kick it up a notch, try to find a bottle of Dolin Vermouth de Chambery....using this brand of vermouth is akin to leaving college jug wine behind for a really wonderful small vineyard red.


over 2 years ago Erika Kotite

Erika is the founder of Toque magazine and is guiding us through classic cocktails from A to Z in the Booze52 series.

I enjoy studying cocktail evolution through the eras. Glad to know that some just don't need to be messed with! (I gotta have the olive too!)


over 2 years ago dymnyno

I am a Martini, straight up with an olive drinker. I have given up ordering them in many foreign countries because as soon as you say "martini" they only know about Martini and Rossi vermouth!


over 2 years ago Nancy Lawson Mandoky

I'm actually quite fond of Tomolives in my martinis so as to confine the majority of my caloric intake to the alcohol. The Tomolives pack quite a punch and are also quite fun in Bloody Marys and Bloody Marias.


over 2 years ago Brian Severns

Um, the Wright Brothers made the first airplane. So it's not "kind of like asking" that.


over 2 years ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Managing Editor of Food52.

Let's all be friendly in the name of the Martini! We can probably both drink to that.


over 2 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Actually, if you'd like to mince words, I think the Wright brothers made the first controlled, sustained flight in an airplane. I don't think they built the very first airplane.