Martinis are the most savoury cocktail you can get and the main reason why I love them so much. A Bloody Mary might be more so, but it contains tomato juice, so it doesn’t count. Tomato juice has long been cancelled in my life. As cocktails go, I can handle one sweet drink at a time, but with martinis, they just taste like more.

You can geek out on the science of what happens when ice cubes amalgamate with alcohol and ponder surface area vs dilution vs cooling ratios, but something quite magical happens when the two collide and create a delicious viscosity in your mouth. Martinis are such a textural drink, and they need to be ice cold. You want enough ice contact to get the drink freezing, without diluting it too much.

Gin is the classic liquor in a martini, but I started out drinking them with vodka. This is totally a personal preference, but you will find more exciting flavour profiles to explore with gin. A purist might tell you that a London Dry style gin is best in a martini (and I tend to agree), but there are too many gins that are infused with subtle botanicals that make delicious martinis to ignore this option. I love Hendricks gin. If you like a dry martini stick with dry vermouth. If you like them sweeter, go with a mix of sweet & dry. Pure gin is not a martini despite Churchill’s famous quote: Once when asked how much vermouth he wanted in his cocktail, he replied: “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.

How to make the best martini

Shaken or stirred?

I’m with James and love a vigorous shake with a lot of ice cubes. I need some dilution to take the bite off the alcohol edge. Stirring does the same trick with longer ice contact in the glass and it’s the classic way to mix up this all-liquor drink. Whether you choose a shaker or glass to make the martini, make sure to pour it dry first & ensure your glass is nicely chilled. This means pouring the booze in before the ice. You don’t want the cubes to start dissolving prematurely and watering down your drink.

Not shaken nor stirred

My friend Emile has bypassed this stage and premixes his gin and vermouth to his preferred ratio and then keeps that stashed in his freezer. All he does is chill his glass for half an hour and pour it straight in. This certainly takes the fuss out of the ice cube contact time conundrum, but I personally need the dilution. If like me (and Emile) you like to drink martinis frequently, premixing the liquor is a great idea for convenience. Keeping it in the freezer ensures it starts out ultra-cold and reduces the threat of dilution. You could also just keep a bottle of gin stashed there too.

How to make the best martini

How to garnish your martini:

The green olive is an absolute must-have and three would be optimal to garnish my drink. In bartending, even numbers can be seen as bad luck although 3 does displace a lot of liquid. A splash of their brine makes your martini dirty and for some more delicious. I personally prefer the purity of a clean martini, but I’d never say no to the other.

A twist of freshly peeled (and preferably freshly picked) citrus squeezed over your martini just before you take your first sip is a subtle next-level element. The zest creates a microscopic spray of oily particles that float above and settles on the surface of the drink. If you take your first sip you should be able to pick up the scent in your nose too. Drop the zest into your drink if you are not using olives as it’s a good alternative.  If you are adding green olives a spritz of the lemon zest over the top is fine. 

With so few ingredients involved in a martini, there is little room to hide and is the mixology equivalent of making a proper spaghetti carbonara. The technique is as important as the ingredients but use the best quality you can afford. Seemingly very simple, you need to get all the little things right to make it perfect. Timing & quality is everything here.

The ratio of how much gin you add to vermouth is again a personal preference and I tend to like a little more dry vermouth. Play around until you find your perfect recipe. Jeffrey Morgenthaler who wrote `The Bar Book’  (a brilliant book)recommends a 5:1 gin to vermouth ratio for a classic martini and uses London Dry gin. I’m happier around a 4:1 ratio and even go to 3:1 depending on my mood.

How to make the best martini

A note on vermouth

Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with various botanicals and thus needs to be refrigerated after opening.  For a martini, I like Martini extra dry vermouth by Rossi & sons. It’s Italian and affordable and easily available. Noilly Prat is also very good if you can find it.

How to make the best martini

How to make a classic martini

Use a London dry gin, stir it in a tall glass with ice cubes for 10 seconds, strain it into a chilled martini coup and serve with green olives or a twist of lemon.

Recipe: (roughly 5:1)

75ml London Dry Gin

15ml dry vermouth

Ice cubes

Green olives or a twist of lemon for garnish 

For people in America:

2 1/2 ounces London Dry gin or vodka

1/2 ounce dry vermouth

Ice cubes

Green olives or a twist of lemon for garnish 

How to make the best martini?

I’m sorry to disappoint but that is going to be up to you. After drinking them for months and trying to figure out what’s best, I haven’t come up with the definitive answer. It’s such a personal preference thing and I think you should make them any way you like. Take a few tips from what I have mentioned above, and you will be well on your way to making the best.

Summary:

  • Chill your martini glass before in the freezer (around 20 minutes)
  • Keep your gin/vodka frozen
  • Pour the booze into the glass or shaker before adding ice
  • Just before you want to serve add your ice cubes
  • Stir for around 10 – 30 seconds using a cocktail stirrer or tall spoon and then strain into the chilled martini glass
  • Or shake vigorously for around 6-10 seconds and strain into your glass
  • Spike a few green olives onto a cocktail skewer and drop them into the glass
  • Or freshly peel a strip of zest off a lemon, twist it over your drink and then drop it in

*Warning – remember this is an all-booze cocktail and despite tasing utterly moreish and delish it’s essentially drinking 4 tots in one go. 

Please keep the conversation going and let me know how you make the best martini.

I was gifted a bottle of Albatross Vodka to experiment with and it makes a wicked martini. This silky smooth spirit is distilled in the Western Cape and made from grapes by the clever people behind Kinship Spirits. The bottle is tall, blue and completely gorgeous. It’s the star of the show on my drinks trolley.

Albatross Vodka martini

How to make the best martini

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