Cocktail History: The Art of the Martini
Nov 30, 2021
Martinis are a classic cocktail known for being both elegant and sophisticated. Served chilled and simplistic in structure, this drink tastes best when only the finest ingredients are used.
The classic recipe for a martini calls for London dry gin and dry vermouth using a ratio of 2:1 served straight up into a chilled cocktail glass. But, the martini is far from a one-trick pony. The ratio can be altered and the classic gin can be exchanged for vodka. This results in martinis such as a dessert martini with not a drop of vermouth to a perfect martini that uses equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth before adding a 3:1 of gin.
What is a Martini?
Definition A martini is a cocktail traditionally made with gin and vermouth. Classically, it is garnished with an olive or lemon twist, but this well-known cocktail has been reimagined many times over.
The Invention of the Martini
This American cocktail has a murky history but is theorized to have been born out of the mid-1800s Gold Rush in California. This origin story states that a miner in Martinez, California struck it rich and wanted to celebrate his good fortune with Champagne, only the local bar didn’t have any. Instead, a cocktail was whipped together using the ingredients on hand which happened to be gin, vermouth, bitters, maraschino liquor, and a slice of lemon. The miner traveled on to San Francisco where he then had the bartender replicate the previously unnamed cocktail, dubbed ‘The Martinez Special’.
Others claim the martini is simply a Marguerite renamed. An additional theory suggests the martini as being a derivative of the Martinez served at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco during the 1860s.
While we don’t know for sure how this classic cocktail came to be, we do know it was first publicly published in 1884 in The Modern Bartender then again in 1888 in Bartender Manual.
Gin or Vodka
Martinis are made with either vodka or gin; gin being the traditional choice.
This choice will come down to personal preference. A gin martini will have a more complex and botanic taste. A vodka martini, on the other hand, will be much smoother.
The classic martini is garnished with an olive, however, this isn’t your only option. Alternative martini garnishes include:
- Fresh fruit
- Citrus wedge or wheel
- Citrus peel
- Spanish olive
- Stuffed olive
- Cocktail onion
- Pickled onion
Essential Terminology When Ordering Your Martini
Shaken? Stirred? Straight up? Thrown? There’s an entire vocabulary just surrounding martini serving styles. Get your terminology straight before ordering a martini using the outline below.
- Dry – Very little vermouth added
- Wet – Higher ratio of vermouth added
- Dirty – Add olive brine (usually with an olive garnish as well)
- On the Rocks – Served over ice
- Perfect – 50% dry vermouth and 50% sweet vermouth
- Gibson – Topped with a pickled onion
- Shaken – Agitates the martini for a more diluted drink
- Stirred – Mixed in a shaker and stirred to chill the drink without agitating it
- Straight Up – Prepared with ice then strained into a chilled glass
- Thrown – Pouring from a tumble above your head to a tumbler held below to release aromatics and create a smoother sip
- With a Twist – Add a strip of citrus peel
Martinis at Christner’s
The dirty/spicy/cheesy martini is made with Hanson Organic Habanero Vodka with Filthy Olives Pickling Brine and Oregon Creamery blue cheese stuffed olives. This martini, as the name suggests, has a spicy punch and salty taste. You’ll also notice the slightest hint of sweetness thanks to the pickling brine.
Meyer Lemon Drop Martini
If you’re a fan of sweet lemonade, this is the martini for you. Mostly sweet and a little bit tart, the Meyer lemon drop martini is made with Hanson Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka, fresh lemon juice, a dash of Triple Sec, sour mix, and simple syrup.
Get the perfect balance between sweet and bitter with the espresso martini. Our espresso martini is made with Wheatley Vodka, Borghetti Espresso Liqueur, espresso, and a dash of Bailey’s and chocolate. It’s shaken with ice and served up.