The Gin Martini has been around forever, and for good reason. It features just three ingredients – vermouth, gin and your choice of garnish – and a fascinating taste that’s hard to describe.
The Importance of Garnish
On most drinks, garnish isn’t that important. But in this one, it’s crucial. It’s a third ingredient.
You might be used to seeing a martini with olives – that’s the classic garnish. But a lemon twist is also common, and well worth trying.
A lemon twist adds citrus notes while the olive adds a flavor that’s more tangy and salty. Both versions taste wonderful, but many drinkers develop a strong preference for one or the other.
Olives can be lined up on a pick and simply sat in the drink. They’ll release enough aromatic liquid to add a hint of flavor to the drink that way.
With lemon twists, on the other hand, bartenders twist the lemon peel above the drink to release oil. Then when the lemon twist is placed in the drink, it adds a note of citrus.
Choosing Your Gin
The gin you choose will determine most of this drink’s flavor. In general, the Martini is herbal and a little bit tangy, which is why it goes equally well with an olive or lemon twist for garnish.
There are no mixers in this drink – pure alcohol all the way. It’s a strangely versatile drink that’s equally wonderful sipped alone or with almost any meal or snack you care to pair it with.
Because it’s mostly gin, you do need to pick a good, drinkable bottle. Some of the best martinis I’ve ever had were mixed with Tanqueray No. 10 and a lemon twist.
No. 10 has more citrus notes than Tanqueray Dry, which has more juniper. But personal taste comes into play here.
Hendrick’s also makes a great martini. It has citrus and flower notes, and if you enjoy drinking it on its own, you’ll definitely love it in a martini.
Keep It Chillin’
This is a drink best served chilled. This means you should keep your spirits in refrigeration. It also means you should stick your martini glasses in the freezer for at least 5 minutes before you pour.
In my experience, chilling the glass along with the ingredients takes a good martini to a whole new level.
To really impress guests who nurse their martinis, bring them another chilled glass after the one they’re using has lost its frost. Pour what’s left of their martini into the new glass.
You can top it off, too, if you’ve pre-mixed your cocktails. It’s also a good idea to keep your shaker chilled when you’re not using it.
When you order a Martini, your bartender or server should ask you two questions: gin or vodka? And lemon or olive? If they don’t ask, you should tell them what you want.
The big difference between gin and vodka is the flavor of the drink. Vodka doesn’t really add any, so the taste comes from the vermouth and the garnish you chose.
Gin, as discussed above, adds its own notes. Citrus, herbs, flowers – it depends on the gin you choose.
If you dislike vermouth, and you’ve only ever tried a vodka martini, you should try this recipe instead. The gin has a strong flavor that dominates the vermouth.
This drink recipe is as dry as it can get. All the sweetness comes from the vermouth, and you only use enough to swish around the sides of the glass.
If you find it too dry, feel free to add a little vermouth. Start by not emptying the vermouth you’ve swished in the glass. If that’s not enough, add a little vermouth into your shaker of gin until you find the amount you like.
The Gin Martini
- Dry vermouth
- 2 ounces dry gin
- Lemon twist or olives
- Pour a little dry vermouth into a martini glass and gently slosh it around the glass until the inside of the glass is coated.
- Get rid of the excess vermouth.
- Gently stir the gin in a shaker full of ice.
- Strain it into the glass.
- Serve with an olive or lemon twist.
Many other recipes suggest stirring all the ingredients together in a shaker with ice and then straining the mixture into the glass. You can experiment to find your preferred method.