The Martini

Shaken, not stirred.

Every man worth his salt knows this line and who to attribute it to. In honor of his upcoming movie I thought we should talk about Bond’s drink of choice, the Martini (as you may already know I have a fascination with all things Bond).

The Martini is traditionally a gin cocktail flavored with vermouth, and occasionally garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. Since its inception, the Martini has become one of the most commonly known mixed beverages. If you prefer cocktail onion instead of an olive in your Martini, you would order a Gibson. Others skip the gin all together and opt for vodka instead, thus creating the Vodka Martini. The Martini has been called”the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet “and “the elixir of quietude”. Winston Churchill was said to whisper the word ‘Vermouth’ to a freshly poured glass of gin. Dorothy Parker expressed her opinion: “I like to have a martini/two at the very most. /Three, I’m under the table. /Four, I’m under my host”.

The exact origin of the Martini is unclear. There are myriads of cocktails with monikers and ingredients similar to the modern-day martini, and many were first seen in bartending guides as early as late 19th century. A popular theory suggests it evolved from a cocktail called the Martinez served at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco in the 1860s.  Alternatively, the people of Martinez (near San Francisco) say the drink was first created by a bartender in their town. It was Prohibition and the boot-leg gin manufacturing that led to the Martini’s rise as the predominant cocktail of the mid 20th century in the United States.

The Gin

If you have been reading “How to be Swell” you know that my gin of choice is Tanqueray, and if you would like to know why then read it here, as good as it is for a gin and tonic, it is suited perfectly for a Martini.


The Vermouth

Vermouth is an aromatized fortified wine flavored with various botanicals, roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices. Its name comes from the German word Wermut for wormwood, which has been used as an ingredient in the drink over its history. In 1863, an Italian vermouth maker started marketing their product under the brand name of Martini. This product is still available today, better known as Martini & Rossi. Since they are the original it is the most logical choice for your vermouth, and it is the best. The Martini first used sweet vermouth as the mix, someone wanting a “dry martini” asked for white vermouth. Today the dryness of a martini refers to the quantity of vermouth used in the drink, with a very dry martini having little or none, and dirty martini contains a splash of olive brine or olive juice.

The Vodka

Purists will say a vodka martini is an entirely different drink, and I am inclined to agree with them, but since they are easily as popular and since vodka and gin are so closely related, I chose to include it here. My choice is Blue Ice American made potato vodka. Blue Ice is made from Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes.  Distilled in a four-column fractional still, filtered five times, then blended with water drawn from the Snake River, Blue Ice retains all of the flavors of a true potato vodka without a trace of impurities.

The preparation

Mix it four parts gin or vodka to one part vermouth. Pour all of the  spirits into a mixing glass with ice cubes, stirred and then strained and served “straight up” (without ice) in a chilled Martini glass garnished with either a green olive or a twist of lemon (a strip of the peel, usually squeezed or twisted to express volatile oils onto the surface of the drink). Shaker mixing is common due to influences of popular culture, notably James Bond. So now then why did he say this? The simple answer is because he is drinking a vodka martini, and when you are drinking vodka COLD is the key, and there is no better way to very quickly make a cocktail very cold than to mix it in a shaker.

Many, many newer drinks include the word “martini” or the suffix “-tini” in the name. So as not to be confused, these are named after the type of glass they are served in and share with the martini, but share little else with the drink. Stick to the original and you are sure to be swell.

(Images courtesy of:,, Tanquray, Martini & Rossi, Blue Ice, and,


One response to “The Martini

  1. Pingback: Every Swell Man Should Learn… | How to be Swell

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