Who mixed the world’s first Martini? Was it a California prospector during the 1849 Gold Rush or the barman at a New York City hotel 50 years later? Most likely, the Martini is a cocktail that came onto the scene in multiple places at once, as an increasing number of bartenders began to experiment with gin and vermouth.
One fact we do know: The drink’s original form, according to early recipes, was sweet. Nineteenth-century cocktail books regularly called for Italian (sweet) vermouth. The Dry Martini took its current form by the turn of the century, when the new order of the day was dry gin, dry vermouth, and perhaps a dash of orange bitters for good measure.
When making the drink, it’s imperative to start with good ingredients—there’s no place to hide poor quality gin or vermouth in such a straightforward cocktail. Begin with a London dry-style gin. From there, add a little dry vermouth. The ratio is negotiable, but common formulas for a Dry Martini typically fall in the range of four-to-eight parts gin to one part vermouth. A dash of orange bitters ties the room together.
Despite the exacting demands of a certain fictional British spy, the Martini is meant to be stirred, not shaken. The cocktail should be clear, and without ice shards. Be sure to stir it for at least 20 to 30 seconds to yield the proper dilution necessary to bring the ingredients into balance. Then, strain it into the glass named after the cocktail itself. Twist a lemon peel over the top, and there you have it: a Dry Martini. It’s a drink worth getting to the bottom of.
It’s also a drink that’s spurred countless variations. No, we’re not talking about the ubiquitous ’Tinis of the 1980s and ’90s. We mean the legitimate variations, like the Vodka Martini (self-explanatory), the Reverse Martini (swap your gin and vermouth ratios) and the Perfect Martini, which features an equal split of dry and sweet vermouth. Master the Dry Martini first, then try your hand at mixing its relatives.
Watch Now: Classic, Dry Martini Recipe
2 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1 dash orange bitters
Garnish: lemon twist
Add the gin, dry vermouth, and orange bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until very cold.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
What Makes a Martini Dry?
“Dry” is a common cocktail modifier that generally means a heavier proportion of higher-proof spirit to lower-alcohol mixer. In the case of the Martini, this means more gin and less vermouth.
Dry drinks often taste more powerfully of alcohol, though their exact proportions vary wildly and often depend on specific drinks and personal tastes. Worth noting, a Dry Martini doesn’t omit vermouth entirely, despite the clichéd refrain of asking bartenders to only “look at the vermouth.”
What's the Best Gin-to-Vermouth Ratio for a Dry Martini?
The gin-to-vermouth ratio of a Dry Martini can fluctuate greatly based on individual preferences. However, as a rule of thumb, a 5:1 ratio of gin to vermouth is the standard for a Dry Martini. This takes the 2:1 spirit-to-vermouth ratio of other spirit-forward classic cocktails (like the Manhattan) and modifies it to functionally mean an additional 1/2 ounce of spirit, and 1/2 ounce less vermouth, making it “dry.”
Does a Martini Have Bitters?
In the one hundred-plus years the modern Martini recipe was codified, evolving tastes have shifted accepted ingredients and preparation styles greatly. A dash of orange bitters was a common inclusion in most early Martini recipes, where it was used to bring out and accentuate the natural citrus notes in gin and vermouth.
However, in the latter half of the 20th century, as ever-drier versions of the cocktail with more spirit-heavy profiles took hold, the inclusion of bitters fell out of favor, becoming all but forgotten. Presently, with the resurgence of craft cocktail culture and bartenders reviving more traditional formulations of classic cocktails, orange bitters have again found their way into many modern Martinis.