Who mixed the world’s first Martini? It’s a good question, but you could stumble down a very deep, dark rabbit hole trying to find out. Was it a California prospector during the 1849 Gold Rush or the barman at a flossy 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 bartenders began to experiment with gin and dry vermouth. Regardless, no origin story will leave you feeling as blissful and content as you will feel after drinking a classic, well-made Dry Martini.
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 around 1905, 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 for yourself, it’s imperative that you start with good ingredients—after all, there’s no place to hide in such a straightforward cocktail. Begin with a London-style gin. From there, add a little dry vermouth. The ratio is negotiable, but common formulas 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, sans ice shards. But do stir it for a good 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. Maybe more than once.
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.