Since its creation, the Martini has undergone countless transformations. For over a century, the cocktail’s specifications have shifted on public whims, leading to a drink that’s often more commonly ordered using modifiers than a single name. The first Martinis gave way to Dry Martinis, from which even more variations emerged like the Dirty Martini, Gibson, Vesper Martini, Perfect Martini, 50/50 Martini, and so many others.
Simply put, a Wet Martini is a Martini that utilizes a higher vermouth-to-gin ratio than most common Martini specifications, and owes its existence to the inescapable dominance of Dry Martinis throughout the 20th century.
In the decades after the Martini’s first creation, as popular drinking tastes skewed increasingly drier (owing in part to the higher quality of available spirits, as well as cultural influencers ranging from Winston Churchill to James Bond and the Rat Pack), Dry Martinis became ubiquitous. By the latter half of the century, the style’s prominence effectively had reached the point at which simply ordering “a Martini” would all but ensure dry proportions—“dry” became the unspoken standard, while “wet” became the modifier, used to ask for a Martini made to softer, throwback specifications.
Most modern Dry Martinis tend to range from 5:1 to 8:1 parts gin to vermouth. However, early iterations of the Martini were more vermouth-heavy in composition, and 2:1 was a common ratio in the early 20th century. The Wet Martini simply follows this more standard ratio seen in spirit-forward cocktails from the Manhattan to the Vieux Carré, Rob Roy, or Left Hand—twice as much spirit as vermouth.
The result is a Martini that’s less bracing than many of its counterparts, and which leans into the interplay between vermouth and gin. Using a 2:1 ratio also helps to modestly reduce the alcohol level of the cocktail for those who hope to maximize the number of Martinis that can be enjoyed in a single evening.
Despite falling out of fashion for a long time as tastes skewed boozier and drier, the Wet Martini has always occupied a unique space within the greater Martini recipe canon. It’s an effortlessly easy cocktail to both make and drink, and one that exudes an understated cool. Here’s how to make one.
2 ounces gin
1 ounce dry vermouth
Garnish: lemon twist
Add the gin and dry vermouth into a mixing glass filled with ice.
Stir smoothly, running the spoon along the edge of the glass, for 30–45 seconds until well chilled.
Strain into a chill Nick & Nora, Martini, or coupe glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
What’s the Difference Between a Wet Martini and a Dry Martini?
Both cocktails utilize the same components, but a Wet Martini contains a larger proportion of vermouth than a Dry Martini, while a Dry Martini has a more gin or vodka-heavy composition. Notably, depending on the specifications to which a bar creates its Dry Martini, the drink may not actually contain more alcohol than a Wet Martini, but simply use less vermouth in proportion to the same amount of gin.
As a rule of thumb, most Dry Martinis come in around a 5:1 ratio of spirit to vermouth, while most Wet Martinis are 2:1 spirit to vermouth.
What’s the Difference Between a Wet Martini and a Reverse Martini?
While a Reverse Martini is, in effect, a very wet Martini, the two cocktails differ greatly. While both contain more vermouth than more standard Martini specifications, a Wet Martini hews closer to traditional Martini structure—eg. a drink that consists a larger amount of gin with a smaller amount of vermouth. A Reverse Martini flips these ratios drastically enough to change the drink’s primary base from gin to vermouth, effectively making it an entirely different cocktail.