Traditionally a stiff mixture of gin with the merest hint of dry vermouth, a martini could be described as “astringent” at best. Something of an acquired taste, it is perhaps the most austere, misunderstood and exploited cocktail, while simultaneously one of the most well known. In its original format, its glamour is unparalleled. Its history is uncertain although written evidence points with relative certainty to the US as the birthplace of the martini, around the mid-19th century. One credible account by William Grimes, restaurant critic for the New York Times, claims that the dry martini was invented in 1912 by Signor Martini di Arma di Taggia, a bartender at New York’s Knickerbocker hotel. It’s a descendant of the Martinez, created by Jerry Thomas, barman at the Occidental hotel in San Francisco, which combines sweeter gin and vermouth with a dash of maraschino cherry liquid and bitters. Two points: Serve your martini very well chilled and secondly, we’re undecided as to whether shaken or stirred is best.
- 50ml best-quality gin (try Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray No. 10 or Blackwoods)
- 5ml Vermouth (Noilly Prat is superb but unavailable – your best local option is Martini Dry Vermouth)
- ice cubes, to serve
- 3 green olives spiked on a stick or a twist of fresh lemon zest, to garnish
If you have a swizzle stick, combine the gin and vermouth in a glass and stir. Add the spiked olives/lemon zest and serve. If not, combine the gin, vermouth and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker or clean glass jar with a secure lid and shake to combine. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with spiked olives or a twist of lemon zest and serve.