Possibly the most famous cocktail in the world, and yet the Dry Martini is vastly misunderstood, even by those who drink them regularly. At its core, it’s a recipe of three ingredients. Gin, Dry Vermouth, and water. You can argue about water being an ingredient or not, but we list it here to reinforce how important dilution is. You can have the freshest, most delicious Vermouth and highest quality Gin, such as Junipero, and yet it’s all for nothing without adding the perfect amount of water.
There are books solely dedicated to the Dry Martini (we’ve even written some of them), however in this article we’re going to break down the ‘Anatomy of the Martini’ into bitesize fundamentals, that will help you make (or order) great Dry Martinis every time.
What’s in a name?
Some recipes called ____-tini or _____ Martini, such as the Appletini or Espresso Martini are NOT Martinis in the true sense of the meaning. These recipes were created at a time – roughly speaking, the 1980s to early 00s – when the typical Cocktail Glass used in bars was a V-shaped Cocktail Glass, aka the Martini Glass. If you close your eyes and imagine every neon cocktail sign, it’s that one.
Due to the popularity and prevalence of the Martini Glass, almost every drink served in one was named a ____-tini or ____ Martini, even though they had nothing to do with the classic recipe of Gin and Dry Vermouth. Even if you don’t read any further, you are now one of the enlightened few!
What is the Dry Martini?
The Dry Martini is both iconic and an incredibly simple recipe. Yet, with almost unlimited opportunities for self-expression, it’s probably the most personalizable cocktail on the planet. The Dry Martini is really a category of cocktails, not a single standalone recipe.
Whether making a Dry Martini or ordering one, you have a few decisions to make. Firstly, you must pick your preference of both Gin and Dry Vermouth. Gins are very different from each other, as are Vermouths, so your choice of brands for these two ingredients will have a profound impact on your final drink.
Secondly, you must decide on your ratio of Gin & Dry Vermouth. Yes, you get to decide, there is no ‘best’ or ‘perfect’ answer here, there’s only what YOU like. The good news is, you just need to try lots of different Dry Martinis to work out what’s best for you. In fact, if you love a Dry Martini, you will have different preferences due to time of day, mood, season or other outside influences on you.
Thirdly, you’ll have to decide how you want to make it. There are many ways to chill and add the right amount of dilution to your Martini. We recommend stirring because it allows more control and the ability to taste the mixture throughout the process. You need to add just the right amount of water to open up the flavours and aromas. The addition of water from the ice melt will also make the whole drinking experience a smooth and pleasant one.
Finally choose your garnish, if any, and you’re done.
Gin; The OG Martini
The Dry Martini is a celebration of Gin, which means that to make a great Martini, you need Gin of the highest quality.
Junipero is certainly a Gin we would recommend, it makes a wonderful Dry Martini. A truly trailblazing American Gin, it’s been hand crafted in San Francisco since 1996, long before the modern craze of Gin had exploded.
Why would we recommend this Gin for your Dry Martini? Junipero is incredibly smooth and bottled at high strength, which means it’s packed full of flavour. Importantly, it’s also very well balanced. A must for any Gin, especially one that will shine in a drink as elegant and simple as the Dry Martini. If you’re a fan of classic Gins, this is one to add to your collection.
Also yes, that’s right, we said Gin! A long time before Vodka was ever mixed with Vermouth and put into a cocktail glass, Gin was being stirred into this most delicious concoction.
Dry Vermouth; Gin’s dancing partner
Vermouths are Fortified Wines. This means a wine that has been strengthened (fortified) with spirit, increasing its alcohol strength (ABV). Sherry, Port, Americanos, along with Vermouths are all Fortified Wines.
Some Fortified Wines, like Vermouth, are also flavoured with natural herbs and spices, known as botanicals. In fact, the name ‘Vermouth’ comes from the word ‘Vermut’, which is German for ‘Wormwood’, the herb also used in absinthe. To be called ‘Vermouth’ (outside the US) Wormwood must be used as one of the flavouring ingredients in a Vermouth.
How much Dry Vermouth do you add to your Dry Martini? Well, that’s the point here. Which one you choose and how much you add are key ways to create your own personal Dry Martini preferences.
The vast amount of Vermouths available these days makes it even more difficult to choose just one. Dolin Dry or Noilly Prat Dry are both excellent choices that are easily available. The Dolin being a little fruitier than Noilly, which is rested in a wooden barrel, the flavour of which comes through in the final product.
There’s a whole wide world of alternatives to Vermouth out there too, which you can use to make a twist on a Dry Martini. Such as the deliciously off-dry Lillet Blanc, or the nutty dryness of Amontillado Sherry.
It may be a ‘Dry’ Martini, but it can still be ‘Wet’
The more Vermouth you add, the ‘Wetter’ your Dry Martini will be. It’s still a Dry Martini because you are using a Dry Gin and a Dry Vermouth, but the higher the proportion of Vermouth to Gin you have, the ‘Wetter’ the Dry Martini. Which also applies to the opposite, the less Dry Vermouth you use, the ‘Dryer’ it is. It’s not the most helpful terminology really, but it’s what we have!
Therefore, just rinsing your glass with a Vermouth would create a ‘Very Dry’, ‘Extra Dry’ or ‘Bone Dry’ Martini. Sometimes called an ‘In-and-Out’ because the Vermouth is added to the glass, swirled around and then thrown out again.
A standard Dry Martini would be somewhere between a ratio of 6:1 and 10:1, of Gin to Vermouth. This is also very much depending on the bar, bartender or even country you’re in. In many an old school steakhouse, their standard ‘Dryness’ would actually be just a rinse of Vermouth, an ‘In-and-Out’ .
A 2:1 ratio of 2 parts Gin to 1 part Vermouth, would be a ‘Wet’ Martini to most, a ratio that many of the best bartenders in the US would use as their go-to serve.
Finally, you can go all the way up to what’s called a ‘Fifty-Fifty’. Essentially a 1:1 ratio, in other words, a recipe of equal parts Gin and Dry Vermouth. An ever more popular style of Dry Martini that brings the most character from the Vermouth to the Gin, and the most forgiving recipe in terms of always making sure it’s made well. The equal parts of Vermouth and Gin mean that it’s rarely under-diluted and undrinkable.
All in all, this information will not only help you make better Martinis, it will be useful for when you order them in bars too! At this point it should be clear that when you order a ‘Dry Martini’ in a bar with no further information, you have no control over what you’re going to get, as all the decisions will be made for you – what Gin, Vermouth, ratio, etc . Therefore you should work out what you like and order your Dry Martini as specifically as possible. To any bartender worth their salt, this actually makes life easier, as they don’t have to either guess what you want or ask you a series of follow-up questions.
Dilution; The key to a well-made Martini
Drinking a Martini should be a joyful and easy experience, not a test of bravery. However, many Dry Martinis are served under-diluted and therefore aggressively strong. You can make a Dry Martini in a number of different ways, but as a go-to technique, stirring with ice gives you the greatest control and therefore consistency.
Why is stirring such a good technique for the Dry Martini, and any other stirred down cocktails for that matter? Mainly because it allows you to sample the drink as you stir, ensuring you add just the right amount of water to open up and unlock all the flavours carried in the alcohol. Water also softens the burn from the alcohol, making the experience a full flavored and enjoyable one. It shouldn’t be the case that the only way to get through drinking your Martini is by having it so cold it numbs your palate!
When you are using a high strength Gin such as Junipero, you do need to pay extra attention to adding the correct amount of water. Every Dry Martini is different; therefore, your stirring timings will need to adapt with each one that you make too. Adding a splash of chilled water to the mix when using a high strength Gin is a good idea when making a very Dry Martini on the ‘Drier’ end of the spectrum. To go deeper into this topic, keep an aye out for the experiment we did with Junipero to help you get every Dry Martini to the perfect point of dilution.
Garnishing; Further personalize your Martini
When it comes to garnishing your Dry Martini, the choice, as with every other step, is yours.
No garnish? Then have it ‘naked’.
Twist? This is the adding of essential oils across the surface of your drink from your preferred citrus, lemon most common, but grapefruit is an excellent alternative. Remember, it’s all about pinching and bending the peel over the top of your glass, releasing the essential oils, to add the aromas. It’s not just about adding a piece of citrus peel to your drink.
Olives? Green, good quality, stone in, in brine not oil! Give them a rinse and dry with a clean cloth before adding to your Dry Martini or simply serve on the side. A Buckeye Martini is one served with black olives not green.
Gibson? Add two cocktail onions.
Dirty? Don’t rinse your olives and add a drop, dash, drizzle or glug of olive juice (depending how ‘Dirty’ you want your Dirty Martini to be), to the Gin and Vermouth, then stir with ice as usual.
Make me your BEST Dry Martini
There’s so much that can be written about this amazing drink. The history, culture and influence of the Dry Martini, surely the most famous cocktail in history, cannot be overstated. We’re not diving into those depths in this article, we’ve focused on the essentials. However, you can nerd out by reading this more in depth guide if you want to continue your Martini reading journey.
While we’re here though, let’s clear up the most important misunderstanding around this drink. The simple fact that there’s no magical ‘Perfect’ or ‘Best’ Martini.
Unless you’re making a specific historical version which has set ratios and ingredients, the Dry Martini is a drink that’s made to your specific requirements. For that reason, if you walk into a bar and order a “Dry Martini” with no further specifications, you’re telling the bartender you have no idea what you’re talking about. You might as well stride into a fancy coffee shop and, with completely misjudged confidence order: “a coffee”, “the best coffee you can make” or indeed “the perfect coffee!”. Perfect to whom? Therein lies the conundrum.
First things first, if this is all new to you then don’t feel bad, no one is born with this knowledge, someone has to open up these possibilities to you. Secondly, and very happily, you need to take your palate on a journey of discovery. You need to taste and test different ingredients, ratios and garnishes, to be able to answer those 4 important questions we mentioned earlier – What Gin? (Again, Junipero Gin is a fantastic option) What Vermouth (or Fortified wine)? What ratio of those ingredients (in other words, how ‘Dry’ you want your Martini)? Finally, what garnish (and maybe Bitters) you want?
As you try out all these different variations you will start to be able to make, or order, Martinis that perfectly suit you and your mood. Finally, don’t forget that there’s no rush. Your opinions will change, you will discover new ingredients, you’ll see new ideas, and unearth old classics. This is a journey that evolves over a whole lifetime, so sip back & enjoy!
As always, don’t forget to show us what you made by tagging us!
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