Ah, the Martini: a classic cocktail that screams elegance and sophistication. But did you know that there are lots of variations of this iconic drink? As basic a recipe as this is, there are tons of ways to make it your own.
So let’s take a closer look at the original Martini recipe, the Dry Martini, and the Dirty Martini to better understand their unique characteristics and flavors. Whether the Martini is already your favorite cocktail or you’re new to the world of mixed drinks, this guide will help you navigate the nuances of each Martini style.
A classic Martini is the quintessential embodiment of this sophisticated drink. Traditionally, a regular gin Martini is a blend of gin and dry vermouth, garnished with a twist of lemon or an olive. The original Martini recipe also called for 2 dashes of orange bitters, although it fell out of fashion to include that ingredient for a while, and some dedicated Martini drinkers still go without.
The proportions of gin to vermouth in this classic version can vary depending on personal taste, but a common liquor to vermouth ratio is 2:1. The regular Martini is known for its clean and crisp flavor profile, with the botanical notes of the gin shining through, which makes it a go-to choice for Martini purists.
Of course, even with such a simple drink, you have options. Will it be a traditional gin Martini or a vodka Martini? Will you include the bitters or not? And then, of course, comes the question of whether or not you’ll choose the famous olive garnish, a lemon peel, or– gasp– a cocktail onion.
And don’t even get me started on shaken or stirred… As a spirit-forward cocktail, the Martini is supposed to be stirred in a mixing glass– even if “James Bond Martini” would have you believe it should be made in a cocktail shaker with ice.
Note about your ingredient list: While the classic Martini recipe has many iterations, it’s still a pretty simple drink, meaning the components have nowhere to hide. Therefore, we recommend using quality ingredients– You’re really going to notice if you use cheap liquor!
If you have a favorite gin or vodka, feel free to let it shine. Otherwise, a standard gin is Bombay Sapphire or Hendricks; if you don’t have an artisan vodka you love & want to grab something easy, try Grey Goose or Tito’s.
Vermouth is an aromatized, flavored, and fortified wine featured in lots of cocktails. There are two main types of vermouth: dry and sweet vermouth. Sweet vermouth is red in color and– as the name suggests– has a sweeter flavor than it’s clear counterpart. You’ll find it in drinks like the Manhattan, Greenpoint, and Americano.
Dry vermouth is clear, features really light botanical flavors, and is a key ingredient in dry drinks like the Martini and the Old Pal. Just make sure not to use sweet vermouth– That will really change your flavor profile!
Note: Because vermouth is wine-based, you need to keep it in the fridge once opened, and it should last 2-6 months. If you leave it on your counter, you’ll get stale vermouth very quickly!
Another Note: Use a chilled glass to really make an excellent Martini that is super cold.
This is sometimes referred to as a Wet Martini— the opposite of the dry version– because it has a higher amounts of vermouth.
2 ounces Gin
1 ounce Dry Vermouth
2 dashes Orange Bitters
2-3 Olives or Lemon Twist for garnish
Directions: Using a bar spoon, stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice cubes for 15-20 seconds, and strain with your julep cocktail strainer into a classic Martini glass or coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or olives.
For those looking to add a savory twist to their Martini experience, the Dirty Martini is the way to go. This variation incorporates olive brine or olive juice into the mix, lending a delightfully salty note to the cocktail. The dirty gin Martini typically features the addition of a small amount of olive brine to taste. The brine adds a touch of complexity and a hint of umami, complementing the herbal flavors of the gin.
Garnished with a few olives, the Dirty Martini is a perfect choice for those who enjoy a savory and slightly briny cocktail experience. Since you’ll already be using olives for your garnish, you can simply add the green olive brine from the jar. The ratio of vermouth to gin is lower in this drier version (less vermouth) than in the traditional recipe, so using olive juice cuts some of that robust taste from the alcohol.
Note on using brine for Martinis: The amount of olive juice you use is up to you. You can add just a splash of salty olive brine or up to 1/2 an ounce if you really like your Dirty Martini extra salty!
Note on your choice of cocktail olives: Martini olives are typically just plain ol’ green olives. But you can certainly get gourmet olives, Spanish olives, or even blue cheese-stuffed olives (my mom’s personal favorite).
The Summary: The addition of olive juice makes it a Dirty Martini.
2 1/2 ounces Gin
1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth
1/4 to 1/2 ounce Olive Juice
2-4 Martini Olives for garnish
Directions: Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, and strain into a chilled coupe or chilled Martini glass. Garnish with extra olives.
The Dry Martini reduces the amount of vermouth used, resulting in a more gin-forward cocktail. The name “dry” refers to the decreased sweetness and increased dryness of the drink. The ratio of gin to vermouth in this popular variation can range from 4:1 to even 10:1, depending on personal preference.
Some enthusiasts prefer just a touch of vermouth, merely coating the glass before being discarded, resulting in an almost solely gin-focused experience. You could also spritz the glass pouring in the cocktail, or you can add vermouth after by spritzing the top of the cocktail with an atomizer. The dry gin Martini (or Dry Vodka Martini if you prefer that as your base spirit) is favored by those who appreciate a more pronounced gin flavor and a drier, bracing cocktail.
The Summary: Less vermouth, more gin.
2 1/2 ounces Gin
1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth
2 Martini Olives or a Slice of Lemon Peel for garnish
Directions: Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or your choice (coupe or Martini).
As I mentioned, there are so many ways make a simple Martini. Here are some other versions of this classic drink:
Gibson Martini: With the same proportions as a Dry Martini without any bitters, the big change is a cocktail onion garnish.
Filthy Martini: More olive brine replaces the vermouth for a briny flavor– although you can still add a splash if you want.
50-50 Martini: As the name suggests, this version is half gin, half vermouth.
Smoky Martini: Replace the vermouth with Scotch whisky for a smoky flavor.
Vesper: This boozy drink combines gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc!
These aren’t actually true Martinis because they don’t follow the formula of base spirit, vermouth/fortified wine, and bitters. However, they’re super popular and therefore worth mentioning:
So what’s your perfect Martini? Which base spirit do you go for, and while classic garnish is your favorite? Leave us a comment below and let us know!
When it comes to selecting your Martini style, it ultimately boils down to personal preference. The standard Martini offers a well-balanced and classic experience, highlighting the botanicals of the gin with a balance of vermouth. I
f you prefer a dryer and more gin-forward cocktail, the Dry Martini will be your drink of choice. And for those seeking a hint of saltiness and a touch of indulgence, the Dirty Martini provides a unique twist on the traditional Martini.
Each variation brings its own flair to the Martini spectrum. Whether you prefer the classic simplicity, the dryer profile, or the savory flavor of umami, exploring these Martini styles allows you to tailor your drink to your taste. So, next time you find yourself at a cocktail bar or mixing drinks at home, consider trying different Martini styles and discovering the nuances that make each one special.