The Cocktail Diaries: The Classic Martini

by Rebekahcooked up on March 16, 2014

Welcome back to the Cocktail Diaries! In case anyone was wondering, I did NOT stop drinking cocktails over the last week. But I was not at home and therefore was not making them myself or taking pretty photos of them.

Since I’m working through the classics, I’ve got to talk about the classic martini before I get too far. It’s one of the most basic and simple cocktails there are, and one of the most famous. It has a glass named after it. It’s endlessly debated (Shaken or stirred? Gin or vodka?) And it’s a drink that’s been endlessly reinterpreted.


Hi, my name is Rebekah and I really miss Scrubs. ANYWAY…

The classic martini is a lesson in itself on the bones of the invention of cocktails, and what was available before there were thousands of flavored liqueurs, bitters to be ordered at the click of a mouse, and so on. What can you mix together to enjoy your hard liquor another way? Because even to someone who loves to imbibe, drinking gin straight is not always fun, even if it’s a very good gin.

The Classic Martini | PDXfoodlove

Enter vermouth. I’ll talk more about it in an upcoming post, but vermouth is essentially a wine and sherry mix that has been reduced, and further spiced and flavored with botanicals to create a sweetening and flavoring concoction. Even “extra dry” vermouth is sweet to the taste, and it makes a great complement to gin. Everyone has their own preference for the gin to vermouth ratio – mine as you’ll see is 2 parts gin: 3/4 part vermouth. Play with it. You’ll probably figure out that you like something slightly different. Everything I read keeps making this joke about how Winston Churchill liked his martini so dry that a glance across the room at some vermouth was enough for him. So basically he drank cold gin?

But where were we? The two most important things for a martini are a good gin and an extra dry vermouth.

The Classic Martini | PDXfoodlove

And the third thing that’s important about this drink: that it’s COLD. You can see in the photo that it’s so cold that it’s actually fogging up the glass. That’s because it’s stirred for a full minute with ice, before being strained into the glass. This really matters for the flavor of the drink. Don’t skip it!

I highly encourage you to take a crack at this cocktail. Besides being delicious, it’s fun to think about how something so simple spawned so much invention.

Here’s what you need:
2 oz. London dry gin
3/4 oz. extra dry vermouth*
dash or two of orange bitters**
twist of lemon

The Classic Martini | PDXfoodlove

*Depending on how much you want the gin to be the star of the show, you may wish to up or lower the vermouth amount. I like this ratio.
** If you don’t have these on hand, your drink will survive. But I highly recommend them.

Pour the gin, vermouth and bitters over ice in a stirring glass and stir for a full 60 seconds. This baby needs to be COLD.

Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon.

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