Dry, wet & 50:50 martinis

by John Pope

A guide to different kinds of martinis as a purist would have you order them.

There are two types of people in the world (or at least the cocktail drinking world).

The first type are martini purists (or do I mean puritans). They believe that the name Martini should never be applied to anything that doesn’t contain a clear grain spirit and dry vermouth, and probably shouldn’t be applied to anything that contains any additional ingredients.

Depending on the level of their purism, they may allow vodka with vermouth to be called a martini, or they may insist on the original gin.

The second type of people are far less precious. They will happily tack the suffix -tini onto just about anything that comes in a cocktail glass. They believe in the appletini, the flirtini and a huge raft of other dubiously named concoctions.

Then there is me, who finds himself lost adrift somewhere in the middle of these two camps.

I believe that both food dishes and drinks should be named appropriately, and once they have been named then the moniker should let you know pretty much what you are getting. If the term martini (or just -tini) gets applied to anything and everything then how will we ever know what we are really ordering.

On the other hand, one of my favourite drinks in the world is a Breakfast martini, which does contain gin but is totally devoid of vermouth. Like a rose, by any other name this would taste as sweet, but breakfast martini just seems to fit.

Right now though, we are going to stick to the purists way of thinking, so there will be no funkytinis, or additional ingredients here, just the basic and classic dry martini, wet martini, and 50:50 martini.

Notes on ingredients

When you only have two ingredients to worry about, you want to make them as good a quality as you can afford.

Without going stupid, my favourite gin for a martini is Tanqueray, and Noilly Pratt make a great dry vermouth, and for the price Martini (the vermouth brand, rather than the cocktail) is really pretty good as well.

If you don’t feel like being a purist, and if you have some around, then you can add a dash of orange bitters to your martini. I think it adds a lot.

Garnish for all martinis is traditionally either an olive or a twist of lemon. I prefer the lemon, but it’s a personal thing I guess.

Dry Martini

Ingredients

  • 6 parts gin of choice
  • 1 part dry martini

To garnish

  • Lemon twist or a cocktail olive

There is no correct ratio of gin to vermouth in a dry martini. 6 parts of gin to 1 of vermouth is normal, but some people would tell you that it should be made 7:1, or with just a few drops of vermouth shaken or stirred with the ice before the gin is added and then discarded.

  1. Prechill a cocktail glass, either by having kept it in the freezer beforehand, or by filling it with ice and letting it stand there while you make the drink.

  2. Put some big pieces of ice into a mixing glass, and pour in the gin and vermouth.

  3. Stir it well for about a minute.

  4. Empty the ice out of your chilled glass, and strain the drink into the glass.

  5. Garnish with an olive or a twist, and serve.

Wet Martini

We don’t need to go through all of the above again, because the only thing that changes here is the ratio of the ingredients.

Everyone knows about a dry martini, but personally I don’t like them. I love gin, but I prefer to taste the vermouth in my martini as well, so I prefer a wetter version.

Basically the more vermouth you add, the ‘wetter’ your martini is. A classic wet martini comes in at about 3 parts gin to 1 part vermouth.

50:50 Martini

Apparently this is a favourite drink of Prince Charles, and whilst I am certainly not a royalist, it’s difficult to disagree with old Charlie on this one.

Again, the only difference is in the ratio of gin to vermouth, and the name of the drink should pretty much give it away. Use equal amounts of gin and vermouth.

8 thoughts on “Dry, wet & 50:50 martinis

  1. Actually, the orange bitters were part of the original recipe (as was sweet, rather than dry, vermouth- since that was the more readily available vermouth at the time). So purists can and should use orange bitters with either type of vermouth- as should everyone else, since they make a big difference.

    • Thanks for the correction katherine.

      They do make a big difference and I always put them in!

      There are a lot of different stories and thoughts about the origin and history of the martini, but the most commonly accepted story has it born in San Francisco in 1862. That recipe did include orange bitters and also included maraschino cherry liquid.

    • Anything with more vermouth than gin is most commonly described as an ‘upside-down martini’. No exact ratio is defined though. Julia Child liked to drink them with five times more vermouth than gin.

      You could also specify the ratio in the name, and as vermouth is the first ingredient in the glass it should come first, but better to add in the upside down to make sure.

      So…. if I was ordering the drink in a bar, I think I’d ask for a:

      Two to one upside down dirty martini

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