Yes, it’s cocktail time again!
The martini has changed a lot from its inception; today a “classic” martini usually refers to vodka with a few drops of vermouth in it. The original martini, though, used gin, not vodka, and considerably more vermouth—usually a ratio of 5 or 6 parts gin to one part vermouth. Also, while now dry refers to the quantity of vermouth, it used to refer to the type of vermouth used—dry white or sweet red.
I can understand why the switch from gin to vodka happened over the years—gin is a pretty astringent spirit, and as it become fashionable to add ever-decreasing amounts of vermouth to one’s martini (Winston Churchill once apparently said that just looking at a bottle of vermouth was sufficient), the gin flavor would become overpowering. The problem, of course, is that vodka’s flavor ranges from “subtle” to “absent,” depending on what brand you have. My solution? Use both gin and vodka.
So, here are two martinis I made on successive nights, which try to recapture a bit of the original martini spirit while still being modernized. Note that the quality of the alcohol is particularly important in a martini, because there’s nothing for it to hide behind. For what it’s worth, I used:
- Rain vodka
- Bombay (or Bombay Sapphire) gin
- Cinzano vermouth
Incidentally, I use a Mason jar as a cocktail shaker, and it works beautifully. Both of these recipes—particularly the second one—work best with vodka that you’ve stored in the freezer. (It won’t freeze.)
¼ oz. red sweet vermouth
¼ oz. dry vermouth
1½ oz. vodka
1½ oz. gin
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with ice. Add all the alcohol, stir, and strain into a martini glass. The drink will be a very pale golden color. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. (Really.) This is what’s called a “perfect” martini, in that it’s equal parts sweet and dry vermouth; I matched that with equal parts vodka and gin, although I think it would probably work well with other proportions.
¼ oz. dry vermouth
¾ oz. gin
2 oz. vodka
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway up with cracked/crushed ice. Add all the alcohol. Take a blue-cheese stuffed olive (you can find these in better grocery stores or liquor stores, or make them yourself if you’re more motivated than I), skewer it on a toothpick, and place it in a martini glass. Add a few drops of the juice from the olive jar. Shake the cocktail shaker very vigorously, then strain into the glass—the martini will be clear, but should look a little “thick” because of the ice.
Of these two recipes, my favorite is the dirty martini, which honestly surprised me: despite knowing the olive is a time-honored martini garnish, the idea of using it in a drink always intrinsically struck me as absurd. But, the saltiness of the olive juice adds a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the gin-vermouth combination (and Rain vodka is naturally a bit sweet, I think), making it very drinkable indeed.
I draw the line at “cocktail onions,” though.