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How To Make THE Classic Martini Garnished with History, Legends, and Famous Quotes

Updated on April 28, 2011

The Classic Martini


The History of the Martini


The origin of the martini has been debated as fervently as the origin of man. While one is concerned with faith, science, God , and our very essence as human beings, the other's only about the origin of man. One widely held belief is that the martini is descended from the Martinez cocktail, a sweeter drink consisting of two ounces sweet vermouth, one ounce Old Tom gin (a sweetened variant), one dash bitters, shaken with ice, strained, and served with a twist of lemon, and most likely invented in Martinez, California. Other evidence points to famous 19th century bartender Jerry Thomas, who dazzled patrons and then swept them up at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco.

Two ounces sweet vermouth? Does that sound like a lot to you? Yes it is, but the reason is as simple as it was necessary. Back in the late 1800's, when an establishment acquired a cask of gin, they got the raw stuff. This was not the gin we know today. They had to put other stuff in it just to make it drinkable, forget about palatable. And everybody knows, it's hard to get drunk if your gorge keeps rising and you're constantly running into the loo to call Ralph on the big, white phone.

Of All the Gin Joints In All the Towns...

As word of the martini spread, so did its popularity, but it was during Prohibition that the martini rose to cocktail icon status. So, thank you Prohibition. Back then, as today, do-gooders sticking their clean and righteous noses into the business of pagans totally belched back into their angelic, pious faces. They did not learn then. They will not learn today. The Whiskey production declined because it required too much aging and couldn't keep up with demand, whereas gin could be made in a bathtub, quickly, and rushed to the speakeasy's for the hep cats, flappers, musicians, gangsters, politicians, off-duty cops, on-duty cops, supervisors of cops, and your great grandmother. Hence, gin joints. The only person who wasn't there was Carrie Nation, standing top side with her club and wondering where the party went.

Nobody said it was good gin. In fact, it was bad. Really bad. It had to be mixed with stuff. We're not talking about drinkable or palatable here. We're talking about not dying. It could make you go blind (unlike that self-abuse thing, which cannot make you go blind, and is another example of the holier-than-thous trying to keep the little pagans from having any fun).

Eventually, with government intervention and improved standards, alcohol became less harsh and safer. The basic recipe for a martini evolved with the improved booze to what is now considered the classic martini, but the 60's saw another major ingredient change, when vodka began to replace gin as the main ingredient. What caused this change? Two words: Bond....James Bond.

Bond. James Bond

Montage of Bond Ordering the Vesper

Shaken, Not Stirred

When James Bond spoke the famous line "Vodka martini, shaken, not stirred," on the silver screen, fans everywhere said, "I'll have what he's having." That drink is called a Vesper, which Bond named in homage to the double-agent who got his heart in Casino Royale. Martini purists would cringe at the substitution of vodka and go ballistic at shaking the martini. A martini is supposed to be stirred, they maintain. These martini purists even have a special way you're supposed to stir the darned thing. Really. You don't just stick the spoon in there and stir away. Oh no. You gently insert the cocktail spoon, and lightly twirl it back and forth with your fingertips while lifting the spoon up and down for 30 seconds. I kid you not.

Furthermore, shaking the martini is wrong because it creates air bubbles which clouds the drink, it makes the ice release too much water, and it "bruises" the gin. I don't know what they think the ice and alcohol are going to do in there, but heaven forbid the booze should get bruised. So why would arguably the coolest fiction guy on the planet make these martini faux pas? I have a theory. If vodka is less potent than gin, and shaking it dilutes it even further, then it follows that Bond was insuring he would stay sober. He never knew when S.P.E.C.T.O.R. would try to annihilate the planet or some hot double-agent babe would want to see his Walther PPK. He had to be ready, willing, and able.

Hipsters Cocktail Shaker

Blinded By Science

There is scientific evidence that would seem to support my theory that Bond knew something we didn't. Professor J.R. Trevithick, Department of Biochemistry, University of Western Ontario (begin "Oh Canada" anthem here), posed this question: How can we blow some research grant money and party at the same time? Oh wait, that wasn't the question. The question was: "If moderate consumption of alcoholic drinks seems to reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cataracts, perhaps through antioxidant actions of their alcohol, flavonoid, or polyphenol contents," and as James "Bond is not afflicted by cataracts or cardiovascular disease" and "'shaken, not stirred' routinely identifies the way the famous secret agent James Bond requires his martinis," does "the mode of preparing martinis [have an] influence on their antioxidant capacity?" God, I love science!

The report was published in British Medical Journal, 1999, December 18. The report talks a lot about aliquots being added into a luminescent assay, luminol bound to allumin, aqueous portions, phosphate buffered saline, Lumac biocounters, dimethl sulphoxide, folin reagents, catechin equivalents, and other stuff that really makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but the basic answer was, yes, a shaken martini DOES have more antioxidants than a stirred martini. The report majestically concludes with this gem: "007's profound state of health may be due, at least in part, to compliant bartenders" (British Medical Journal). For a list of foods highest in antioxidants, including a list of the top 20, please go here.

Are These Martinis Wet or Dry

jazreel chan/flickr
jazreel chan/flickr

How Dry I Am

No essay on martinis would be complete without something about Vermouth. Originally, there was only Italian Red Sweet Vermouth. There was no such thing as a "dry" martini. When the French invented dry white vermouth, the "dry" martini followed, and simply meant to make the drink with the French vermouth, not the Italian Vermouth. Somehow, modern day imbibers have interpreted "dry" for less. The notion that adding less vermouth makes the martini drier is a fallacy. It makes it harsher is what it does.

The "drier equals less" myth was further enhanced by the rich, powerful and famous. For Winston Churchill, a martini consisted of pouring a glass full of cold gin while looking at a vermouth bottle, a drink now called a Churchill martini. Likewise, Alfred Hitchcock's recipe called for five parts gin and "a quick glance at a Vermouth bottle." I guess Hitchcock's martini was drier than Churchill's since he didn't look at the Vermouth as long. Drier still was General Patton, who suggested pointing the gin bottle in the general direction of Italy. Hemingway liked to order a "Montgomery", a martini mixed with 15 parts gin and only 1 part vermouth. Supposedly, Field Marshal Montgomery needed 15 to 1 odds before going into battle.

You can get your drink on in any manner you prefer, but these are not martini's. A martini is a cocktail and by its very definition, requires 2 or more primary ingredients. What these people want is a glass of cold gin, but if you call it a martini you don't sound so much like a lush. One more brief note on Vermouth: when your friend tells you he has created the "perfect martini, your drunken friend has once again spoken in error. A "perfect martini" is a specific kind of martini. The word perfect can be attached to any drink made with vermouth, a perfect Manhattan, for example, and simply means the required measure of vermouth is equally divided between sweet and dry vermouth.

Martinis of Color

The Italian Sausage Porktini
The Italian Sausage Porktini

Fancy Martinis and the End of Civilization

As mentioned above, I don't care how you get your drink on, but can we stop this nonsense please? You've got appletinis, peachtinis, peppertinis, pomegranittinis, aquavelvatinis, whip creamytinis, teenie weenie yellow polka dot bicinitinis, and who knows what other perversions have been concocted by over-zealous bartenders. A college student with a little too much time on his hands invented the porktini. No foolin'. He took 3 bottles of gin and infused them by adding meat to them and letting them sit for a week. He used spam, bacon, and Italian sausage. The spam made him spew, the bacon made him barf, but the sausage one? That's Italian! He liked it, he said, just as the men in the white coats dragged him away. See? This is getting dangerous. Drink these, if you must, but could you call them something else? A martini is a cocktail, not a pun.

VIDEO: How To Make a Martini

And Now...Ladies and Gentlemen...Without Further Ado...THE RECIPE!

By now, your thirst is sufficient. Your purpose, clear. You want to make a classic martini. Made like it's supposed to be made. Savored as it's supposed to be savored. Get out your olives or your lemon peel. Go ahead...put a juniper exclamation point on your day, and remember, inside every martini resides the comfortable embrace of history and the passionate kiss of art.


  • 2 1/2 oz gin

  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth

  • 1 green olive or lemon twist for garnish

  • orange or Angostura bitters (optional)


  1. Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes.

  2. Stir for 30 seconds.

  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

  4. Add a dash of Angostura or orange bitters, if desired.

  5. Garnish with the olive or lemon twist.

Martini Photo Gallery


Famous Gin and Drinking Quotes

"One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough." - James Thurber

"Happiness is...finding two olives in your martini when you're hungry." - Johnny Carson

"They all thought she was dead; but my father he kept ladling gin down her throat till she came to so sudden she bit the bowl off the spoon." - George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

"For gin, in cruel sober truth, supplies the fuel for flaming youth." - Noel Coward

"I'm not sure if ginseng is any better for you or me than a carrot, but just in case the Chinese are right, I grow it in my garden. I stick a root in a jug of gin and call it Old Duke's Gin and Ginseng," - James Duke, botanist

Sinatra: "Let me fix you a Martini that's pure magic." Martin: "It may not make life's problems disappear, but it'll certainly reduce their size." - Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin

"So, when he looked down into his martini, he was put into a trance by dancing myriads of winking eyes on the surface of his drink. The eyes were beads of lemon oil." - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (from Breakfast of Champions)

"The only green vegetables I get are Martini olives." - B.F. Pierce (M*A*S*H)

"Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure." - Ambrose Bierce

"I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast." - W.C. Fields

"Twas a woman who drove me to drink, and I never had the courtesy to thank her for it." - W.C. Fields

"You can no more keep a Martini in the refrigerator than you can keep a kiss there. The proper union of gin and vermouth is . . . one of the happiest marriages on earth, and one of the shortest lived." - Bernard DeVoto

"If the Lord hadn't intended us to have a three Martini lunch, then why do you suppose He put all those olive trees in the Holy Land?" - Former House Speaker Jim Wright


There is something about a Martini, A tingle remarkably pleasant; A yellow, a mellow Martini; I wish I had one at present. There is something about a Martini, Ere the dining and dancing begin, And to tell you the truth, It's not the vermouth--I think that perhaps it's the gin.

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini." - Robert Benchley

"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis." - Humphrey Bogart's last words

"Work is the curse of the drinking class." - Oscar Wilde

At at a dinner party, Winston Churchill was enjoying a martini. Lady Astor said to him, "Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink." Churchill replied, "Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it."

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading." - Henny Youngman

"Happiness is a dry martini and a good woman... Or a bad woman." - George Burns

"The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind." - Humphrey Bogart

"I love to drink Martinis, Two at the very most, Three I'm under the table, Four I'm under the host" - Dorothy Parker

"Zen martini: A martini with no vermouth at all. And no gin, either." - P.J. O'Rourke

"Health - what my friends are always drinking to before they fall down." - Phyllis Diller

"The martini: the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet." - H..L. Mencken

"He knows just how I like my martini - full of alcohol." - Homer Simpson

"Is there anything more beautiful than a beautiful, beautiful flamingo, flying across in front of a beautiful sunset? And he's carrying a beautiful rose in his beak, and also he's carrying a very beautiful painting with his feet. And also, you're drunk." - Jack Handy

"Prohibition is better than no liquor at all." - Will Rogers

"I think a man ought to get drunk at least twice a year just on principle, so he won't let himself get snotty about it." - Raymond Chandler

"Once, during prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water." - W.C. Fields

"My grandmother is over eighty and still doesn't need glasses. Drinks right out of the bottle." - Henny Youngman

"I saw a notice that said "Drink Canada Dry" and I've just started." - Brendan Behan

"The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass." - Martin Mull

"I am prepared to believe that a martini slightly impairs the palate, but think what it does for the soul." - Alec Waugh

"It's true love because if he said quit drinking martinis but I kept on drinking them and the next morning I couldn't get out of bed, he wouldn't tell me he told me." Judith Viorst

"If it wasn't for the olives in his martinis he'd starve to death." - Milton Berle

"Egad! Someone's put juice in my gin!" - W.C. Fields


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