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The Classic Martini (Gibson), The Perfect Drink

Updated on August 30, 2017

The Perfect Martini

To make the cocktail known as the "Perfect Martini", use equal parts sweet vermouth and dry vermouth, and garnish with an olive. The 5:1 ratio of gin or vodka to vermouth remains the same.


The Gibson

 Quite possibly the simplest variation on the martini, the Gibson origins are widely debated. But it's a martini with a pickled onion instead of an olive - so it's nothing more than a change in garnish. The Gibson is widely known however, as being a cocktail that's favored by teetotalers who don't want it known that they don't drink - and in this case the glass is filled with ice cold water and garnished with the onion.

The Martini

The martini is quite probably THE quintessential cocktail. Gin, a touch of vermouth, an olive and in the glass. There are hundreds of drinks now, especially with the artisanal cocktail movement, that are called martinis, but in my opinion there are really only three variations allowed. Anything more just isn't a martini anymore.

Now note that I said gin. I mean it. Lots of people make martinis with vodka, and if that's your thing, more power to you. But despite the fact that the nature of my culinary philosophy is to substitute at will, in this case I draw the line. A true martini is a gin martini. There. I've made my stand.

Garnish Your Martini

One final small variation which, in my own humble opinion, is perfectly allowable is the 'dirty' martini or dirty Gibson. In this case, a small splash of the brine from the olives or onions is added to the shaker, and the resulting cocktail is known as a Dirty Martini. Or Gibson. So if you'd like you can order a martini dry and dirty, or just dirty, or just dry - and in any case you still have a martini.

Now don't get me wrong - the myriad of other cocktails which are known as 'martinis' of various kinds are wonderful. I think Appletinis are great, and one of the finer things in which I've ever partaken is a Chocolate martini made with Godiva liqueur. But these drinks honestly share only the glass in which they are served with the classic martini. So if you go to your favorite friendly neighborhood bartender, and order a martini, you should get exactly what I outlined in the recipe.

It's also critical in this case to use really good gin or vodka. Unlike most cocktails, where the liquor is covered up with the flavors of various mixers, in the case of a martini you taste almost nothing but the gin or (if you must) vodka. Therefore get the highest possible quality. It really matters here.

I also want to weigh in here on the shaken vs. stirred thing. I doubt I've seen more than two James Bond movies in my life, and don't think I've ever heard him actually utter his famous 'shaken, not stirred' line. But he's right. A martini made without the shaker just doesn't taste the same. I'd love to hear from someone who can tell me why, but the extra 30 seconds it takes to shake the martini with ice makes a big difference in the final product. Invest a couple of dollars in a cocktail shaker, and take the few seconds to shake it. You'll be glad you did.

Vermouth or not to Vermouth

One of the three allowable variations is the amount of vermouth that's added. If you like less vermouth, then you're after what's known as a dry martini - the less vermouth the drier. I personally have been known to simply wave the bottle of vermouth over the gin - which is about as dry as it gets. To make what's known as a 'perfect' martini, then use equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. In either case, keep the vermouth to a minimum. It quickly will overwhelm the flavor of the gin.

You can also swap out the olive for pickled onion - in this case the drink is then known as a Gibson. The Gibson is also known as being the drink favored by those who really don't want a drink, but who don't want others to know they aren't partaking. Chilled water garnished with a pickled onion looks exactly like the regular cocktail. The story goes a businessman invented this 'version' during three-martini lunches with his competition - allowing him to keep a clear head while his competitors got tipsy.

One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough.

--James Thurber


Classic Martini Recipe

You'll Need:

  1. 2 1/2 ounces Gin
  2. 1/4 ounce Dry Vermouth
  3. 1 green olive OR a twist of lemon peel
  4. a handful of ice cubes
  5. Into a cocktail shaker, drop the ice cubes, then measure in the Gin and Vermouth.
  6. Cap the shaker, and shake well for at least 30 seconds. You're looking for the shaker to begin to frost.
  7. Strain and pour into a martini glass. Add the olive in the bottom of the glass or lemon peel twist on the edge, and enjoy!

Love Martinis Dirty?

Find an upscale supermarket with an olive bar. Try different olives and juice in your martinis. My personal favorite is a 'French blend' of different olives and the pungent, tangy juice in which they arrive.

Which do you Prefer?

What's your preference in a martini?

See results

© 2010 Jan Charles


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    • esatchel profile image


      9 years ago from Kentucky

      I love a Sapphire, two olives.

    • DixieMockingbird profile imageAUTHOR

      Jan Charles 

      9 years ago from East Tennessee

      David! I'm also a Tanqueray fan - I usually tap the vermouth against the shaker - but do like it shaken. I very much agree on the perfect 5:00!

    • Russell-D profile image


      9 years ago from Southern Ca.

      A lot of thought needs to go into that 2-1/2 ounces of Gin. Having been a fan of Gin for many years, my taste is that Beefeater is too dry in the long run and Sapphire is too aromatic. But, Tanqueray is just right. Now I omit the Vermouth. 2-1/2 ounces, an olive or on occasion a slice of lemon, a few few cubes and that 5 o'clock drink is perfect. Neither Shake nor stir. Made better by a small dish of Cashew Nuts. Of course there are snobs who will settle for nothing less than Boodles. David Russell


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