A dry Martini may be the ultimate drinker’s drink: strong crisp and clean without any sugars or liqueurs, you can drink them all night long without getting bogged down. The key to a good dry Martini: Dry gin, high quality vermouth, cold ice and perfect dilution.
THE GIN: Make sure to use a good London Dry style gin. We prefer classics like Beefeater or Plymouth, but there are many great brands on the market. DO NOT use a modern-style gin like Hendrick’s. These types of gin are intended to be consumed on their own instead of mixed, and they do not “play well with others.” Hendrick’s, for example, is very sweet with a strong rose-water flavor that will clash with the vermouth and create an odd flavor. A London Dry style gin will integrate with the vermouth for a whole flavor greater than the sum of it’s parts.
THE VERMOUTH: We love Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Dry, but there are other good dry vermouths out there. Try some out and see what you like.
THE RATIO: For whatever reason, many modern drinkers have become afraid of the taste of vermouth. We think a real Martini needs a strong dose of vermouth. We like a ratio of 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, but some people prefer 3 to 1 or even 5 to 1. However, we recommend against the “Winston Churchill” school of drinking a straight glass of gin while looking at a bottle of vermouth from across the room.
THE ICE: Make sure to use ice straight from the freezer. Remember, your freezer is set to a temperature below 32 degrees, and the colder the starting point of the ice, the colder your Martini. Also keep in mind that ice may pick up flavors of whatever is in your freezer. We also recommend chilling your glassware in the freezer, as this will keep your Martini colder longer. Freeze both the mixing glass and your coupe or Martini glass.
STIR, NEVER SHAKE. Shaking adds air bubbles and will create a cloudy, watery mess of a Martini. James Bond was a great secret agent but didn’t know much about cocktails. Make sure to fill the mixing glass all the way to the top with ice – the more ice you use the colder the drink. Stir gently – the idea is to chill the drink and also add just the right amount of water – enough to mellow and integrate the flavors, but not enough so that the drink is a watery mess.
THE GARNISH: An olive vs. a twist is completely up to the drinker. (no shame in asking for both!) A lemon twist adds aroma and a touch of bitterness. An olive adds a tasty snack.
If garnishing with a twist, cut a small strip of lemon peel with as little white pith as possible. Hold with your forefingers high above the glass with the outside of the peel facing down. Gently squeeze out the essential oils, and try to “rain” them down evenly over the liquid. If you hold it too close to the glass, the Martini will be harsh and bitter. After you’ve squeezed the oils, gently brush the rim of the glass with the peel. If you like your Martini a bit more bitter, drop the peel into the glass. If not, set it aside.
If garnishing with an olive, be creative: no need to be limited by those olives stuffed with pimento. There are many delicious olive varieties in world. We like to use cerignola olives from Italy.
THE VARNISH RECIPE:
-2oz Beefeater Gin
-1oz Dolin Dry Vermouth.
Place ingredients in a frozen 16oz pint glass. Fill with very cold ice and stir gently until the ice has given up about .75-1oz water. Strain into a frozen coupe or Martini glass. Garnish with an olive or a lemon twist. (or both!)
Max Seaman, The Varnish, GM