The Classic Gin Martini

Classic gin martini garnished with lemon twists

The Spruce / Katarina Zunic

  • Total: 3 mins
  • Prep: 3 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Serving: 1 serving
  • Yield: 1 cocktail

The classic dry gin martini is iconic and the world's most famous cocktail. Though many "martinis" have been created, there is only one true martini, and few drinks can beat this simple recipe. The flavor is a botanical bouquet with a dry profile that you can customize to your taste.

There is no mystery to the martini, and all you need to make one is your best gin and dry vermouth. There are countless ways to adjust the formula and technique: gin or vodka, dry or wet or dirty, shaken or stirred, olive or lemon garnish. All of these options have spurred a debate over the "proper" way to make a martini. While it's a never-ending discussion, the only correct answer is how you enjoy it. After all, you're drinking it.

Following some experimentation with this classic cocktail, you will know exactly how to make "the best martini" for your taste. Most of this will be adjusting the gin to vermouth ratio, exploring different brands, and choosing your preferred garnish. It's not a bad task to undertake, and you may even join the ranks of devoted martini connoisseurs.

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Click Play to See This Gin Martini Recipe Come Together

Ingredients

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for a classic gin martini
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  2. In a mixing glass filled with ice cubes, combine the gin and vermouth, pouring more or less vermouth to your taste.

    Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  3. Stir for 30 seconds.

    Stirring the gin martini in the mixing glass
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Pouring the gin martini into a chilled cocktail glass
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  5. Add a dash of bitters, if desired.

    Adding a dash of orange bitters
    The Spruce / Katarina Zunic
  6. Garnish with olives or a lemon twist.

    Classic gin martini garnished with olives on toothpicks
    The Spruce / Claire Cohen

Tips

  • The key to a great martini is to pour quality ingredients, so start off with a top-shelf gin and vermouth. With only two ingredients, this is not a cocktail where you want to be frugal.
  • Every gin is different. You may want to change the ratio and the garnish when switching from one brand to another.
  • Vermouth has a short shelf life because it's a fortified wine, not a distilled spirit. If your bottle has been open for longer than 3 months, it's time to replace it.
  • It's thought that the lemon twist is the original martini garnish. The olives may have become an option when vodka was introduced as a gin substitute.
  • For the olive garnish, skewer either one or three olives on a cocktail pick or simply drop them in the glass. It's an old bar tale that an even number of olives is bad luck.
  • If the olives are big or stuffed with jalapeños, garlic, or the like, one olive will usually do. The flavor of the olive will slowly infuse into the drink and add just a little more dimension as it rests.

Recipe Variations

It's one drink, yet there are so many options. Among those are a few common recipes, and each has its own name:

  • Dry Martini: Traditionally, this used more dry vermouth, which seems like the most logical approach. However, a ​dry martini today is typically defined as using little or no vermouth; a "wet" martini uses more vermouth. Some drinkers will even simply wave a bottle of vermouth over the glass without adding a drop. It's said that Winston Churchill made his martinis by merely chilling gin and bowing in the direction of France, where dry vermouth originated.
  • Bone Dry or Desert Martini: Used for times when you want to clarify that no vermouth makes it into the mix. Essentially, you're drinking chilled gin.
  • 50-50 Martini: The ultimate "wet" martini, this recipe uses equal parts of gin and dry vermouth.
  • Perfect Martini: Get a slightly sweeter profile by using equal parts of sweet and dry vermouth.
  • Vodka Martini: Replace the gin with vodka. This is popular among drinkers who don't necessarily enjoy the "piney flavor" of gin.
  • Gibson: Nothing changes from the original gin martini except the garnish. This cocktail makes use of those tiny cocktail onions.
  • Dirty Martini: Add a small amount of olive brine or juice to give the drink a salty-savory twist.
  • Good Times: An all-but-forgotten version, this classic mix uses 2 parts Old Tom gin and 1 part dry vermouth with a lemon twist.
  • Hanky Panky: Uses sweet vermouth and adds Fernet-Branca and orange juice.

Customizing the Martini

With all of the different approaches to the martini, it's fascinating to see how others prefer to mix it up. Over a 9-year period, The Spruce Eats did an informal poll to see how drinkers take their martinis, and the results are rather interesting.

Of the 90,000 people who responded, over half (59 percent) preferred gin over vodka. The overwhelming majority of those drinkers enjoy a full dose of vermouth, and only 13 percent prefer little or no vermouth.

Whether it includes gin or vodka, there was a slim majority (52 percent) who shake their martinis. Only 39 percent opted for the traditional stir; everyone else prefers to skip the martini altogether. This is interesting considering the classic advice regarding when to shake or stir cocktails. In general, bartenders stir liquor-only drinks, saving the shake for more complex and mixer-heavy cocktails.

The traditional options are not your only choices. Many martini fans put their personal spin on preparing it. Chilling one or both bottles in the refrigerator is among the most common, and some use the freezer. This ensures that the gin and vermouth are always nice and cold and lets you avoid any dilution from ice.

That approach will produce the most flavorful martini possible, and it is a very nice drink. Without dilution, however, the drink will remain at the bottling proof and may be too strong for some people. As an extra benefit, the small amount of water relaxes the drink and marries the botanical flavors. Shaking the martini with ice adds more dilution and further softens the taste. This may explain why many drinkers prefer that approach.

How Strong Is the Martini?

The martini is by no means a light drink. That's why it is served short and rarely poured over 3 or 4 ounces. With the standard 80-proof gin, the martini in this recipe's proportions ​weighs in around 31 percent ABV (62 proof). It is, without a doubt, one of the strongest drinks you can mix up.