How to make the perfect martini, according to a master mixologist

man pours martini

Follow these tips to make the perfect martini.

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Watch too many Bond films, and you might come away convinced that ‘shaken’ or ‘stirred’ is the only choice that matters when you order a martini.

In fact, the fabled cocktail has countless permutations and a large brood of offspring, ranging from the Cosmopolitan to the Appletini. There came a point in the martini’s evolution when ‘tini’ got tacked on to the name of almost any drink in a cocktail class.

gin and tonic
How to make the perfect Gin and Tonic, according to a master mixologist
By: Josh Sens

The first-known documentation of this now-classic drink is attributed to legendary bartender Jerry “the Professor” Thomas back, in 1862. It is believed that the martini was an offshoot of the Martinez, which Thomas created in the 1850s.

Since then, this wonderful libation spawned a subculture that can be identified by its signature glass. I’ve had the privilege of hosting a lecture on the martini by the famed cocktail-world figure, Dale DeGroff. Hearing the stories and learning the history is nearly enjoyable as the drink itself, which, as I mentioned, can be made all kinds of ways.

Here are my tips, along with four favorite recipes.

The Glass

A martini, coupe glass or even a Nick and Nora will do. I prefer a nice stem so that the cocktail does not warm in your hands. It also helps to rinse your glass with cold water and put it in the freezer for a few minutes before making your cocktail.

The Spirit

I’m a purist. London dry gin. Beefeater, Tanqueray, Fords, Sipsmith. You get the picture. If this style of gin does not appeal to you, something more botanical might be your speed. There are plenty on the market, and if vodka happens to be your jam, feel free to rock it.

Vermouth

Dry vermouth is white wine fortified with botanicals. Please purchase one of quality and be sure to refrigerate after opening.

Ice

You’ll see me write about this often. It is an ingredient that gets overlooked. Once it dilutes, it can impart flavor to your cocktail. Purity matters. Use a filtered or bottled water when making ice. I make it a habit to make fresh ice at home. The last thing you want is ice that’s been sitting in the freezer for months.

The Olives

If you prefer a dirty martini, it’s because you love that salty, briny edge that olives add to a cocktail. Choose a good one. You know those queen olives stuffed with pimento gel? That’s right, it’s a firm gel. A pepper purée congealed with agar agar. It’s not gonna kill you. I just thought you should know. I prefer Castelvetrano olives. They are a bit smaller. But the flavor and texture is wonderful.

Shaken vs. Stirred

We know that 007 preferred the latter. But what’s the difference? There is a certain silkiness you achieve by stirring a cocktail. A good proper stir for a 20-second count will do. That said, I’ve been known to like it shaken as well. Tiny shards of ice dance atop the cocktail indicating that it is as cold as it gets. Some people say that shaking bruises the liquor. I say that’s a barroom myth. Bottom line, you do what you like. You’re the one drinking it.

Fancy Gin Cocktail -1862 The Bartender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas 

1 dash of gum syrup  


2 dashes of Bitter Truth’s Bogarts Bitters  


1 wineglass (60ml) Old Duff Genever


3 dashes (1/2 teaspoon) Dry Curaçao  


Garnish:  Lemon peel

Method: Fill one third full of fine ice, shake well, and strain in a glass. Garnish with lemon.

Dale DeGroff’s Gin Martini

3 1/2 ounces London Dry gin

1/2-ounce Speciale Ambrato Vermouth

Garnish:  1 Lemon peel

Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Dirty Martini

2 1/2 ounces London Dry Gin

1/2-ounce Dry Vermouth

1/2-ounce olive brine

Garnish:  3 Castelvetrano olives

Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Espresso Martini

 2 ounces vodka

1/2 ouncecoffee liqueur (usually Kahlúa)

1 ounce espresso

1/2-ounce simple syrup

Method: Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Shaun Lewis, a classically trained chef and cocktail master, is the general manager of Old Westbury Golf and Country Club, on Long Island, and a frequent contributor to GOLF.com.

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