The beauty and curse of cocktail history is that almost all origin stories, original recipes and inventors can be debated, proven and debunked all in the same conversation. I offer you, dear ginspired reader, one truth that holds above all others: The martini is the most iconic and legendary creation in the entire adult beverage universe. No other drink has been the subject of so many majestic recreations, cultural references and symbolism.
No matter where this life takes us, you can depend on two things to always be true:
- The martini is the most famous and iconic cocktail in history.
- Highclere Castle Gin makes one that is hands down world class.
Everything else, alas is up for debate.
What is the Martini?
“There is one definition for a true Martini-some combination of gin, vermouth and (sometimes) bitters, stirred and served straight up in the iconic v shaped glass.”
Simply speaking, the martini is a classic cocktail consisting of five parts gin, one part dry vermouth and one dash orange bitters, served in a v shaped stemmed glass and garnished with a lemon twist or olive. The iconic glass became so synonymous with the beverage that anything it was served in was dubbed a “martini” regardless of ingredients. Bright and sweet concotions of limoncello, pomegranate, or caramel pumpkin (shudder) all have little to do with the original flavor profile, yet are universally recognized under the martini umbrella by everyone except a small snarky group of mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts, one of whom happens to be yours truly. There has been an enthusiastic push to bring the martini back to it’s clean and crystal clear roots, and it’s been one of the most successful revivals in the entire cocktail universe. More versions exist than we have space for here, but at any rate, we present what we feel is the most direct route to a strong working knowledge of the virtues and practices of proper martini service.
The martini rose to fame in the turn of the century New York City clubland and went comatose in the disco era when cocktails became as bright as the lights they were served under. The crystal clear and reserved martini couldn’t compete with an arsenal of artificially produced neon colors lining the bar. 80’s Yuppie culture saw a return to a “dry” or “lean” martini, but this often was simply chilled vodka with ice shards floating atop and used more as an alcohol delivery system than a balanced and flavorful. cocktail.
What is Vermouth?
Dry Vermouth is (primarily) a French white wine based aperitif that’s fortified with a blend of herbs and botanicals, as well as strengthened with the addition of distilled spirit. White wine notes are joined by floral, herbaceous and dried fruit flavors. The entire profile is distinct but not overpowering. Most people have a serious aversion to it due to their first experience with vermouth often being from an expired bottle. When martinis became unpopular, nobody really used vermouth and it just hung around on the bar and spoiled-wine needs to be refrigerated and used within days, vermouth in weeks. If the bartender is not getting the vermouth from the fridge and they aren’t serving up 100s of martinis a day, that stuff has turned.
Shaken or Stirred?
Stirred. Always Stirred. Never Shaken. Sorry, Mr. Bond.
Diamonds are forever, and so is the famous misconception that the proper martini is “shaken, and not stirred”. I give Mr. James Bond or rather author Ian Fleming (who was a frequent visitor to Highclere Castle and friend of Lord Carnarvon’s father) the blame for a few cocktail faux pas, but this is the most famous. As we have discussed in previous cocktail conversations, cocktails are stirred when the ingredients are primarily spirits. When there is juice involved, shaking takes place. This is because the viscosity of spirits is far less than that of juice, especially citrus. The goal of either style of cocktail is to bring all the elements into a single, silky mouthfeel. When we shake a propery martini, too much water is introduced into the cocktail from the ice shards that are introduced into the drink… something that’s desirable when we are making a gin sour or a bees knees.
Honestly, I do not blame Mr. Bond for his request-there are many bartenders that don’t take the time to stir a martini until its properly chilled. However, asking a martini be shaken so it becomes properly chilled is like asking the waiter to put your wagyu steak in the deep fryer because it’s too cold. There’s simply just a better way to achieve the desired result. Just. Keep. Stirring.
The Highclere Castle Gin “Iconic Martini”
This five-to-one recipe is the hallmark ratio most called for during the martini’s heyday.
This is part of your Don Draper Starter kit and is, in a word, indispensable.
2 1/2 Ounces Highclere Castle Gin
1/2 Ounce Dry Vermouth (Dolin for clean and crisp, Noilly Prat for a note of richness and earth)
1 dash orange bitters (Regans No 5 is best; Angostura Orange will do.)
Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass (or other vessel if none is available) cover ingredients with a healthy scoop of ice.
Stir slowly for a minimum of 20 seconds. The most important ingredient in this cocktail is water and proper dilution is the difference maker.
Strain into a chilled classic martini glass or coupe.
Express oils of a large lemon twist over the surface of the cocktail.
The “In and Out” or “Bone Dry” Martini
3 Ounces Highclere Castle Gin
Half ounce Vermouth, splashed into the martini glass and poured out.
The Nouveau Reverse Martini
2 Ounces Vermouth
1 Ounce Highclere Castle Gin
One thought on “How to make the perfect gin martini”
I love how you have given the history of a true Martini!! To me the Martini is Elegant and Sophisticated!!! I love to experiment by creating certain drinks and Highclere Castle Gin has given me some new ideas!!!