Like most drinks from the late 19th century, the martini is made up of combining something with gin.
The perfect martini comprises equal portions of sweet and dry vermouth. The vermouth is combined with gin at a ratio of 2:1 (gin:vermouth). It is then stirred or shaken in a mixing glass with ice cubes and optionally citrus or other aromatics. This gets strained into a tall cocktail glass and is then garnished with a green olive or a twist of a lemon peel.
The dry martini gained traction as the ratio of vermouth steadily decreased. First, 3:1, 4:1 and eventually as much as 50:1. The 15:1 ratio was named after British Field Marshall, Bernard Montgomery, because of his strategy of only attacking with high numerical advantage – victory to gin! The dirty martini followed and had some olive brine or olive juice thrown in, giving it a murkier look.
At the height of the 1900s alcohol consumption, the martini would be prepared by filling a cocktail glass with gin and just rubbing a finger of vermouth on the rim. Noel Coward insisted the perfect martini only required a full glass of gin to be waved the direction of Italy. An American writer said of the drink: “the martini was the closest American creation to a sonnet.”
The Martini & Rossi vermouth, possibly the most famous, is said to be the origin of the martini name, being named after the director, Alessandro Martini. Others believe it to be a creation of the Occidental Hotel in San Fran which was nearby Martinez, California. We don’t really care who made it, we are just grateful.
Prohibition spiked gin manufacturing because of how easy it was to make. This meant that the demand for the martini rose during that time – everyone was sitting in bootleg bars sipping martinis. Martinis lost a bit of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s for being old-fashioned but again recovered popularity in the 1990s…. for being old-fashioned.
Many martini puritans denounce the famous Bond “shaken not stirred” vodka martini as a good tasting imposter, but an imposter nonetheless.