The Perfect Perfect Martini

Perhaps you’ve read elsewhere how to make a perfect Martini. The page is linked to again and again as an example of, I don’t know, one man’s obsession with making one thing perfectly.

Friends, I’m here to tell you that it’s utter bullshit and if anything, that page will tell you how to make a cold shot of vodka with an olive stuck into it. And, friends, that is not a Martini.

First and foremost, a Martini is not now nor was it ever made with vodka. You may call that a “vodka martini” if you like, and keep the capital M out of there, because if anything that is a faux-tini. That is a near-tini. That is…vodka. And vodka is vodka.

But it isn’t gin, which a Martini most certainly is. Debate it all you want, but if you find yourself pouring vodka into a shaker and plan on calling that a Martini, I think you can start calling your dog a cat. They both have four legs and fur, and you have to clean up their shit.

But a dog is not a cat, I hear you lament.

Well, no shit.

So, my friends and enemies, herewith I present to you The Perfect Martini, as it is known:

  1. Taking the shaker or container of your choice, pour in one fluid ounce of good dry Vermouth. Now when I say good and I say dry, I mean it. Don’t use some stink-ass yellow crap Vermouth. I’m talking Dolin Dry (my personal preference), or Noilly Prat, or Vya. It makes an important – and noticeable – difference. There is no excuse for bad Vermouth.
  2. Add in two fluid ounces of good gin. Now, I know there are readers who are right now shaking their heads subtly and whispering to themselves, “but I don’t like gin.” Well, that is the utmost nonsense this writer has ever heard and simply will not put up with. You do like gin, you simply have yet to find the gin that you like! Here, let me help you:
    • Hendricks Gin – This has cucumber in it, and rose water. It’s therefore slightly sweet, but retains gins essential edge.
    • St. George Gin – They make three different gins, and one of them is sure to strike your fancy. If you want a “ginny gin,” try Botanivore. If you want something that tastes like you’re drinking a Northern California hillside, try Terroir. If you want something un-ginny gin, try Dry Rye, which also has the benefit of rhyming.
    • 209 Gin – My “go to” gin. It has “drinkability.” It is also delish.
    • The Botanist Gin – Made by the fine folks of the Bruichladdich scotch whisky distillery in Islay, this will impress anyone who goes, “but I hate gin!” Just say, “but look at this bottle! It’s gorgeous!” and they will be suitably impressed.
  3. Finally, I recommend a dash (or three) of orange bitters. Bitters, as a whole, are incredibly popular right now and there are lots to choose from. If you want (or need?) me to recommend one, I’d purchase a bottle of Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6. That’s what’s called in barkeep parlance “a no-brainer.” If you think you’ll never get enough use out of it, I beg to differ. Shake some into seltzer water for a bracing summer drink, or add it to that vodka thing for some, you know, flavor.
  4. Put a lot of ice into the shaker, or container of your choice. This may also be a pint glass for all I care. The container is of little matter, the ice is the paramount concern that should be on your mind. This should only be cold, and have absolutely no taste at all. The ice always goes in last so as not to pre-emptively dilute your cocktail.
  5. Hokay, now that’s you’ve identified “your” gin, take a nice long-handled bar spoon and stir, do not shake. Shaking will break up the ice and make a watery Martini, which defeats the reason you’re making a Martini in the first place. Rule of thumb for burgeoning cocktailers: if it has fruit juice in it, shake that sucker. If it has egg white in it (i.e. a Pisco Sour), perform a “dry shake” without ice first, then add ice and shake again to chill. If it has neither, aka The Perfect Perfect Martini, stir to mix, do not shake.
  6. Strain into a chilled Martini glass. You may also use a coupe glass, but a Martini glass is preferred because, um, think about what you’re making here, comprende?
  7. Add one olive. Add one good olive. A bad olive comes from any jar that is labeled “Martini Olives,” or is stuffed with something that would never be found in an olive tree in the first place, like a clove of garlic or an almond. And for God’s sakes no bleu cheese! I love bleu cheese, but cheese does not belong anywhere near a Martini. Perhaps it’s there to add something like taste to a vodka martini, but keep it the hell away from this one. I use Cerignola olives which are expensive for a reason. Because you’re worth it! Spear that sucker and lie it gently within the drink. Add no juice thereof, making for a “dirty Martini.” You want to get dirty afterwards, fine. There is no dirty before.
  8. Alternatively, a twist (lemon peel only) is perfectly acceptable. To create a twist, just use a vegetable peeler and pull of a long strip of the yellow only from stem to stern on a nice, fresh lemon. They make special tools for this sort of thing, but you won’t need one. Use the same peeler you use on potatoes and carrots. It’s fine. If you don’t even have a peeler, I’d splurge and get the OXO Good Grips Pro Swivel, which is sharp enough to peel your skin off, and includes a potato eye extractor. Avoid the white pith, because it’s bitter and you only really want the lemon oil contained in the yellow peel. For best results, twist the twist and run it about the rim of your Martini glass before dropping it inside.
  9. Look at the pristine, clear beauty of your creation, admiring its perfection and the lovely chill in your hand.
  10. Drink it.

I hope I have enlightened you to understand why this is a Martini and the other one definitely is not. Feel free to enjoy both, of course, I am nothing if not in full support of more evenings spent amongst adults enjoying a quaff or a tipple or two.

But do not call that other monstrosity a Martini. It fucking isn’t.

A London Martini Tour

June 19, 2012

3 responses to The Perfect Perfect Martini

  1. Karen said:

    Superb ! Love this film…males me want to go to London. On a search now for Plymouth Gin and Lilly.. Love “Shake it hard, but be elegant.”

  2. Nick said:

    Nice write up. But if it’s a Perfect Perfect Martini, shouldn’t the vermouth be half dry and half sweet? Or would that be a Perfect Perfect Perfect Martini? Also, count me in the lemon twist and orange bitters camp.

    • Lance Arthur said:

      Technically and by the book (being the venerable Savoy Cocktail Book) that’s what’s known as a Lone Tree, though some other cocktail recipes from the 20’s call for only sweet Vermouth in a Lone Tree. I’ve only seen the same ingredients referred to as a “Perfect Martini” online and not from any current or classic bartender recipes, and I refuse on principle to add sweet Vermouth to a Martini and still call it a Martini. Now, I love a Lone Tree as well (just had one at Comstock Saloon) but again, for me, that’s not a Martini.

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