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Food by Letter – M is for Martini

M is for Martini

Don Draper and the “three-martini lunch” might not be a widespread business practice anymore, but the martini, with its basic ingredients and air of sophistication, is one drink that will never go out of style. From James Bond’s widely recognized “shaken not stirred” line to Ernest Hemingway’s pronouncement in A Farewell to Arms, “I’ve never tasted anything so cool and clean…They make me feel civilized,” this gin-based cocktail has been and will continue to be a classic.

So…where exactly did this timeless concoction begin? There are several theories, but the most prominent begins in Martinez, California, where historians and town inhabitants claim the drink was invented during the mid-1800s Gold Rush. Apparently, a gold miner who had recently struck it rich decided to celebrate his good fortune at a local bar. He requested champagne, which they didn’t have, so the bartender crafted another beverage made from ingredients he had on hand: gin, vermouth, bitters, maraschino liqueur, and a slice of lemon. Thus, “The Martinez Special” was born and would evolve into the martini we know today.

With all of the popular variations, how do you make one? Because there are so many options, it’s always good to start with the tried-and-true classic recipe for a Martini before you start customizing your own. 

A classic Martini calls for gin. Some people love it, others feel like drinking gin is like biting into a pine cone. Gin is full of botanical flavors, most of which are juniper-forward. If gin is not your thing, you can try the equally popular vodka variation.


2-1/2 ounces gin (or vodka)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Garnish (see more below)
We’ve included 2 variations here, shaken and stirred.
Chill the glass: Put your Martini glass in the freezer to chill.
Build the drink: Place the gin or vodka and dry vermouth in a mixing glass.
Stir and strain: Add cubed ice and stir for 30 seconds until the Martini is chilled. Strain the drink into your chilled Martini glass.
Garnish the drink
Chill the glass: Put your Martini glass in the freezer to chill.
Build the drink: Place the gin or vodka and dry vermouth in a cocktail shaker.
Shake the drink: Add cubed ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
Strain the drink: If you prefer ice shards floating at the top of your Martini, then simply strain the drink into your chilled Martini glass. If you don’t want the ice shards, then strain the drink through a fine-mesh strainer to catch the ice shards.
Garnish the drink

Garnish Options

Olives: For the home bartender who prefers this garnish, the best olives for a Martini are Sicilian olives. They add a fruity flavor and a hint of a briny note to the cocktail. They also have a firm texture that holds up well in the drink. A Martini purist will have a single or three olives (always an odd number) skewered on a cocktail pick and placed into the drink, not rested on the rim. 
Lemon Twist: A favorite among bartenders, the lemon twist can brighten the gin and enhance the taste of vermouth. A lemon twist can be twisted over the drink then dropped into it, or wiped around the rim of the glass for an extra citrus hit. 
Pickled Onion: Pickled onions add a savory element to the drink and work well in savory style gins. These can be store-bought or made in-house at the bar or at home. If buying them, it pays to check the amount of sugar on the label as some tend to be on the sweeter side and take away from the savouriness of the drink.

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