There’s one cocktail that single-handedly takes the cake as the most classic of all cocktails. Ah, yes. The Martini. You’ve seen them on Mad Men, in James Bond movies and on cocktail napkins in your local bar, but what don’t you know about martinis?
Once again, the martini is a true American cocktail with a history that is slightly hazy. Several people claim to be the first to serve the drink. There’s a story that the bartender from the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York with the last name Martini served John D. Rockefeller the first martini and then there’s also the legend that it is derived from a drink called a Martinez, poured for customers of the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, who trekked to the town of Martinez, California. While there is no sure way to tell who was the original mixer of the drink, the drink surfaced in bars around the late 19th century and like the other classic cocktails, garnered more recognition at the end of prohibition, when quality gin became available and drink-lovers came out of hiding. The true base for the drink is gin and of course, a true martini is never shaken, but stirred.
Nowadays, there are so many variations on the drink, that it can be impossible to order a martini and be served the same concoction everywhere you go. Today’s bartenders are inclined to ask if you prefer your martini to be vodka or gin, up or on the rocks, shaken or stirred, dirty with olive juice or dry without vermouth.
Of course, there are also the departures from the original that really only share the name and the glass; the french martini, the apple martini, the chocolate martini. All of these are tasty and potent, in their own right, but have little influence from the original.
Regardless of which story you believe or what way you like your martini served, we can all agree that it is one classic cocktail that’s not going out of style anytime soon. How can you freshen up the recipe? Try switching up your garnish. Olives and a twist are great, but what about a twist of grapefruit or olives stuffed with bleu cheese or anchovies? And what about saving the finer spirits for a drink like this–one where any imperfections will be noted and those without should be honored. I like Junipero Gin; a boutique distillery straight from San Francisco. Junipero has a higher concentration of juniper berries, making it both more flavorful and a spirit authentically suited for the martini.
The Classic Martini
2 1/2 oz Junipero gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 green olive or lemon twist for garnish
orange or Angostura bitters (optional)
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Stir thoroughly. Strain and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with Olives or a twist of your choice.
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