The amount of different cocktails that you can make is pretty much endless, but perhaps the most famous example of a cocktail is the classic martini. Much of that fame comes from the way that martinis are mentioned in novels and in films – particularly when it comes to James Bond or many of the classics.
At the same time, martinis tend to be popular because it is a simple cocktail. Essentially, a martini involves two ingredients, gin and vermouth. The ratio of these two spirts will vary considerably, but a classic martini is often viewed to have a 2:1 ratio of gin to vermouth or a 4:1 ratio, depending on who you ask. These are stirred with ice (and sometimes bitters) and then strained into a cocktail glass.
Over time, an olive has become the traditional garnish for a martini although a lemon peel twist is also common. Even if you just stick to classic martini, the flavor can vary depending on the specific gin that is used. This is because gin is made using botanical ingredients and these vary from one brand to the next.
Nevertheless, martinis manage to be incredibly versatile – although there are extensive debates about the ‘correct’ way to make a martini. For example, the traditional martini might be a gin martini, but you can also order a vodka martini. A vodka martini is often a good choice if you find the herby nature of gin too strong. However, many traditionalists argue that a martini should only ever be made with gin.
The wetness or dryness of a martini refers to the ratio of gin to vermouth, as well as the type of vermouth used. Typically, a dry martini will have a low ratio of vermouth to gin, such as 1:6 or 1:5. In contrast, a wet martini will have a higher ratio of vermouth to gin, such as a 1:3 ratio. You can also have a perfect martini. This variation is a little bit different. You pick your preferred ratio of gin to vermouth, but this time you use half dry vermouth and half sweet vermouth. This approach helps to create more flavor.
There is actually a whole collection of different names and variations connected to the ratio of gin and vermouth. For example, a reverse martini has more vermouth than gin, while a 50-50 martini has a 1:1 ratio of gin to vermouth
With martinis, a huge area of debate is whether the drink should be shaken or stirred. Many traditional martini drinkers argue that you should only ever stir the drink and blame the Bond books and movies for making the shaken version so popular. The biggest impact of shaking or stirring the drink is the texture. If you shake a martini, then it gets cold much faster and also tends to have more bubbles, producing an effervescent quality. The drink will often be cloudy as well. In contrast, if you stir a martini, the traditional texture of the spirits isn’t disturbed and the martini tends to end up clear.
Tradition says that a stirred martini is best, while a shaken one should never be made. However, a shaken martini is still appealing to many people and it comes down to the choice of the drinker and what you prefer.
While we’re on the subject of Bond, the character has been responsible for another variation on the martini – the Vesper. This variation was invented by Ian Fleming (the author of James Bond) in the novel Casino Royale. According to the book, the cocktail involves 3 measures of Gordon’s gin, 1 measure of vodka and half a measure of Kina Lillet, served with a slice of lemon peel and shaken. Kina Lillet does exist today, although it is often swapped out with another product, like Cocchi Americano.
One subtle variation is a dirty martini. In general, making a drink dirty involves adding in something to change the color or the taste a little bit. In the case of a martini, a dirty variant involves adding in olive brine. Another variation is a Gibson, which is simply a martini garnished with a picked onion.
It’s also worth noting that these variations can be mixed and matched. For example, you could theoretically make a perfect martini with any ratio of gin and vermouth. Likewise, you could choose to shake a martini that is traditionally stirred or vice versa. You could also use vodka instead of gin in just about any martini variation.
All of these variations are fairly common and pretty well-recognized. Realistically, any bartender will know what a dirty martini is or how to make a dry martini – although they may have their own ideas about the specific ratio that makes a martini dry or wet.
But, these variations are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other variations on a martini that are much less common. Often these variations will involve slightly different ingredients or the addition of another spirit to change the taste of the drink. In many cases, you might find specific martinis that are tied to places, such as when a bar makes its own versions of classic drinks to help it stand out. Sometimes you can even find variations that are called a martini even though they are little more than a different cocktail served in a martini glass.
So, without further ado, here are some martini variations to choose from. Just be warned, some of them are a little bit out there.
There are quite a few variations of a watermelon martini, but most use vodka (which might be plain or watermelon flavored), along with simple syrup and watermelon chunks. Cranberry juice and lemon or lime juice are sometimes added and another possible addition is melon liqueur. One example of this type of cocktail can be found at thebar.com. However, despite the range of variations for this recipe, few can be technically considered a martini, especially as there is no vermouth in sight. Realistically, this drink is simply a vodka cocktail in a martini glass. It would still be tasty though.
Black Pepper Gibson
A simpler martini variation is the black pepper Gibson. This one seems to be made the same way regardless of where you go, like in the recipe from liquor.com. Essentially, the drink is a vodka martini garnished with cocktail onions and also black pepper. I suppose you could also make a black pepper Gibson with gin as well, even though this doesn't seem to be especially common.
The French Martino was invented in the 1980s and was fairly common in the 1980s and 1990s. The cocktail consists of vodka, raspberry liquor and pineapple, as can be seen in this version of the recipe from diffordsguide.com. The end result is a vodka cocktail that is quite fruity. The color of the drink can vary somewhat, but often it ends up red, pink or orange, depending on the color of the raspberry liquor used.