Here’s how to make a classic dry martini: that crystal clear cocktail that oozes sophistication! Gin and vermouth are all you need for this iconic drink.
What makes the very best martini? The martini is one of the most iconic cocktails of all time. People have been drinking it for a century. With one sip it announces itself: crisp, cool, searing, and spirit-forward. It’s seeped in tradition, and there’s no cocktail that has the amount of variations: shaken or stirred, gin or vodka, straight or on the rocks. But here’s how to make a classic dry martini…the best way. (Though we like ours dirty too…)
What’s in a dry martini?
The dry martini is one of the most famous cocktails of all time. The exact origin is unknown. But the most common theory is that it is based on another cocktail from the 1860’s called the Martinez, likely named after Martinez, California. The first printed recipe for a martini was in 1888, but it looked more like the Martinez than what it is today. By the 1920’s, the drink reached its current form and it remains iconic to this day! The dry martini is on the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning it has an official definition:
- Dry vermouth
Gin martini vs vodka martini
Yes, the classic definition of a martini uses gin. But there’s an ages old argument over whether a martini should be made with gin or vodka. Here’s our two cents:
- A martini should be made with gin. Period. In our taste taste of a gin martini vs vodka martini, gin won hands down. Why? The flavor is intriguing and botanical, perfectly balanced with the subtle tang of the dry vermouth.
- Don’t waste your time on a vodka martini! Because vodka is almost flavorless, a vodka martini tastes a bit like bitter water with a spicy, boozy aftertaste. Advocate for it all you like (let us know in the comments!). But to us, you might as well just drink straight vodka.
Stirred, not shaken! (Sorry, James Bond.)
Should a martini be stirred or shaken? There’s a straightforward answer to this one. A dry martini should be stirred. All bartenders know this rule: if a drink contains only alcohol, it should be stirred with ice. Why? Shaking in a cocktail shaker dilutes the drink with melting ice. This technique is used mainly for sour cocktails. So when James Bond famously called for his to be shaken, it an amateur move, really. (Though if you love yours shaken, we won’t argue!)
What do you use to stir a cocktail? A cocktail mixing glass and a long bar spoon. If you don’t have one, you can use your cocktail shaker, a large metal glass or cup, and any long spoon. But if you want to look like you know your cocktails, use a mixing glass! Here’s a cocktail mixing glass we recommend.
Make it ice cold
Another tradition around the dry martini: it should be served ice cold. It’s not served with ice, so purists serve it in a chilled glass. Do what suits you here, of course! It’s not necessary, but it makes for an even more sensory experience. You can also serve a martini on the rocks (with ice) in an Old Fashioned glass: but we prefer ours straight up.
Use best quality gin for a martini
It probably goes without saying: use the best gin you can find for a gin martini. There’s only a hint of vermouth in this drink: the ratio is 6 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. So this cocktail is all about the gin. Every bottle of gin tastes a little different and has different botanical flavors. Experiment to find your favorite!
Find a gin that’s mid-price range and above: none of the cheap stuff in a martini! Some people swear by Beefeater London Dry gin. Here we used Malfy gin, which we highly recommend. Steer away from Tanqueray gin: it gives a strong floral quality to the martini and is better used in a gin and tonic or Negroni.
What’s dry vermouth?
What’s vermouth? Vermouth is a fortified wine, meaning liquor has been added to the wine to preserve it. There are two main types of vermouth: sweet vermouth (usually red) and dry vermouth (usually white).
This dry martini calls for dry vermouth. The flavor of dry white vermouth is crisp and clear: on its own, it tastes like a very dry white wine. Vermouth is easy to find at liquor and grocery stores. Make sure to store vermouth refrigerated: it stays good for about 3 months. Sweet red vermouth is something completely different: it’s used in drinks like the Manhattan, Negroni, and Americano.
Lemon twist vs olive garnish
Last up: the garnish! There are two classic garnish options for a classic martini: with an olive and with a lemon twist! Here’s what we prefer:
- Our top choice: lemon twist! The lemon peel adds a citrus zing that lends just the right flavor nuance. Here’s how to “express” citrus onto a cocktail: first squeeze the lemon peel over the drink to release the oils. Then gently run the peel around the edge of the glass. This gives the first sip a refreshing lemon perfume!
- When serving it “Dirty”: an olive. We like to use the olive for serving a Dirty Martini: with olive juice! The briny tang rounds out the flavor. See the recipe below for the Dirty variation.
And that’s it: how to make a perfect martini! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…because we know you have them.
There are hundreds of ways to serve a martini! We hope you’ll enjoy this classic dry martini. But after you’ve made it once, here are a few variations to try:
- Dirty Martini Serve it “dirty” with olive juice, and it rounds out the sip with a briny tang.
- Vesper Martini Invented by James Bond, it’s become a true classic! Crisp and herbal, it stars Lillet Blanc with gin and vodka.
- Gibson Cocktail The same as a martini…except for the garnish!
- French Martini Perfectly balanced with vodka, pineapple juice, and raspberry liqueur.
- Mexican Martini Full of zingy flavor, with lime, tequila and an olive garnish.
- Cucumber Martini This cool spin on the classic is botanical and fresh.
- Pomegranate Martini This jewel-toned drink is sweet tart and light: the perfect fruity variation.
- Lemon Drop Martini This ultra tangy martini is made with vodka, Cointreau and lemon.
- Martinez The father of the martini! This gin drink is like a cross between a martini and a Manhattan, starring gin, sweet red vermouth, and Maraschino liqueur.
Here’s how to make a classic dry martini: that crystal clear cocktail that oozes sophistication! Gin and vermouth are all you need for this iconic drink. Dirty martini variation listed below.
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) gin
- 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) dry white vermouth
- For the garnish: olive or lemon peel*
- Combine the gin and vermouth in a cocktail mixing glass (or any other type of glass). Fill the mixing glass with 1 handful ice and stir continuously for 30 seconds until very cold.
- Strain the drink into a cocktail or martini glass (purists chill the glass first).
- Use a knife to remove a 1″ wide strip of the lemon peel. Squeeze the lemon peel into the drink to release the oils. Gently run the peel around the edge of the glass, then place it in the glass and serve.
*For a dirty martini, reduce the gin to 2 ounces, add 1/2 ounce olive juice (brine from the jar) and garnish with an olive.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Stirred
- Cuisine: Cocktails
Keywords: Martini, Dry Martini, Gin Martini
More classic cocktails
Here are a few more of our best classic cocktails you might also enjoy:
- Whiskey Sour The best take on this classic: perfectly balanced with bourbon and lemon.
- Gin Fizz Tangy and refreshing! Here’s how to get the perfect egg white foam topping.
- Classic Margarita Just tequila, lime and Cointreau make up this classic! Try all our best margarita recipes.
- Tom Collins This popular gin cocktail that’s light, sweet tart, and bubbly!
- Classic Mojito This iconic Cuban cocktail is refreshing and balanced, with rum, lime and mint!
- Old Fashioned The oldest cocktail there is! A sugar cube, bitters, and bourbon make a truly timeless drink.
- French Connection Cocktail A two-ingredient drink with big flavor.
- Pisco Sour The magic meld of Peruvian pisco and lime gives it a flavor that’s like none other.
- Manhattan Add style to your evening with this easy classic cocktail made with just 3 ingredients.
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.