Martini 101

This classic cocktail never goes out of style! Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy the modern Martini. 

By Charlene Rooke


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Vodka Martini with Dirty Ice

This cocktail is the best of all worlds. It’s served in a Martini glass, but ice-chilled like an on-the-rocks highball. It’s self garnishing, with a savoury olive frozen inside “dirty” ice that releases its briney goodness as it melts. And it contains just enough bright, botanical vermouth to balance crisp vodka. Sip one with this sharp and salty, creamy and crunchy snack for an elegant but simple cocktail hour.


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Vodka Martini

1 ½ oz vodka
¼ oz dry vermouth
Dirty Ice

1. Fill a cocktail-stirring pitcher or bottom of a cocktail shaker 2/3 full of ice. Add vodka and vermouth and stir until thoroughly chilled and diluted, about 1 minute.

2 . Strain cocktail into a Martini glass. Garnish with Dirty Ice.
Makes 1 drink

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Dirty Ice

4 to 6 large Martini olives 
1½ cups (375 mL) purified water
½ cup (125 mL) olive brine
5 to 6 cocktail picks or toothpicks

1. Spear each olive with a cocktail pick and place one into each chamber of a six-sphere (or six large-cube) silicone ice tray.

2. Combine purified water with olive brine and stir well. Pour liquid into each chamber of tray, nearly to the top. (Frozen liquid will expand slightly.) Freeze until frozen through, several hours or overnight.

3. Run tray under cool water to unmold ice. Place one dirty ice cube in the bottom of a deep v-shaped glass containing a Martini.

Makes 4 to 6 large spheres or cubes


How do you like your Martini?

Must-know terms for ordering or preparing the perfect cocktail.

Up or On the Rocks

An “up” cocktail is shaken or stirred with ice, then strained into a chilled glass. Ordering “on the rocks” brings the drink over ice. 

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Dirty

A “dirty” Martini is traditionally dosed with olive brine, for a touch of golden colour and savoury taste. Modern substitutes: use dashi or salty broth (our Tomtini uses tomato water).

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Shaken or Stirred

Martinis containing juices should be agitated in a cocktail shaker about 15 seconds then strained. The reward for stirring a classic (spirit plus vermouth) Martini over ice, for a minute or more, is silky, rich texture. 

Dry, Wet or Perfect

Dry white vermouth has a bit of sweetness, so a Martini with more of it is “wet” and with less of it is “dry.” “Perfect” cocktails combine dry and sweet vermouth. 


Martini history

An 1877 recipe in The Bar-Tender’s Guide started it all. Similar to a Manhattan (whisky and sweet vermouth, with dashes of liqueur and bitters, served with a twist), the Martinez cocktail substituted gin for whisky. Over time, the evolving drink was dubbed the Martini. By the 1940s, it contained just gin and dry vermouth and by the 1950s, fictional super-spy James Bond was among the drink’s fans ordering it with vodka. The 1990s gave us a flavoured Martini craze, with everything from Appletinis and Crantinis to Lychee Martinis.


Choosing a vodka

Though technically a neutral spirit, vodka has different aromas and textures depending on what base ingredient it’s made from. Try them matched to these Martini recipes. 

Vodka distilled from wheat is usually very neutral-smelling, and drinks fresh and crisp on the palate and the finish.

Try it in a Blood Orange Martini or Niagara Mist.

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Potato-based vodkas can have mineral, earthy aromas and flavour notes, and take on opulent rich texture when chilled.

Try this style in The Carrot Top cocktail.

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Rye vodkas are lively and spicy on the palate, adding a peppery and sometimes lemon-zest-accented finish to cocktails.

Try this type of vodka in a Maple Leaf Martini.

Vodka made from corn has a barely there presence, with a very soft, smooth texture and finish in mixed drinks.

Try it in this Riviera Martini.


The perfect mix

Other elements go into making a tasty Martini, too. Consider these spirited options. 

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Juniper-forward London Dry-style gins produce Martinis with evergreen aromas plus tart citrus and zesty spice, pairing well with olive or citrus-twist garnishes.

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Contemporary gins are infused with anything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and even seaweed, to bring modern flavours in harmony with juniper. 

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Dry white vermouth is the Martini’s underrated sidekick. Because it’s made from wine, open vermouth must be refrigerated. White vermouth will stay fresh for around a month.


Select your glass

A carefully made Martini deserves an elegant serve: whichever glasses you choose, chill them in the fridge or with ice water before serving.  

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You’ll smell the drink’s aromatics and slip slowly from a traditional v-shaped Martini glass, either stemmed or stemless. The more old-fashioned coupe glass, with a demi-globe bowl and a long stem, is a retro option. The chillest serving vessels are made from stainless steel, which will keep a drink cold longer, or a cone-shaped glass that nests in a bowl of crushed ice. 


Mastering the twist

The iconic citrus twist is cocktail garnish worth mastering. Here’s how to create the perfect lemon twist in four steps.

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Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove a strip — about ¾ inch (2 cm) wide and up to 4 inches (10 cm) long — from a lemon’s peel. 

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Turn the peel yellow-side down, and use a sharp paring knife to remove some of the bitter white pith. 

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Trim the sides to make a straight ribbon, then trim the ends on the diagonal to form a parallelogram shape. 

Twist gently to express the lemon’s oils, then rub over the rim of the glass; drop twist into cocktail and serve.


Garnish game

If you’re entertaining, have a variety of garnishes ready to create signature cocktails for guests.  

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Olives

Choose pitted olives packed in brine — not oil, which leaves a slick on your drink. Specialty olives might be infused with vermouth or stuffed with blue cheese, almonds or traditional red pimento.

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Onions

Garnish a Martini with a pickled onion, and it’s now properly called a Gibson. Gin is more traditional for this cocktail, but a vodka Gibson is possible, too. 

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Botanicals

A sprig of fresh rosemary, thyme or even lavender, or a pick speared with a coiled ribbon peeled from a small cucumber, make fresh, unexpected garnishes.


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Batching instructions

Pre-making a bottle of Martinis allows for smooth service, because the necessary dilution will already be measured in, and you can pre-chill the whole batch — no need to shake or stir each drink before serving!

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Calculate

For each drink, you’ll need 1½ oz vodka or gin and ¼ oz dry white vermouth, plus ¾ oz water (that’s a 6:1:3 ratio, for a dry Martini). Multiply by number of desired servings. For example, to fill a 750 mL bottle, use 15 oz vodka or gin, 2½ oz dry vermouth and 7½ oz water.  

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Bottle

Using a clean screw-top wine bottle or other glass bottle, funnel the ingredients into the bottle. Cap the bottle and gently rotate or invert to mix. 

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Chill

Chill in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or for up to two weeks. Pour 2½ oz straight from the freezer into a chilled glass for each drink.  


Snack suggestions

Savoury, bite-sized snacks to serve alongside Martinis at your next cocktail hour.