The martini is the cocktail of choice for many people. But there are different types of martinis and some are more popular than others. This article will introduce you to five different types of martinis that have been around in one form or another since at least 1900, with a sixth type being added recently.
What is martinis?
The martini has been attributed to many different people. There are conflicting reports as far back as who invented the cocktail, but most sources agree that some time between the late 1800s and early 1900s, an American bartender by the name of "Martini" created the cocktail in Martinez, CA.
The martini is an alcoholic beverage made with gin and vermouth. It is mixed together in a shaker or other cocktail container, then served in a glass over ice. A wide variety of garnishes are added to the drink, including olives, onions, limes and even bacon! Most of these have been around since the cocktail was popularized in the early 1900s.
Some martinis are shaken, while others are stirred [or not stirred]. A recent study has shown that a martini should be served at room temperature as possible with the refrigerator being optimum. The researchers claim it improves the flavor of a martini, however, most bartenders disagree and say they can still make excellent martinis if they have to serve it cold.
The glass that the drink is served in varies according to the type of martini, but one thing most people agree on is that a wide-mouthed glass makes for easier drinking and less spillage. Most martinis will be served chilled, although some require ice to be added to the drink itself.
What types are there?
There have been over half a dozen different big categories for the drink. A martini has been in the following categories:
This is the true martini that has been made with gin since it was created in Martinez. The drink usually consists of 1 or 2 ounces of gin, but can be more depending on how strong you need it to be. Vodka or other types of vodka are sometimes substituted for gin, although such drinks have different recipes and are called something else.
The gin martini is typically shaken with ice, although some people prefer stirring it. Some people add a twist of lemon or orange to the glass before adding the drink itself (unless you are drinking a dirty martini).
Contrary to popular belief, the true martini does not have any olive juice in it. It originally was made with the juice of a now-extinct olive called the "Martini Olive". The olive was small and difficult to pit, so people started using green olives instead.
If you are drinking a martini on the rocks or if you add ice to it in any way, it is not technically a gin martini anymore! It becomes a different drink altogether.
While vodka was not specifically invented for the martinis of today, it has become a popular substitute for gin in many recipes. The vodka martini is usually pretty much identical to the gin martini, except that it uses vodka instead of gin as an ingredient. It can be made with or without vermouth.
Vodkas come in a variety of strengths, which will determine how strong the drink is - vodka martini drinkers beware! It can also be made with lemon or lime juice, versus just using an olive. Most vodka martinis are shaken more than stirred, since stirring interferes with the flavor of the vodka.
A cocktail is a non-specific alcoholic beverage, historically having been served in a wide variety of containers. Both Gin and Vodka martinis can be made as "cocktails", but this term more commonly applies to lemon juice or sour mix.
The cocktail was actually originally made using gin and vermouth, but this has become less common since the word "cocktail" has been applied to other drinks as well. The cocktail is often shaken but can also be stirred if preferred.
An olive, twist of lemon or orange and sometimes a cherry are popular additions to the drink. The cherry stem usually stays in the glass while you take sips from it (then throw it out before drinking). Some people use olives stuffed with blue cheese - this is called a "Bond Martini" and is apparently considered an insult if you offer it to someone who doesn't like blue cheese.
A cherry martini is a cocktail that uses a sweetened vodka in place of the gin or vodka. It typically will be mixed with sour-mix, which gives the drink its pink coloration. Sour-mix is a sweeter, less appetizing version of lemon juice.
Occasionally, the cherry vodka that some people use in this drink will have blue food coloring added to it - but the color is usually derived from the sour mix. The drink is usually shaken or stirred but sometimes can be served on the rocks as well.
Cherry-flavored vodka is common for this type of martini, although you have a lot more variety in this category than in the other two. The color of the drink after mixing it with sour-mix will seem to be mostly red - not pink!
A dirty martini is made by mixing the "dirty" ingredients in a glass, then using vermouth to fill out the rest of the drink. The "dirty" ingredients include olive juice and tabasco sauce - some people even throw in pieces of olives for an added bite! A dirty martini is basically a martini with olive juice and tabasco instead of vermouth.
The drink is usually made by shaking it, but some people prefer to stir dirty martinis. The drink is typically served on the rocks or straight up unless you request otherwise. A dirty martini can also be used as an appetizer - just fill up cocktail glasses with olive juice, pour a bit of vermouth on top and serve celery sticks.
The vermouth martini is one of the classic variations on a martini, although it is not as commonly ordered as some of its cousins. The drink consists of gin or vodka and vermouth - the amount will vary based on taste and strength preference. It can be served on the rocks, straight up or with an olive.
Blue Cheese Martini
A blue cheese martini is a cocktail that has been soaked in blue cheese or covered with it and topped with a maraschino cherry - which, when served by itself, has the appearance of a darker blue.
The drink originally used port wine as its base, but since gin was the spirit of choice the first time around, it uses gin today. The blue cheese used in this drink is usually bleu, which has a more pungent flavor than other varieties of blue cheese.
Blue Velvet Martini
A blue velvet martini is a cocktail that has been made famous by the band "The Blue Van." This drink consists of 1-part vodka, 2-parts blue curacao (a liqueur that mixes blue coloration and orange flavor), with a splash of triple sec. The drink is shaken with ice, strained into a martini glass and served straight up.
Blue curacao gives the drink its golden-bluish color, so the ingredients alone tell you it's going to be an odd-colored cocktail. Some blue velvet martinis will include a splash of sweet and sour as well.
White Russian Martini
The white Russian martini is one of the more famous alcoholic cocktails - at least for people who like vodka! This drink consists of 1-part vodka, 1-part kahlua (a brown liqueur with chocolate undertones) and 1-part cream. However, it does not typically contain vermouth - but you can make a version of this drink with vermouth if you prefer.
The white Russian is usually served straight up, although some people might order it on the rocks or mixed in a cocktail glass filled with ice. The vodka in this drink is usually served with vanilla vodka to give it a slightly different flavor, but this is not required - plain vodka will also suffice.
The vesper martini is the "classic" James Bond martini that first appeared in the novel Casino Royale and has become immortalized by countless references ever since. The drink is made up of equal parts gin and vodka with a splash of vermouth added as well.
The ingredients were chosen because Bond like his drinks dirty but demanded quality - this cocktail allows for both. The drink was originally shaken, not stirred to ensure the best mixing possible in case someone else got hold of it!
A mixologist is someone who specializes in making drinks. A martini bartender will usually be a mixologist, but not all mixologists are bartenders.
The term "mixology" refers to the art of creating these different types of alcohol mixtures which we know today as cocktails and mixed drinks. Mixology has even become a buzzword in the vacation travel industry, with many package tours offering a variety of mixology classes (not just cocktail making!) for those who enjoy entertaining.
Mixologist can also refer to a person who is an expert at making specific drinks (for example, someone could be known as the "cocktail mixologist" for their city).
The martini glass was invented by a restaurant in New York that wanted to make the drinks look more 'appetizing' during the prohibition years, from 1919-1933. The restaurant bought itself some industrial glassware which was shaped like the Martini pistol, and used it to serve drinks in.
Today, the design of the martini glass has become associated with all types of alcohol - so much that people may not consider their drink a "martini" unless they are served in one. There are several different kinds of glasses that can be used to serve martinis in today, each with a different purpose:
This is the glass that was used in the first years of serving martinis. The glass is straight-sided and usually has a thick bottom (these qualities help to retain as much flavor as possible). It's designed so you can have your drink served "neat" or without ice.
This glass is the same as a "neat" glass, but with slightly thinner sides. This makes it easier to hold and drink out without spilling everywhere! For this reason, some prefer this type of martini glass when drinking something besides straight-up vodka or gin (which is why "neats" tend to be preferred for this type of martini).
On the Rocks
This glass has an even thinner design, allowing your drink to have a larger surface area. For drinks that are served "on the rocks" (served with ice), this will make it easier to access each individual cube as they melt, adding flavor without watering down your drink.
This is the most common type of martini glass, and it can vary in design. The idea behind this glass is to give your bartender more freedom to serve you exactly what you want! The shape and size are up to them - some use a standard martini glass with a slight curve at the top for decoration, while others create a specialized glass for each type of martini they serve.
Cocktail glasses differ from standard martini glasses in a few ways. They are stemmed glasses (meaning they have a tiny knob at the bottom), and they also have a wider opening than standard martini glasses allowing for more ingredients to be added in one serving.
The stem is designed so that you can hold onto it without burning your fingers on the hot glass, but still keeping everything on top of the counter or table.
- Do I have to use a martini glass?
It is considered to be bad form or etiquette to serve your martini in anything but a martini glass. If you use some other style of glass, chances are people will think it's an alcoholic beverage served "neat" (without ice) instead.
- What is the difference between "neat" and "straight up"?
The difference between these two terms is very subtle, but very important! "Straight up" means that your cocktail was mixed with alcohol (and only alcohol) - the purest form of "straight up" would have vodka or gin being poured into a glass straight from the bottle. It's also possible for there to be "straight up" martinis, but they are rarer than their non-"neat" counterparts.
Martinis that are served "neat" have a larger amount of the actual alcohol in the drink itself, giving it more flavor. They also tend to have only one type of mixer, which is called for in the recipe. One common example of this is lemon martinis, which usually use only vodka and lemon juice with nothing else.
If you are ever ordering a "straight up" drink, make sure you know exactly what the ingredients are before drinking it!
- How do you shake a martini?
Martinis are simply shaken, not stirred. This is why there is a large amount of liquid in the cocktail - shaking vigorously causes the ingredients to foam up and mix together. The disadvantage of this method (compared to mixing it) is that it makes less foam for you to enjoy at the start, but gives you more alcohol volume!
Different types of martinis offer a wide variety of flavors and strengths. If you want to find one that is perfect for your tastes, then try one type or another until you find the right fit! All in all, there are so many different ways to enjoy this cocktail - don't be afraid to experiment with new variations while still staying true to classic cocktails like the Martini-Henry or Vesper. We hope we've helped provide some insight into what makes a great martini experience.