New York | 1870s – 1910s

2 dashes orange bitters
1 oz dry vermouth
2 oz London Dry or Plymouth gin
Express lemon oil over
Garnish: lemon twist or olives

Is there a cocktail more iconic than the Martini? It’s become visual shorthand for all beverage alcohol (warning label icons, emoji, public-intoxication street signs). Right place, right time, and right drink: The Martini captured the imagination of emerging sophisticates in big-city America. The Martini Company (later named Martini & Rossi) began importing their Italian sweet vermouth to the US around 1870, with the French dry style making its stateside debut around 1900. Even though more vermouth brands became available in the US over time (Cinzano, Noilly Prat, Dolin), the name “Martini” for this cocktail stuck. So that should give you a hint about the importance of vermouth to this drink…  and still, you get Churchill’s snarky comment about “glancing in the direction of” his vermouth on the shelf or the practice of simply wetting the ice with a splash of vermouth and then dumping it out before adding gin. As if vermouth was a nasty, offensive substance. As if! You may have friends who say they hate gin, or they hate vermouth…but I’ll gently suggest maybe they just haven’t tasted the right gin or the right vermouth, treated properly. The Yin to the Manhattan’s flavor-bomb Yang, the Martini is supple elegance in liquid form. For a time in the ’90s and ’00s, the name “Martini” came to denote any cocktail served in a cocktail glass: think Chocotini, Lychee Martini, Appletini, and so on. Thankfully, we’ve gotten away from that. The venerable Martini deserves a bit more respect.


© 2022 Wexler of California / Dave Stolte