Cocktail of the Day: Three Takes on the Classic Martini
Ordering a martini feels like making a statement. Not only is it bold and beautiful, but successfully navigating a packed bar while holding that slender stemmed glass will make you feel like you deserve a medal (or at least a free drink).
The martini’s history is shrouded in a haze that’s not unlike the feeling you get after you’ve had a few. The city of Martinez, California claims the drink was first served there in 1849 when a lucky gold miner rolled into town and ordered Champagne to celebrate his fortune. As the story goes, the bartender didn’t have bubbly on hand so he mixed him a concoction of gin and dry white wine, topped it with an olive and named it the Martinez (which was later shortened to Martini).
Others believe the drink was first served by a bartender whose last name was “Martini” at New York City’s Knickerbocker Hotel around 1911.
The martini has been reinvented so many times there are even multiple recipes considered to be classic. Some common factors: Most call for gin or vodka, vermouth (some include both sweet and dry varieties) and a garnish of either lemon or olive.
Also, some facts to impress your friends during happy hour: A Bradford refers to a martini that gets shaken, “dirty” means there’s a splash of olive brine added and a Gibson has a cocktail onion garnish.
In honor of this iconic concoction, we rounded up three riffs on the basic recipe. Each of these variations calls for gin, in honor of the drink’s Prohibition roots, and should be stirred, which — despite James Bond’s order — is the original technique. (Many martini purists dislike how shaking makes the liquid cloudy.) Martinis taste best when served in ice-cold glasses, and some aficionados even keep a few in their freezer at all times should the mood strike.
Courtesy Gin Palace
For something that’s slightly sweeter without being cloying, Chaim Dauermann, beverage director at N.Y.C.’s Gin Palace (where there are about 75 types of the juniper-flavored spirit on offer) created the Sweet Home. The cocktail, which debuts on their menu in May, was inspired by the original Martinez recipe, the Italian Negroni and spring weather. “It’s sweet, but with a lingering crisp, bright and bitter character,” Dauermann tells PEOPLE.
1½ oz. gin
¾ oz. Cocchi Americano Rosa
½ oz. Campari
¼ oz. blackberry liqueur
Lemon peel, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker or tumbler, stir ingredients with ice until chilled, then strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with lemon peel.
Courtesy Dirty Habit
Another tribute to spring, the Green Thumb, comes from the new Dirty Habit bar in San Francisco. It’s one of bar manager Brian Means’s favorite drinks on the menu, and he calls it “simple to make at home and very refreshing.” Although it resembles a classic martini, the addition of green chartreuse liqueur gives it an herbal flavor and a verdant hue. The drink will taste delicious even if you skip the nectar essence garnish, which is spritzed on at the end. But if you’re hosting a party, it’s a fun, festive touch that will get guests talking.
1½ oz. gin
1 oz. sweet vermouth
½ oz. green chartreuse
1 Rooibos tea bag (for nectar essence)
12 oz. gin (for nectar essence)
1. In a cocktail shaker or tumbler, stir ingredients with ice until chilled, then strain into chilled coupe glass. Spritz nectar essence (recipe below) on top of the drink.
2. To make the nectar essence, add gin and tea bag to a large glass and let the mixture steep in the refrigerator for two to three hours. Transfer to a spray bottle.
Courtesy Mockingbird Hill
The Tuxedo cocktail comes from Mockingbird Hill, a ham and sherry bar in Washington, D.C. Mixologist and co-owner Derek Brown traded the typical vermouth for a dry sherry. “This drink is tangy and very dry, with the lemon oil from the citrus rind and herbaceous quality from the gin igniting the appetite — it’s a perfect aperitif cocktail,” Brown tells PEOPLE. The name pays homage to the Tuxedo Club, a swanky social institution in upstate New York where the tuxedo was first worn.
2 oz. gin
1 oz. sherry
1 dash orange bitters
Lemon peel, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker or tumbler, stir ingredients with ice until chilled, then strain into chilled cocktail glass. With the outer layer facing down, hold lemon peel over glass and pinch it, then place on rim of glass.