Wet, Dry, or Dirty: What's your Martini?

Wet, Dry, or Dirty: What’s your Martini?

The Martini is perhaps the most iconic cocktail in the world, and though it might look like a dainty drink, don’t be fooled; it certainly isn’t for the faint hearted. It has over 40 per cent hard spirit, and it will have you slurring before you can say, “Bartender, I’ll have a third.” So, handle with care.

Watch your vermouth

A traditional Martini contains gin and dry vermouth served extremely cold with a green olive or lemon peel garnish. And although vodka Martinis are universally accepted now (purists will scoff at the thought), the coupling of gin and vermouth is the stuff to make you believe in happy marriages. The simplicity of the ingredients it holds makes it seem deceptively simple but getting a Martini right is hard work. Here’s a word of advice: find a bartender who can fix a truly great Martini and NEVER let him/her go. You’ll thank me later.

At the end of the day though it’s a matter of taste. Winston Churchill preferred to have his made with an open bottle of vermouth in front of a fan across the room. Or if that was too much trouble then he would ask his bartender to whisper the word ‘vermouth’ to a freshly poured glass of gin. Alfred Hitchcock was one up on Churchill with his recipe, which called for 5 parts gin and a quick glance at a bottle of vermouth.

Wet, Dry, or Dirty?

A glossary of terms for when your next Martini.

Dry Martini: Refers to the amount of vermouth in your Martini. The less vermouth, the drier it is.

Wet Martini: Usually signifies a Martini that’s a little sweeter than the average. The more vermouth you add, the ‘wetter’ your Martini is. A classic wet Martini has about 3 parts gin/vodka to 1 part vermouth.

Naked Martini: One with no vermouth at all. It’s just chilled gin or vodka that’s garnished with an olive, served up in a Martini glass.

Dirty Martini: Using a bit of olive brine makes a Martini dirty. The brine can be used instead of or with the vermouth.

Smoky Martini: Gin with a splash of Scotch whisky, stirred and garnished with a lemon twist.

Straight up: A Martini ‘straight up’ means shaken or stirred with ice and strained into the glass.

Olive or twist: The garnish is intrinsic to a Martini. An olive will usually be a Spanish olive with pimento, and the twist – a lemon peel.

Tips for a great Martini:

  • Use a Martini glass. That’s what it was made for!
  • A good Martini owes a lot to the vermouth, so treat your vermouth as you would a wine. Keep it refrigerated.
  • Chill the glass before pouring in the cocktail by filling it with ice.
  • Strain before pouring. Ice chips or fruit pulp ruin a Martini. Double strain for a super clear cocktail!


Header picture credit: NYTIMES