Published Jun 25, 2007

I fear I’m about to make a great many enemies; but it can’t be avoided. Sometimes, one has strong opinions, and it’s at those times that one must stand up and state one’s beliefs, damn the consequences. This is one of those times. And this is my belief: A Martini is not a gin drink, or a vodka drink: it’s a vermouth drink.

I know there are those who would disagree with me — you might call them “everyone involved, in any way, with popular culture over the last twenty years” — but, once you’ve tried a few, you’ll agree with me. The cult of the extremely dry martini (“pass the closed vermouth bottle quickly over the shaker”) just doesn’t deliver the flavor. I mean, really, what’s so exciting about slowly sipping four shots of straight gin or vodka?1

For years, I took my Martinis very, very dirty. And dirty Martinis are a great thing, because, let’s face it, olives are absolutely brilliant. But I’ve realized that the reason I gravitated so quickly to the dirty Martini was that the trendy dry Martini had essentially no flavor, especially the super-trendy dry vodka martini. I still love the dirty Martini.

But lately I’ve discovered how to make a perfect Martini. No, that’s not a boast: I actually make a perfect Martini.

A perfect Martini includes both sweet and dry vermouth. You can make one too! The original ratio of vermouth to gin2 for a martini was 1-to-3, which advanced to 1-to-4 or 1-to-5 during the ’50s and ’60s, before somehow becoming 0-to-whatever more recently. Try out various ratios and see what you prefer; the Martini in my shot used a 1-to-4 ratio, and the 1/8 part of sweet vermouth gives it the golden color. The perfect gin Martini is a delicious drink, with hints of juniper (of course), vanilla, and even butter. If you prefer a vodka Martini, and are prepared to spend on top shelf, I recommend Chopin vodka, for an exceptionally smooth drink with heavy vanilla and a hint of a botanical.3

Now, until just this week, I would’ve recommended Tanqueray4 as the right gin for a Martini, and I’m still a big fan in the dirty Martini, but, based on the New York Times’s taste test, I thought I’d try the highly-rated and extremely-cheap Seagram’s. Well, I guess those awful Bronfmans made their money doing something useful enough, because Seagram’s is an awfully darned good gin. It’s got tons of flavors, but nothing bitter or dissonant, just some nicely-melded botanicals that have some bite without even the hint of gasoline. I’d say this gin is my new favorite.

A Seagram’s perfect Martini. Try it!5

1 The answer of my Russian and Polish grandparents would probably be “what’s not exciting about sipping four shots of straight vodka?” But this is one case in which I must turn away from my ancestors and strike out in new directions.

2 The original Martini was a gin drink; the vodka martini is a recent innovation.

3 If your budget’s smaller, Smirnoff is a great vodka choice.

4 Not the more expensive, trendier, and easier-to-find Tanqueray 10, which comes in a lovely bottle and is quite nice but has too much lemon and too little juniper flavor for me.

5 Now where’s my check, Edgar?

1 Comment

Lovely martini madness. Creative genius! I want to try some time! I learned a lot about the Martini from you today.