Whilst being one of the simplest, most universally known cocktails, the martini’s many variations make it seem like a daunting drink to learn and perfect. It is, however, relatively simple to master the martini. Learning and remembering all of the questions to ask, the lingo and what it means is probably the hardest part. To be forewarned, martini drinkers are often rather particular about how their drink is made, but adhere to their wishes and get their drink right and you’ll quickly become their favourite bartender! Martini drinkers will also often give you their complete order when they ask you for their drink saying, for example: “a bone dry, well vodka martini, shaken, served up with a twist”.
Here the customer has given you all the information that you need to produce their drink however, if they just order “a martini” you need to decode what they want with a series of questions. The first question you’re going to ask them is “vodka or gin?” and then, if they don’t state a particular brand, you should ask them if they have a preference. With that said, let’s move onto the second question where we start to prepare the drink.
Shaken or Stirred?
“Shaken not stirred” as Mr Bond said really shook up the martini world; literally and figuratively. Before this, martinis were rarely, if ever, shaken, now the opposite is true. Either way, this is the second question you should ask your customers after establishing which liquor they’d like.
Straight Up or on the Rocks?
The third question to ask is how the guest would like the martini served; straight up or on the rocks? Straight up is often referred to as just “up”, and this method is the most common service style for a martini.
Olives or a Twist?
The final question to ask your guest is which garnish they’d like, and here there are two options: olives or a lemon twist, just referred to as a twist. If the customer desires a lime twist or the twist of another citrus fruit they’ll tell you so. Sometimes the garnish is implied rather than asked about, certainly, when making a dirty martini the garnish is always an olive; unless the guest requests differently. Every other martini can automatically be garnished with a twist if you like, however good bartenders, those who pride themselves on their customer service, will always ask which garnish the customer would like.
Those are the questions and the order in which you should ask them to your guest regarding their martini choices, however there are some distinct term you need to become familiar with for when someone orders a martini at your bar. The bartender does not ask the guest if they’d like any of these variations, a guest will use these terms to tell the bartender exactly how they’d like their martini prepared.
Dry, Extra Dry, Bone Dry and Wet
These terms refer to the amount of dry vermouth in the drink and each has its meaning and these don’t follow the course of action that you would expect. It is worth noting that the ratios in every martini will vary by bar, the original iteration of the martini called for a 2:1 ratio of gin to dry vermouth, however the cocktail has evolved over the many decades it has been around - as have peoples tastes - and martini’s are now more commonly served at a 5:1 or 6:1 ratio. Each bar will have a slightly different standard recipe for their martini so make sure you know yours so that you’re serving the same as everyone else.
Dry - Ironically Dry means less dry vermouth. Usually the amount of vermouth is halved, and the quantity of gin remains the same.
Extra Dry - Extra dry means no vermouth at all!
Bone Dry - Chill a martini glass then rinse it with dry vermouth. Shake or stir either your gin or vodka then strain into the chilled and rinsed glass and voila, you have a bone dry martini! The only vermouth used in the bone dry version of a martini is that which is used to rinse the glass.
Wet - With dry being less dry vermouth, it stands to reason that wet means more dry vermouth. This can range from just doubling the amount of vermouth to making a 50:50 martini, half spirit, half vermouth; this may also be known as extra wet.
Dirty, Extra Dirty and Filthy
These all include the addition of olive brine or olive juice, usually that which the olives you use for garnish are received in. Unlike with dry, extra dry, bone dry and wet, these martini modifiers mean exactly what you expect them to mean. Dirty means a small addition of olive brine - usually half the amount of vermouth used - extra dirty usually uses equal amounts of brine and vermouth and a filthy will use even more than that! Some places will replace the dry vermouth with olive brine whilst others will add it into the cocktail; make sure you know what is the practice at your bar.
A sweet martini simply swaps out the dry vermouth for a sweet vermouth.
A perfect martini means equal part dry and sweet vermouth. Don’t add extra vermouth for this, simply halve the amount of dry vermouth you’d usually use and add the same amount of sweet vermouth.
A Gibson martini is identified by being garnished with a pickled onion. It is also this pickled onion which makes a Gibson martini a Gibson martini, as there are no differences - besides the garnish - between this and a regular martini. Gibson martinis are often dry.
The martini is one of the only cocktails that can be personalised in so many well known ways. These last three iterations are the least common but they’re still out there so knowing what they mean is knowledge that every bartender should possess. All customers have their own idea of what is the best martini from choice of spirit to vermouth ratios, to the method of making it, to the garnish; some will even want the rocks used to shake their martini served in a glass next to their cocktail. Each to their own, and if you as a bartender can learn to listen to peoples’ martini orders and execute them correctly every time you can class yourself as a very accomplished bartender.