How to Make a Martini Like a Bartender

When making a cocktail as naked as a martini, every move counts. Here's how to make a martini recipe like a true bartender.

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A classic martini recipe is simple enough: shake up some ice, vodka or gin and vermouth; stir; strain; pop on an olive. But for a truly divine martini—deceptively simple on paper—the devil is in the details…a devil that needs to be sussed, and so much so that you might need a martini afterward. (And luckily, if you heed these tips, you’ll have just that.)

Here are some other classic cocktail recipes you should learn how to make.

What’s in a Martini?

Ice, Ice, Baby

First things first: in a drink with just two ingredients, ice becomes a crucial addition. Working behind the scenes, ice gets the martini nice and cold, but is absent from the final product. The goal here is to get the drink as cold as possible, but without watering it down.

Avoid the shaved and crushed varieties, as the small pieces will easily melt away into those warming spirits we know and love. Instead, opt for a cracked cube, big enough to hold its own but with more surface area for chilling than simple blocks from the tray.

Gin or Vodka

Is a martini made with gin or vodka, you may ask? Either! Though gin is the traditional choice, vodka martinis are incredibly common.

Since these spirits are all but naked in this James Bond signature, quality counts. At the liquor store, bypass the bottom-shelf varieties altogether and opt for a name-brand option. If you’re not an experienced mixologist, take a look at our vodka buying guide and gin buying guide for expert suggestions.

A Splash of Vermouth

The supporting role in the martini is vermouth, a wine-based spirit fortified with aromatic herbs like juniper, nutmeg, orange peel and coriander.

Vodka martinis benefit from a vermouth with a bit of flair, so consider those with a stronger floral or citrus profile. Save the more subtle dry vermouth for gin martinis. That said, if there’s a particular vermouth you enjoy, go ahead and use it. It’s your martini, after all!

When shopping for vermouth, bear in mind that once opened, it only keeps for about three months in the refrigerator. Unless you’re shaking up dozens of drinks, choose a smaller bottle.

This fortified spirit is also what gives the martini a few of its monikers: dry, set and extra wet refer to the amount of vermouth in the equation. Dry has the least vermouth (about a 6:1 vodka-to-vermouth ratio), wet has a 3:1 ratio and extra wet is equal parts vermouth and gin or vodka.

But the options don’t stop there. In some people’s eyes, a more dynamic cocktail is a perfect martini: That means the martini contains equal parts dry and sweet vermouth, in addition to spirit.

A martini without vermouth is simply straight gin or vodka with a garnish. You can order a martini with as little vermouth as possible, but it’ll still be in there, and it’s great no matter how much (or how little) you like. Remember, a dry martini still has a tiny bit of vermouth.

How to Make a Martini

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces gin or vodka
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • Ice cubes
  • Pimiento-stuffed olives

Yield: 1 martini

Tools:

  • Cocktail mixing glass: Chill your martini ingredients without jostling them too hard with a mixing glass. This particular glass is sturdy, roomy and will look great on your bar cart.
  • Bar spoon: This 12-inch bar spoon reaches all the way down your mixing glass without getting your finger anywhere near the cocktail.
  • Scalloped strainer: The bump on the handle of this strainer locks onto the side of a mixing glass, making straining a breeze. Plus, this Barfly strainer is machine washable and comes in six finishes.

Check out these other tools you’ll want on your bar cart.

Step 1: Add ingredients and ice

To your cocktail mixing glass, add the spirit of your choice and the dry vermouth. Then, fill the mixing glass three-fourths of the way with ice.

Editor’s Note: For this martini, we went with a 6:1 ratio, but adjust that ratio to your tastebuds. Take a look at more ways on how to customize your martini.

Step 2: Stir the martini

Keeping your bar spoon along the wall of the mixing glass, stir the martini for 30 seconds, or until some condensation has formed. This will mix and chill the ingredients without watering the cocktail down too much. Here’s more on why you shouldn’t shake a martini.

Editor’s Note: Still want it shaken, not stirred? Add your spirit and vermouth to a cocktail shaker, rather than a cocktail mixer, along with plenty of ice. Then, shake the martini for about 30 seconds, or until condensation forms, and strain into a glass. Some bits of shattered ice may end up in your final product.

Step 3: Strain the martini

Place the strainer over the mixing glass and carefully pour the martini into a glass. You can use a traditional martini glass, or go old-school and use a coupe glass.

Step 4: Garnish the martini

Finally, of course, is the garnish. Drop in one, or three, green olives. You can go with pimiento-stuffed, garlic- stuffed or bleu cheese-stuffed olives.

That’s not your only option though. Adding a slice of lemon peel will give your cocktail a bit of brightness. Or, you can top the martini with a pickled pearl onion, which would turn your martini into a Gibson.

How to Drink a Martini

Slowly! Martinis are quite strong, so make sure you pace yourself while imbibing.

What Is a Dirty Martini?

A dirty martini is a standard martini that contains a bit of olive juice or brine. To make one, add a splash of olive juice or brine to the mixing glass before stirring the martini. Olive juice and brine are rather pungent, so add a little at a time.

Some bartenders skip the vermouth when making a dirty martini. It’s up to you if you’d like to replace the vermouth with olive juice or not.

Martini Varieties 

Once you know the basics behind a martini, you can get creative with fun flavors like a chocolate martini, lemon martini, coffee martini and much more. Cheers!

Find Recipes for More Classic Cocktails
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Caroline Stanko
As an Associate Digital Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.
Mark Hagen
The former owner of his own catering business, Mark’s been part of the Taste of Home team for the past 20 years. His work has also appeared in Quick Cooking, Light & Tasty and Country Woman magazines as well as in various Pillsbury and Betty Crocker cookbooks. When he’s not spending time in the kitchen with his Westie, Rocco, he’s working in his yard, doing stand-up comedy or devouring a platter of nachos. (Most likely the latter.)