The Ultimate Guide To The Martini

We like to have a Martini, 2 at the very most. After 3 we're under the table, after 4 we're under the host.

Our fave quote from Dorothy Parker there, who's absolutely bang-on when it comes to Martini-drinking etiquette. These killer cocktails aren't for the faint-hearted, but if you nail ordering one then it could be the best drink of your night. We teamed up with some game-changers in the booze industry to get you the top tips for ordering - and making - a Martini like a pro. 

First things first - should you really have it shaken and not stirred?

We say this cos the world's most famous Martini drinker has given this cocktail a bit of a rep. Warning: if you go into a fancy bar - or any decent bar for that matter - they might raise an eyebrow at your Bond-themed request.

Martinis have always classically been stirred. It's just the way things are - like you'd build a Negroni, stir a Manhattan and light a flaming Sambuca. It's partly due to the fact if you shake your Martini then you dilute the ice into your spirit. No one wants a watery Martini - apart from 007, apparently. 

Image: Casino Royale, 2006

So why did Bond go rogue and order it shaken - and with vodka too, for that matter? Cos he was Bond, basically. Whereas in the 50s if you'd gone to a bar and ordered a Vodka Martini - shaken not stirred - you'd have been laughed out the room, Fleming thought he'd make Bond stand out. Typical alpha male behaviour... and in doing so, they changed the face of Martinis forever. One thing we do have mister Bond to thank for though is the Vesper. More on that in a mo.

Go Stateside however and it's a different story - they love to shake it to make it out there. It still tastes great - way colder, but it will be cloudy - so if you really want yours shaken then go for it. Some bartenders take a 'you do you' approach, some might assume you've watched Casino Royale too many times. But it's your Martini love affair, after all. 

So now we've got the Shaken vs Stirred thing out the way, let's get back to basics. First up...

Choose your spirit

When you're ordering your Martini, it's essential you clarify your spirit. Are you Team Gin or Team Vodka? A classic Martini uses gin - there's debate about when the first Martini recipe was published (it evolved from a Martinez), but we're going with around the1880s. But then in 1951 we see the first recorded vodka Martini recipe and it became more popular after that, especially in the States. If you want vodka, knock yourself out. Both are perfectly acceptable. 


If gin's your vibe, there's only one person to ask. Alessandro Palazzi is head bartender at DUKES Hotel bar and has fixed a Martini for everyone from Pierce Brosnan himself to the now sadly passed away Gianni Agnelli who was the head of Fiat cars. He makes arguably the best Martini in London (maybe the world), so this guy knows the score. 

"For me, you always use a London Dry Gin in a proper Martini. Then you get the true taste of the juniper," is his advice when choosing a gin. 

Of course, you can go off-piste - Alessandro has made everything from Truffle Gin Martinis to Caviar Martinis - but for an absolute classic that can't fail, always ask for a London Dry. Little sidenote - London Dry Gin doesn't mean it's made in London. This refers to the style - it means all the flavouring has to be added before or during distillation. So no adding flavourings or colours after the distillation process. 

Alessandro's philosophy? Go global. "The thinking in the old days used to be that the best gins come from England and the best vodka comes from Russia, but that's bollocks. If the person making it has got passion for what they make and has a beautiful product and a story behind it, I don't care if he comes from the moon." One of his favourite gins at the moment is Procera African Craft Gin, distilled in Nairobi with 10 botanicals, including African juniper. Yum.  


More into your voddy? We went straight to Dustin MacMillan, Brand Ambassador for one of our favourite vodkas, Black Cow (the vodka that's made using milk), to get tips. 

"It needs to be smooth, which means, the distiller needs to know what they’re doing and truly love what they do. It comes out in the final product. You can’t be drinking firewater all night, those days are gone. You also need to have a personal connection with the brand, it’s got to make you feel something you can’t quite explain, something in your bones." 

If it's not raging busy in the bar, why not ask your bartender for tips and even ask to try a sip of a couple? You're gonna be drinking it almost straight, so you need to commit... 


One of those people who wants the best of both worlds? Hey, we're with you - in which case, choose a Vesper Martini. This was invented by Bond after meeting the seductive Vesper Lynd. It contains both gin and vodka - a little nod to the fact she's a double agent. Ah ha. It's also got Lillet Blanc, and like the lady herself, it can be pretty lethal. Little factoid to impress your friends/the hot bartender - Vesper means 'evening' in Latin, and was named cos she was born 'on a very stormy evening'. So now you know. 

Wanna try one you know is gonna taste amazing? Alessandro has bottled his own in partnership with No3 Gin, so you can keep a bottle in your freezer ready to go when the mood strikes.

Dry or wet, wet, wet?

Winston Churchill said the only way to make a Martini was with ice-cold gin and a bow in the direction of France. Alfred Hitchcock said he 'would like to observe the vermouth from across the room' while he drank his. Both of these dudes were after it bone dry - which is without the vermouth. 

Classically, however, Martinis contain 3 ingredients. The spirit (vodka or gin), vermouth, and then either olives or lemon. You'd combine the vermouth with the spirit, pour into a shaker full of ice, stir, then strain into a chilled glass. Notice that we haven't included measurements for your spirit and vermouth - that's because the ratios differ depending on how 'wet' you want your Martini. 

A dry Martini might be anything from 5 parts spirit to 1 part vermouth, to the method of pouring the vermouth into the ice first and stirring so the vermouth coats the ice, then pouring the vermouth away. After that you'd stir your spirit over this same ice so it got cold and infused with the gin/vodka, then strain into your chilled glass. Some bartenders will smear vermouth around the rim of the glass, some will have a fancy vermouth spray. The rest is pure booze. Yeah, you knew they were powerful. Now you know why. 

However, some people like a little more vermouth added - 2 parts spirit to 1 part vermouth, for example. This is called a Wet Martini and means it's not quite as insanely strong, and you also get vague delicacy from the vermouth.  Oh yeah, and you can also have a Sweet Martini which uses sweet vermouth instead of dry vermouth, and a Perfect Martini which is 50% dry vermouth and 50% sweet vermouth.  

So you've decided how wet you're getting. What's next?

Gonna get dirrrrr'y (or not)

Of course, you want to go up to the bar and ask for it dirty. But do you know what it, er, means? Here's your chance to basically choose if you want it a little more savoury - with an olive and some added brine - or crisper and cleaner, with a twist of lemon. Consider this your mini martini manual. 


This is the classic way to have a Martini, and it means with a twist of lemon. It's also arguably the best way of appreciating your spirit. As Alessandro says -lemon is one of juniper's best friends and really helps you appreciate the botanicals of the gin. Most of the Martinis he serves at DUKES are with a twist. This is partly cos they freeze the gin and so the viscosity of the spirit lets the lemon oil settles on the top. He says we 'taste with our nose first', so get that incredible citrus freshness before the first heavenly sip. So yeah, freeze your gin. It is an Absolute. Game. Changer. 


If you don't fancy lemon, the other acceptable choice is olives. They'll add a slightly more savoury note to your cocktail. Plus - perfect little snack for when you're on your third Martini and have forgotten about dinner. 


This is where the bartender will add a little olive brine to make it even more savoury. A light touch is needed here or you'll feel like you're drinking seawater.  Wanna go rogue? Order a Gibson - it's made with pickled onions and a bit of pickle juice. Awesome taste, not so great if you're on a date. 

So there you go.

The Big Martini No-Nos

Alessandro says 'water and temperature are a Martini's worst enemy.' We couldn't agree more. If you are having it shaken then overshaking will dilute the cocktail.

Watch the preparation - a good bartender will always make the Martini last to avoid warming and dilution while it waits on the bar. Dustin advises "do not free pour! Measurements are very important. Also, bad garnishes. Oh, and another thing, when it’s not cold enough. To be fair there’s a lot on the line here and much to go wrong, don’t f*ck it up!"

Mix a Martini Like A Master

Planning on making your own Martini at home? Yes, you go for it! Here are some tips:

Invest in a good spirit - it's not being hidden by anything else so you gotta love that liquid. Alessandro says you can't go wrong with Beefeater and No 3 Gin. BarChick's list of 20 best gins has some epic choices in there too. Vermouth wise, Martini Extra Dry is always a sure bet. 

Pop the bottle in the freezer. They do it at DUKES and it's what makes their Martinis insane. You'll see the difference. 

Bigger isn't always better. The best size glass is 100ml or 120ml. Make sure you've got some swanky glassware - you're not drinking it out of that novelty plastic glass from that hen party you went on two years ago. Channel your member's club vibes with these beauties or get this pretty pair for a very decent price. 

Quality garnish all the way. Alessandro always uses Amalfi lemons -  if you can go select one from your local food market, ace. Ditto with the olives - plump green ones in brine, not oil. 

Chill your glass while you mix your drink so it's cold when you pour your Martini in. 

Invest in a good strainer. And a jigger for measuring. You can get away with stirring it in a jug if you haven't got a shaker. But we say just grab one of these

Now just use the guide above to decide on your ratios and style and you're ready to roll, baby!