The Ultimate Guide To The Martini

We like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three we're under the table, after four we're under the host

Our fave quote from Dorothy Parker there, who was 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 give ya all the top tips for ordering - and making - a Martini like a pro. 

Shaken, not stirred: the great debate

Image: Casino Royale, 2006

First things first: should you really order your Martini shaken, not stirred? The world's most famous Martini drinker has given the shaken Martini a bit of a rep, but 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 how things are, the way 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. 

So why did Bond go rogue and order it shaken - and with vodka too? 'Cos he was Bond, basically. In the '50s, if you rocked up to a bar and ordered a Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred, you'd have been laughed out the room, but Bond author Ian Fleming thought he'd make his main character stand out. In doing so, he changed the face of the Martini forever. Another thing we have Mr Bond to thank for? The Vesper Martini. More on that in a mo.

Still, there's no real harm in shaking your Martini. It still tastes great - it'll probs be colder, but it will be cloudy and you run the risk of overdilution. If you really want yours shaken, then we say 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 go back to basics. First up...

Choose 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, but it evolved from a gin cocktail called the Martinez, which also contains sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters, sometime around the mid to late 19th century. Then in 1951, the first recorded Vodka Martini recipe hit the scene. The vodka version became popular after that, especially in the States. If you want vodka, knock yourself out. Both are perfectly acceptable. 


If gin's your vibe, you gotta talk to Alessandro Palazzi. He's the bar manager at Dukes Bar and has fixed a Martini for everyone from Pierce Brosnan himself to the late, great Gianni Agnelli, the former head of Fiat. He makes what is arguably the best Martini in London (maybe the world), so this guy knows the score. 

His spirit of choice? "For me, you always use a London dry gin in a proper Martini," Alessandro says. "Then you get the true taste of the juniper."

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" doesn't mean the gin is made in London. Rather, it refers to a style with specific requirements - and one of them is that flavourings must be added 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," he says.

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," Dustin explains. "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 drink was first recorded by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale, when Bond orders one 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. The original recipe also features the now-discontinued aperitif Kina Lillet, but you can use Lillet Blanc as a replacement.

Like the lady herself, the Vesper can be pretty lethal. Little factoid to impress your friends/the hot bartender - "vesper" means "evening" in Latin, and the character was so named 'cos she was born "on a very stormy evening". So now you know. 

Wanna try one that's guaranteed to taste amazing? Alessandro has bottled his own in partnership with No.3 Gin, so you can keep a bottle in your freezer ready to go when the mood strikes.

Dry or wet, wet, wet? 

Classically, Martinis contain three ingredients: the spirit (vodka or gin), vermouth and then either olives or lemon for garnish. You stir the vermouth and the spirit in an ice-filled mixing glass, then strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Notice that we haven't included measurements for your spirit and vermouth - that's because the ratios differ depending on how wet or dry you want your Martini. 

Winston Churchill said the only way to make a Martini is 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 Martini. Both of these dudes were after it dry - which means with little to no vermouth. 

To make a Dry Martini, you might use five parts spirit to one part vermouth. You might add the vermouth to the mixing glass first, stir with ice, pour the vermouth away and stir your spirit over this same ice so it's lightly infused with vermouth. Some bartenders will rinse the glass with vermouth and pour it away; some will have a fancy vermouth spray. The rest of the drink is pure booze - that's why it's so damn powerful. 

However, some people like a little more vermouth added - two parts spirit to one part vermouth, for example. This is called a Wet Martini and means it's not quite as insanely strong. It gets some delicate notes from the vermouth, and it's lush when you want a 'tini that's a little lighter.

Oh yeah, 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. 

Gonna get dirrrrr'y (or not) 

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

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 strip of lemon peel. 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 allows the lemon oil settle on the top. He says we "taste with our nose first", and this garnish lets you 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. 


Like things salty? Add a little olive brine to your Martini. 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, though maybe not so great if you're on a date. 

The Big Martini No-Nos

According to Alessandro, "Water and temperature are a Martini's worst enemy." We couldn't agree more. If you are having your Martini shaken, then overshaking will dilute the cocktail.

Watch the preparation - when whipping up an order of multiple cocktails, 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 (it's also why there's a two-Martini limit at the bar - there's zero dilution!). You'll see the difference. 

Bigger isn't always better: The best glass size 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 find one at your local food market. Ace. Ditto with the olives - plump green ones in brine, not oil. 

Chill your glass: Pop it in the freezer 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!