There is no definitive account of the invention of the martini, though it is often attributed to an American bartender named Jerry Thomas, whose book, The Bar-Tender’s Guide was the first cocktail book ever published in the United States, way back in 1863, and helped him earn the title, “Father of American Mixology.”
Thomas tended bar at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. The story goes that a prospector on his way to or from the town of Martinez (about 45 miles northeast of San Francisco) visited the Occidental, plopped a gold nugget on the bar and demanded a special concotion from Thomas, who served him up a combination of Old Tom Gin, vermouth, bitters, and maraschino, calling it a “Martinez” in honor of the prospector’s destination (or departure point, depending on what version you’re referencing). Here’s how the recipe for the Martinez appeared in a late 19th century edition of The Bar-Tender’s Guide:
- Use small bar glass
- One dash bitters
- Two dashes Maraschino
- One wineglass of vermouth
- Two small lumps of ice
- One pony of Old Tom gin
- SHAKE up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail glass.
- Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve.
- If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes of gum syrup
The name, along with the recipe has of course morphed through the centuries. The purest version of the modern-day dry martini seems to be a five-to-one mixture of gin and dry vermouth, stirred over ice in a mixing glass and then strained into a cocktail glass, garnished with an olive or lemon slice. I steer clear of the gin because to me, a gin martini doesn’t go down nearly as smoothly as a vodka martini. Mixed properly, it hits the tongue like ice-cold spring water with the alcoholic back kick only arriving after the swallow.
The Vodka Martini
- 1 2/3 oz. Vodka
- 1/3 oz. Dry Vermouth
My favorite olive for the martini is one stuffed with a jalapeño. If you are a regular reader of this site, that probably does not surprise you. In fact, if you add a spoonful of jalapeño-infused brine from the jar before mixing, you’ll arrive at my own, spicier, revved-up version of the martini, called the Judge Green.