The Perfect Vodka Martini

The Perfect Vodka Martini

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    Traditionally, martinis were made with gin, a smidge of dry vermouth and tiny un-ripened olives.  Thank God that traditions change with time.  If you’ve ever tried gin, you probably agree with the majority of imbibers that it’s nasty stuff, to put it mildly, and only marginally more palatable than dry vermouth.  Did you know that vermouth is made from wormwood?  Can you imagine anything remotely tasty resulting from the fermentation of anything with “worm” in its name?

    The contemporary martini uses vodka and only rarely includes vermouth.  Furthermore, the pitifully tiny olives of the past have been replaced with herculean fruits closer to the size of guavas than to iguana eyeballs.  When ordering a martini in a bar, it’s still good practice to specify if you want a vodka martini, because if it’s an old school bartender he might just surprise you with something you’re likely to regurgitate over your date in a way that is not likely to result in future dates.  On the other hand, if you want to save a considerable amount of money, you can always buy the necessary ingredients and make your own at home. 


    • Vodka (avoid inexpensive brands such as Smirnoff; Skyy, Grey Goose or Stolichnaya are fine)
    • Dry vermouth (even if you don’t use it, keep it on hand in case a friend wants a standard or dry martini; it’s inexpensive and lasts for years)
    • Cocktail mixing glass
    • Cocktail mixing spoon with 10-12 inch long handle
    • Cocktail strainer
    • Ice (preferably small cubes; avoid crushed ice)
    • Cocktail olives (the bigger, the better; nothing fancy like garlic- or jalapeño-stuffed olives)
    • Skewers (elegant if you want to impress guests; if you don’t care, long toothpicks will work)
    • Stemmed cocktail glasses
    • Can of anchovies (optional)

     *At least 15 minutes before preparing drinks, place your stemmed glasses in the freezer to chill them.


    Standard Martini

    Fill your mixing glass ¾ full with ice, add 3 ounces of vodka and between a dash and ¼ ounce of dry vermouth; stir with the mixing spoon for at least half a minute (avoid using a shaker; shaken martinis are more watered down and can have an unpleasant cloudy appearance).  Using a cocktail strainer, pour the drink into a chilled stemmed glass, add two-to-four olives to the skewer (depending on your guest’s taste; always ask how many olives they want), and drop it into the drink.


    Dry Martini

    Fill your mixing glass ¾ full with ice, add 3 ounces of vodka and stir with the mixing spoon for at least half a minute.  Before pouring the martini, add a dash of dry vermouth to the chilled stemmed glass, swirl it around to coat the interior of the glass and shake out the residue over the sink.  Pour the drink as detailed above.


    Extra Dry Martini

    Follow the same steps as per the martini recipes above with the omission of the vermouth.  Bartenders who think they’re cute will wave the vermouth bottle over the mixing glass, as if that makes some kind of difference, which it does not but only makes them look like fools.  Don’t do this unless you want your guests to think you’re a nitwit.


    Dirty Martini

    Any of the three martinis described above can be “dirty”; all you have to do is add a dash of olive juice to the mixing cup following the addition of the vodka.  This is a favorite of big time olive fans, but you may wish to warn them that it will make their drink a tad cloudy, and assure them that no nuclear waste or landfill runoff made its way into the mixing glass.



    A family recipe handed down through one generation spanning dozens of years, now shared with the general population—or at least the 1% of the population that enjoys anchovies.  Open a tin of anchovies, remove as many filets as olives required for the drink and pat them dry with a paper towel to remove as much oil as possible.  Remove the pimentos from the olives and stuff the fruits with the anchovies.  This is more than a little messy and if the filets are firm, you can instead add them to the skewer in between the olives.  This adds a salty tang to a martini that few people other than those suffering from taste-depravation can appreciate.

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