Let's get one thing straight: A martini contains gin and vermouth, sometimes bitters, and it's garnished with a lemon twist, or an olive if you must. If liqueurs or sake or – gasp – vodka enters the equation, we are no longer talking about a martini.
Gin and dry vermouth first joined hands under the martini moniker in the late 19th century. It was wetter than a waterpark with recipes calling for equal parts Old Tom, a sweeter style of gin and vermouth. Crisp London dry gin soon replaced Old Tom and the ratio of gin to vermouth began its ascent.
By the postwar era, the dry martini was a suave way of ordering cold gin and vermouth became the butt of clichéd jokes that persist today. Ignore philistines who still apply vermouth with an eyedropper. The modern cocktail renaissance, which puts balance before tradition, favours a ratio between 3:1 and 4:1.
Modern premium gins are generally a waste of money in a martini. Go with old-school, juniper-forward spirits such as basic Tanqueray, Beefeater or Plymouth. Dry vermouth from Dolin is my go-to, and freshness is imperative: Store it in the fridge after opening and use within three months. A dash of orange bitters is optional, but like a good rug, it really ties the room together.
Martinis are stirred, not shaken. The former yields a smooth texture, while the latter will dilute the drink postmix with tiny ice chips. Some people insist on chilling the gin, even the bar tools. Nonsense. You must, however, freeze the serving glass so the drink maintains the frigid temperature of Baffin Bay.
I've always felt the olive garnish is a drinker's way to eat their vegetables while imbibing. A lemon twist brings much more to the table, and you can always enjoy this superior martini with a dish of olives on the side.
2-1/2 oz Tanqueray London dry gin
3/4 oz Dolin dry vermouth
1 dash Regan's Orange Bitters No. 6
Lemon twist ( 3/4-by-2 inches)
Place gin, vermouth and bitters in mixing glass. Add enough ice to come above liquid. Stir until ice-cold, about 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon twist over surface of drink. Rub rim with twist then drop in drink. Consume immediately.