While the basic recipe for a martini is deceptively simple, it’s a very complex cocktail to make well. The gin is almost bare to the palate with nowhere to hide.
A martini should be a dense, luscious melange with the gin and vermouth still swirling around each other rather than homogenously mixed. It’s nearly the opposite of a gin and tonic, which should be well mixed, light and airy with a bubbly froth of fragrance.
Flowery perfumed gins tend to make poor martinis, as do gins that feature one botanical too heavily. The olive isn’t just an added snack, the acid of the pickling liquid offsets the dry spirit and balances the overall cocktail. If you prefer a vodka martini, a much lighter acid such as citrus peel is better suited to balance the spirit.
A martini should be served extremely cold, often tempting makers to vigorously shake or stir the spirit in a cocktail shaker full of ice. Unfortunately, this introduces large amounts of air, losing the density and turning it into more of a frothy cocktail. In the classic argument of shaken or stirred, we take a different path and say “neither, thank you”.
The Perfect Gin Martini
5 parts Kirkwood Hillside Gin
1 part dry vermouth
3 green olives
Fill a cocktail mixer with ice. Pour the gin gently over the ice, then add the vermouth slowly. Leave it undisturbed for two minutes until very cold, then strain carefully into a martini glass, making sure not to splash and add air. Garnish with olives, gherkins or pickled onion, but don’t go overboard. The acid of the pickle needs to balance the dryness of the gin perfectly.
The Perfect Vodka Martini
4 parts Kirkwood Barley Vodka
1 part dry vermouth
1 strip of citrus peel
Pour the vodka gently into a cocktail mixer filled with ice, then add the vermouth slowly. Leave it undisturbed until very cold, then strain carefully into a martini glass, making sure not to splash. Garnish with a slice of orange or lemon peel. Lime or grapefruit work also, but require a slightly smaller slice of peel to maintain the balance of the overall cocktail.