American satirist and scholar H.L. Mencken once described the Dry Martini as “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” Mr. Mencken must have been quite fond of the drink as he forgot that sonnets were born in Italy. Today, the Martini is one of the most popular and well-known mixed drinks in the world, so much so that it now warrants its own special glass. Often a variation on a simple mix of gin and vermouth and usually garnished with an olive or lemon, the drink has come to represent the epitome of alcoholic sophistication since its rise to fame during the roaring twenties. In honor of this classy and classic drink, we’ve compiled a listing of the best Martini cocktail mixes in the world today. Enjoy!
The Negroni is a classic Italian variant on the traditional perfect Martini. It’s made with three equally divided parts of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, a bitter and earthy liqueur. This gives the drink a decidedly dark taste with bouncy elements of herbs and fruit layered throughout. A Boulevardier is an American attempt to reclaim the Martini legacy that uses bourbon in the place of Campari. Depending on the brand used, this can imbue the cocktail with a wide variety of flavors but tends to work best when using amber or black whiskeys.
An Espresso Martini can be made in a variety of ways but is always served in a classic Martini glass. We recommend the traditional mix of gin, sweet vermouth, coffee liqueur and if you can manage it, a dash of espresso itself. The sweet vermouth usually compliments the bitterness of the coffee and the thicker consistency makes it the perfect after-dinner drink. Garnish with a mint, chocolate shavings or even just a few stray coffee beans you may have laying around.
Before the American Standards Association released a safety code specifically for Martinis, the rule of thumb concerning the cocktail was the more gin and the less vermouth the better. English playwright Noel Coward once famously stated that “a perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.” Out of this period was born the Montgomery, a gin-heavy Dry Martini with anywhere from a 15:1 part ratio to even a 100:1 ratio. Best served with olive, lime or lemon, the Montgomery is best prepared by coating the inside of a glass with vermouth, tossing out the excess and filling the rest with strong gin.
Many Martini connoisseurs decry Vodka Martinis as a bastardization of the original cocktail. Even the endorsement of James Bond couldn’t redeem it in their eyes. But there is a very specific advantage with replacing gin with vodka, namely that vodka carries flavor much better. Anything you mix with a Vodka Martini, be it a mixing syrup or just an olive garnish, will immediately fill the drink with a slightly sweeter version of itself without having to contrast with the taste of the gin. Popular additions to a Vodka Martini include cucumbers, chocolates, cranberries and even pomegranates.
Clean Dirty Martini
There is only one place in the world where you can get a true Clean Dirty Martini: the Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris. Named after the famed author who considered it his favorite drinking spot, the Hemingway took advantage of a four-year shut down for renovations to create the Clean Dirty. The recipe is very secretive, right down to even the brand of ingredients being unknown. However, the drink’s inventor and head bartender at the Hemingway Colin Field has revealed that the drink uses a unique mixed parts ratio and the secret ingredient is the large ice cube the drink is served over. Instead of water, the ice is frozen olive juice, instantly imbuing the drink with a smooth wooden flavor. Despite its exclusivity, or perhaps because of it, the Clean Dirty Martini is often considered the finest cocktail in the world.