The Martini is now a classic in the world of cocktails, but its origins are hard to pin down. The most likely theory is that it evolved from the Martinez, a mix of Dutch genever – the forerunner of the gin we know and love today – and vermouth.
The first recipe for a Martini appears in Harry Johnson’s Bartender Manual (1888) and included orange curaçao and bitters alongside the gin and sweet vermouth. Fast-forward to the 1920s and Martinis are taking a more recognisable form as a 2:1 mix of London Dry gin and dry vermouth.
Through the following decades of the 20th century the gin to vermouth ratio became increasingly drier – more gin, less vermouth – and it’s still a topic that sparks debate today. What’s the perfect ratio? Should vermouth even be used? (Not according to Noël Coward, who declared: ‘A perfect Martini should be made by filling a glass with gin, then waving it in the general direction of Italy.’)
Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and you can make a Martini at home any way you like it. Though do note that a Martini should always be stirred, not shaken (sorry James Bond).
Options include the classic Dry Martini (six parts gin to one part dry vermouth); a Wet Martini with more vermouth; a 50-50 with equal parts gin and vermouth; a Perfect Martini with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth; or even a Dirty Martini with a splash of olive juice.
However you prefer it, the following gins will bring out the best in your Martini – with a style to suit everyone.
Best Gins for a Martini
Cambridge Dry Gin
£38-£42/70cl Amazon, Master of Malt, Selfridges, The Whisky Exchange, Virgin Wines
William Lowe MW has the honour of being the world’s first Master Distiller and Master of Wine. His innovative vacuum-distilled gin is specially created for Martinis, using botanicals sourced locally and from his own garden in Cambridge, giving elegant floral aromatics. Pure silk on the palate; this makes an elegant and harmonious Dry Martini. Alc 42%
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin
£31.40-£39.73/70cl, Amazon, Distillers Direct, Drink Supermarket, Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange
Fans of a Wet Martini (made with more vermouth) should try this distinctive Australian gin, made in Victoria’s Yarra Valley – a region better known for its wines. Distilled with botanicals including Tasmanian pepperberry, lemon myrtle and Asian spices. Mix 60ml of gin with 15ml dry vermouth for a smooth and aromatic Martini. The distillery’s latest creation, Olive Leaf Gin, would work brilliantly in a Dirty Martini (made with olive juice). Alc 41.8%
This Scottish gin is made with 11 botanicals, including cubeb berries and elderflower, but it’s a final infusion of rose petals and cucumber that help to create its distinctive taste, with fresh notes of cucumber alongside its citrus and juniper. If you’re not a big juniper lover, Hendrick’s makes a more floral Gin Martini: mix 50ml with 7ml dry vermouth and garnish with a slice of cucumber. Alc 41.4%
Hepple Gin, UK
£34-£38/70cl Majestic, Master of Malt, The Drink Shop, Waitrose Cellar
Made with British juniper grown on the wild Northumbrian Hepple Estate, using a complex triple distillation technique, Hepple is a finely crafted choice for a Dry Martini. It was created by a team that includes chef Valentine Warner and top mixologist Nick Strangeway. Mix with 10ml vermouth and garnish with lemon peel for a distinctive Martini with fresh aromas of Douglas fir, a luscious, silky palate and a deliciously lingering finish. Alc 45%
Launched in 1993, Junípero was one of the first American craft gins, created by San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling Co (now Hotaling & Co). As the name suggests, it goes big on juniper for a very traditional take on a London Dry style, though the palate is nicely balanced by citrus and spice notes. If you like knock-out navy-strength gins (57% abv or higher) this is the Martini for you. Alc 49.3%
Martin Miller’s Gin
Distilled in England and blended with Icelandic spring water, Martin Miller’s is a soft-textured and beautifully balanced gin for a Dry Martini or a Perfect Martini. Citrus freshness combines with a soft and clean finish, making it a classic choice. Choose the higher-strength Martin Miller’s Westbourne (45.2% abv) for a Martini that delivers more juniper punch. Alc 40%
Tanqueray No. 10
With its citrus-led botanical mix of lemons, oranges and blood grapefruit, Tanqueray is fresh and crisp, but also beautifully balanced. No. Ten takes its name from the number 10 pot still – nicknamed Tiny Ten – where it’s made. It’s a super-versatile gin to have in your home bar, working equally well with tonic or in a silky-smooth classically proportioned Dry Martini – 50ml gin and 10ml dry vermouth – garnished with a pink grapefruit twist. Alc 47.3%
Sacred Gin, UK
£31.45-£35/70cl Amazon, Buon Vino, Master of Malt, The Gin Box Shop
Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel in Mayfair, is THE quintessential London Martini bar. Head bartender Alessandro Palazzi uses Sacred as his house pour at Dukes, which speaks volumes about its Martini credentials. London distiller Ian Hart makes this small-batch vacuum-distilled craft gin, with botanicals including exotic frankincense, or Boswellia sacra in Latin, giving the gin its name. Makes a balanced, smooth and truly memorable Dry Martini. Alc 40%