The Martini is arguably one of the best known cocktails in the world. But should it be made with vodka or gin? It’s a question that spirits lovers can debate endlessly. But frankly the choice is yours…
Purists will remind you that the earliest Martinis were made with gin. The very first recipe – a mix of gin and sweet vermouth – appeared in Harry Johnson’s Bartender Manual of 1888. In contrast the Vodka Martini, or Vodkatini as it’s also known, is a much more modern invention.
It was first mentioned in print in the cocktail guide Bottom’s Up, which was published in 1951. It was written by Ted Saucier, who worked as publicist for the glamorous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Proof that trend-setting Manhattanites were choosing vodka for their Martinis.
But the person who really put the drink on the map is not even real. Fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond is famous for ordering a ‘Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred’. Super-spy Bond was created by author Ian Fleming, who published his first novel, Casino Royale, in 1953. The drink is first referenced in the fourth of Fleming’s Bond novels, Diamonds Are Forever, published in 1956.
While some may argue that a Vodka Martini isn’t a true Martini, it’s still a great drink. Particularly if you want to showcase the pure flavours of a premium vodka. Read on to find out how to make a perfect Vodka Martini and find out which bottle to pick…
How to make a Vodka Martini
To make a Vodka Martini, use six parts vodka to one part dry vermouth. Bartenders prefer to stir a Vodka Martini over ice to mix it. However there’s plenty of debate around the preparation method.
Bond’s ‘shaken’ method – putting your vodka and vermouth in a shaker with ice and shaking to mix – results in a more diluted drink, as the shards of ice melt into water. However the theatre of shaking certainly makes more of a statement, either at home or in a crowded bar.
Whichever method you choose, your Vodka Martini should then be strained into a chilled Martini glass. Put your glass in the freezer for at least half an hour before you plan to serve your drink. Finally, garnish with a lemon twist or an olive.
Best vodkas for a Martini
Belvedere Single Estate Rye Smogóry Forest
While the classic Belvedere vodka works beautifully in a Vodka Martini, this expression is a connoisseur’s choice. It’s made from Diamond Dankowskie rye – a rare baker’s grade rye that is lower in starch – which is grown on a single estate in the village of Smogóry in West Poland. Rich and full-bodied, with a salty savouriness, it’s very smooth, with peppery spice on the finish, balanced by a touch of caramel sweetness. Alc 40%
Named after the classical composer, Chopin is a creamy and smooth potato vodka. Made in Poland, it’s distilled four times to produce an ultra-pure spirit. Lightly spiced, nutty and earthy on the palate, it’s a great choice in a Vodka Martini, delivering a super-smooth cocktail. Alc 40%
This premium French vodka will appeal to Champagne lovers: it’s made from a base of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes, grown in the Montagne de Reims in Aÿ-Champagne. The grapes are vinified and distilled five times with their lees, giving a smooth and aromatic spirit. Fruity and floral nose (oranges and orange blossom) with a well balanced creamy, citrus and mineral palate; fruity grape notes and liquorice spice on the finish. Alc 40%
This distinctive Ukrainian vodka is made from a mix of rye, wheat and barley. The blend of grains creates a creamy, silky texture and plenty of flavour. Grassy notes are balanced by fruitiness, vanilla and peppery spice from the rye. Makes a memorable Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
Grey Goose Vodka
The world’s first premium vodka brand. From the Cognac region in France, Grey Goose was created by François Thibault, son of a wine-grower and a master Cognac blender. It’s a versatile, super-creamy wheat vodka that works well in a whole range of cocktails, including a Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
Produced by Suntory, which is better known for its whiskeys, this Japanese vodka is made from Japanese white rice (the word ‘haku’ means ‘white’ in Japanese). Double distilled with bamboo charcoal filtration, the palate is pure, soft and rounded, with an edge of sweetness on the soft lingering finish that marries well with the dry vermouth in a Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
Ketel One Vodka
Made by 10th generation distillers – with over 300 years of expertise – this Dutch vodka is distilled in small batches and made from 100% GMO-free European wheat. One of the smoothest and cleanest vodkas, it has a crisp citrus flavour with notes of honey and a long and lively finish that works well in a Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
Named after the wild Polish horses that are depicted on the label, Konik’s Tail is made from a blend of three grains – golden rye, early winter wheat and spelt – and is filtered through silver birch charcoal. Rich and rounded, with good balance between spice notes and sweetness, it makes a very well-balanced Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
Hailing from Iceland, Reyka was launched in 2005. It was the world’s first eco-friendly vodka, made with glacial spring water and distilled using sustainable geothermal energy. In fact, ‘reyka’ is an old Icelandic word for ‘steam’. Reyka is made in small batches, from a base of wheat and barley, and filtered through lava rock. Full and rounded, with a creamy vanilla note that plays against peppery spice and fresh citrus, Reyka delivers a classic Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
Royal Mash Vintage Vodka 2020
This creamy small-batch vodka is made from Jersey Royals – a type of small, thin-skinned, earthy and sweet potato that’s unique to the island of Jersey, located in the Channel Islands between the UK and France. This vintage vodka is made from the potato crop of just one year and it’s distilled only once to retain its character. I love the creamy vanilla character here, which is balanced by freshly sliced lemon, finishing crisp with fresh grassy notes and green chilli spice. Alc 40%
Sipsmith Sipping Vodka
Sipsmith is best known for its gin, which helped to kick-start the modern craft gin revolution in the UK. But its vodka deserves equal attention. Distillation takes place in a copper pot still and only the heart of the cut is used. This means it doesn’t need to be filtered, which something of a rarity in vodkas. Made from wheat, there’s a pleasing oiliness to the texture. On the palate buttery biscuit notes mingle with vanilla, pepper and fennel. As the name says, it’s ideal sipping vodka – but it also makes mean Martini. Alc 40%
This is the ultra-premium expression of historic Russian brand Stolichnaya. It’s made using an innovative -18°C freeze filtration technique, creating a supremely smooth vodka. Subtle flavours of creamy aniseed and a light spiciness will shine out in your Vodka Martini. Alc 40%