The earliest Martinis were made with gin, with the very first recipe – a mix of gin and sweet vermouth – appearing in Harry Johnson’s Bartender Manual of 1888. In contrast the vodka Martini, or Vodkatini, is a much more modern invention.
It was first mentioned in print in the cocktail guide Bottom’s Up, published in 1951 and written by Ted Saucier, who worked as publicist for the glamorous Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
But the person who really put the drink on the map is not even real: James Bond. Famous for ordering a ‘Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred’, the fictional British Secret Service agent was created by author Ian Fleming. The drink is first referenced in the fourth of Fleming’s Bond novels, Diamonds Are Forever, published in 1956.
While purists 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.
How to make a Vodka Martini
To make a Vodka Martini, use six parts vodka to one part dry vermouth. Bartenders generally prefer to stir a Vodka Martini over ice to mix it, but there’s plenty of debate around the best method.
And as Bond knows, putting your vodka and vermouth in a shaker with ice and shaking to mix, is an equally good option – and certainly makes more of a statement in a crowded bar.
Either way, strain your Vodka Martini into a chilled Martini glass and 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%
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%
This wheat and barley vodka is distilled in Iceland using glacial spring water and sustainable energy from geothermal heat – earning it the label of ‘world’s first green vodka’ when it launched in 2005. Full and rounded, with a creamy vanilla note that plays against peppery spice and fresh citrus, Reyka delivers a classic Vodka Martini. Alc 40%
This ultra-premium expression of historic Russian brand Stolichnaya is 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%