The Dry Martini

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As I was drafting my end of year wrap video and article recently, I also did a rough count of the number of Martinis I’ve mixed this year.

You know I think I’m closing in on over a 1000(!)

Now, I didn’t drink all of those, but between my events, functions and home mixing, I reckon I’d be getting close.

So I mention this not to brag (plus I always the responsible consumption of alcohol) but most of those would be of the Dry Martini variety. I’ve been prompted to write this article in response to a recent email from a reader in Quebec – bonjour et merci John!

He was seeking some advice on crafting something bone-dry using readily available London Dry Gins. “I like it when the tongue feels like every last drop of moisture evaporated.”

So do I John. But before I get to some tips, let’s get the definition out of the way.

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Wet, Dry or What?

Once upon a time there was such a thing as a Perfect Martini, which is made with a 50/50 mix of Gin and Dry Vermouth.  Actually, not a bad drink at all, I recommend you try it sometime. As time went on, we’re talking the 30’s, 40’s here the fashion changed and you saw less Vermouth (there was the matter of World War Two which saw no French Vermouth getting to England – hence Churchill’s famous Martini which was to simply look at the Vermouth bottle on the way to the Gin) in the mix. Plus, I think, the quality of the booze got better too, so less need to disguise the Gin.

So whether a Martini is Dry, Medium or Wet , or any point in between, simply refers to the amount of Dry Vermouth in the mix in proportion to Gin.  As a rule I much prefer French Dry Vermouth (some background here) not the fruit driven Italians or more exotic types.

There is an alchemy at work here between the Gin, Vermouth and dilatation through stirring that makes the Martini such a special thing.

You’re looking for the Vermouth to be the spicy backbone to the cocktail, but its the bridesmaid, never the bride in the cocktail. But neither do you want pure spirit, that really doesn’t work either- you may was well be doing Vodka shots!

So if you’re maxing a 60ml cocktail, a Dry Martini would see something like 5mls (0.16907oz) of Dry Vermouth to 55ml (1.85977oz) of Gin. A Wet Martini might see 15ml to 45ml. Naturally this is a guide only, its a matter of taste and few things now come into play.

Now, you can put any Gin and Vermouth together mix and call it a Martini if you want to.  But I’ve of a strong view that for a classic Martini experience it needs to be London Dry style Gin, not all Gins work in a Martini.

What you’re aiming for in a Dry Martini is a crisp austerity, like a Winter’s night air in the Alps.

It should also be long in the palette, and uber clean in its finish.  It should also taste greater that the sum of its parts, and not be boozy on the nose, au contraire.

A Martini has a life expectancy of only about 15 minutes, afterwards its just a glass of warm booze, so each sip matters, and you want that chilled cocktail to reveal some its complexity (with some subtle influence by the garnish too) as you go along. The Gin is the hero here.

So ratios mentioned above aside, there are other considerations: how intense is the Gin in its flavour profile. As a rule – the spicier or richer it is, the less Vermouth I use.- why compete. But sometimes I don’t want something too astringent upfront, say for the first Martini of the session, so I’ll start wetter and progress to very dry.

Note, I’m not a fan of pouring in the Vermouth over the ice in the mixer and then pouring out, what a waste, just use less Vermouth.

For those who really insist of a VERY VERY Dry Martini, there is this device: an atomiser filled with Vermouth that you can spray over the top of your chilled Gin just prior to serving.

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We should also discuss chilling.

This is critical to a good Dry Martini. You must keep your glasses and mixer (and Vermouth) in the fridge. Your Gin can also live in the freezer- my house pours do. I mix first, then prepare the garnish, and only then get the glass out of the fridge and pour right away.

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My top five Dry Martini Gins

There are now thousands of Gins out there now, and goodness knows I’ve made it my business to try many of them (about 500 by I think), and as I said, not all are intended for a Martini, they might shine neat or in a mixer.

So, the following is what is high rotation at place out of my floating collection of a 100 or so labels.

  • Jensen’s: the link takes you a review from a few years back I wrote. When I was to show someone what the epitome of a Dry Martini is, I give them this.  A complex and tightly integrated Gin, this will give you as flinty and elegant Martini as you’d like.
  • Sipsmith: very much a modern classic. A newish release from London that is steeped in its roots, but offers a fresh and approachable style. Subtle botanicals and finesse on the palette, it makes for a subtle and rewarding Martini.
  • Plymouth: this is my idea of a comfort zone when it comes to a Gin. Sometimes you want to put on your track pants and watch re-runs of Law and Order, you don’t want to be challenged by the new Gin on the block this evening. So I find this works best with a lemon twist and its rounded, great value, and as elegant gin as you’ll find.
  • Ford’s: one of the newer labels designed by some clever chaps in London. It has more spice and complexity, but is still recognisable as a London Dry style. A versatile Gin that takes your Martini into some novel terrain without losing sight of key landmarks you want from your cocktail.
  • Diplôme Dry Gin: This French Gin was one of the finds of the year for me. From Dijon, this Gin was the official Gin of the US Army to mark the liberation of France. Still a London Dry style Gin but it is very refined and a little fragrant on the nose. Overall a feminine style of spirit that makes for a very elegant and subtle Martini.

Also noted

  • Fifty Pounds – it doesn’t get much drier that this lady. An elegant gin that is as bone dry as you’ll find anywhere- may be a bit too dry for some.
  • No. 3 London Dry Gin – if its good enough for the famous Duke’s Bar in London, its good enough for me. Big piney juniper up front and serve this with an lemon twist for best effect.
  • Beefeater 24 – if you want your Martini with a richer flavour profile, with plenty of spice, then head to this great gin from Beefeater (don’t underestimate the regular label too- its great for a Dirty Martini!).
  • Tanqueray– my other house pour simply for its value and versatility. I can take this Gin any direction I want to go Martini wise.

So, voila!  Happy mixing, let me know your tips for a perfect Dry Martini.

One thought on “The Dry Martini

  1. Pingback: Article Index – The Martini Whisperer

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