August 28, 2006

12 ways to make a dry martini

Ah, the martini. This simple and elegant pairing of gin and dry vermouth is always classy, but impossible to get right, because everyone has a different idea of the proper way to make one. There’s the whole shaken-or-stirred issue, of course, and the question of whether a martini made with vodka instead of gin is really a martini at all. Not to mention the thousand and one variations using fruit juices, chocolate liqueur, and so on. But the biggest question is the proper ratio of gin to vermouth.

For reasons I’ve never fully comprehended, people who otherwise dismiss homeopathy seem to follow one of its main principles when it comes to martinis: the weaker the solution (in this case, of vermouth), the more potent the cure. But just how little vermouth is little enough?

  1. Winston Churchill is said to have looked toward France while ritually passing the bottle of vermouth over the gin (without pouring any in).
  2. In a similar vein, legend has it that Franklin Roosevelt liked to shine a light through a bottle of vermouth and into the gin.
  3. According to, there’s a joke that goes, “The driest martini I ever had was when I strained the martini into the glass and then whispered vermouth to it.”
  4. Dan Meltz mentions that some people like to waft the vapor from an open vermouth bottle over a glass of gin.
  5. Martini misters enable you to spray a few microdroplets of vermouth onto the top of the gin.
  6. Alton Brown swirls a half ounce of vermouth around in crushed ice, then pours out the vermouth and adds two and a half ounces of gin.

The Wikipedia lists several other amusing ways of preparing a dry martini:

…One might prepare a martini by waving the cap of a vermouth bottle over the glass [#7], or observing that “there was vermouth in the house once” [#8] Winston Churchill chose to forgo vermouth completely, and instead simply bowed in the direction of France [same as #1], while General Patton suggested pointing the gin bottle in the general direction of Italy [#9]. Ernest Hemingway liked to order a “Montgomery,” which was a martini mixed at a gin:vermouth ratio of 15:1 (these supposedly being the odds Field Marshall Montgomery wanted to have before going into battle) [#10]. In a classic bit of stage business in the 1955 play Auntie Mame sophisticated pre-adolescent Patrick Dennis offers a martini, which he prepares by swirling a drop of vermouth in the glass, then tossing it out before filling the glass with gin [#11]. Similarly, in the 1958 movie Teacher’s Pet, Clark Gable mixes a martini by turning the bottle of vermouth upside-down before running the moistened cork around the rim of the glass and filling it with gin [#12].

As for me, I actually like the taste of vermouth; if I only wanted gin, then I’d just drink gin and drop the whole “martini” pretense. In fact, call me a complete heretic, but I even prefer sweet vermouth to dry vermouth. Or better yet, maybe just a glass of wine.

(For more ways to mix a martini—and lots of other drinks—visit

4 Responses to “12 ways to make a dry martini”

  1. David Fogg said:

    Re #3 in the list, I recall a New Yorker cartoon from maaany years ago in which the customer told the bartender to just whisper “Vermouth” over the glass. Customer then takes a trial sip and says “Loudmouth!”

  2. etbird56 said:

    a dry martini means more vermouth, not less. that is because white French vermouth is “dry vermouth” and when you add more you actually make the martini drier. look at any label for vermouth, it often says “extra dry” and the like.

  3. dave said:

    ummm you are wrong etbird56…..

    It is the opposite the less vermouth the dryer it is. Might not make sense but this is what it means. reg martini may have 1:5 vermouth:gin dry martini about 1:8 vermouth:gin extra dry usually has no vermouth.

  4. Benquo said:

    The origin of calling a martini “dry” or “perfect” is as follows:

    The first vermouth was sweet red vermouth. Martinis were made with this.

    As dry white vermouth entered the market, people who wanted a martini made with this white vermouth asked for a “dry” martini. “Dry” means dry vermouth, as opposed to sweet vermouth. The classic martini made now with gin and white vermouth is a dry martini.

    “Perfect” means half red and half white.

    Unfortunately, “dry” is now an equivocal term, as people also use it to mean “less vermouth.” But this is unhelpful, since one might as well just say “cold gin in a martini glass” if that’s what you mean.