The ratio of gin to vermouth in a martini can vary, but generally, the less vermouth, the dryer the martini. Supposedly, a martini is supposed to be dry, the dryer the better. So why is there any vermouth at all?

There is a fine line between a sophisticated gentleman or classy lady who drinks very dry martinis, and the bum down the street who chugs his cheap gin straight...

personally, i think it's just the cool glass...
The martini is an old drink - one of the oldest mixed drinks around. The original name of the 'martini' was the 'Martinez' or 'Martinez Cocktail'. One instance dates back to 1862 and was made with four parts of red vermouth and one part gin - the garnish was a cherry. For those who are familiar with the modern martini, this will sound rather odd, the original martini was a very sweet drink. The gin used at the time was Old Tom Gin which had a much more distinct taste of juniper berries in it. Over time, the Old Tom Gin was replaced with the more familiar flavor of London Dry gin, and white (dry) vermouth replaced the red (sweet) vermouth. Furthermore, the proportions moved to 1:1.

In 1887 a bartending book printed by Jerry Thomas of San Francisco had the Martinez recipe as:

  • dash of bitters
  • two dashes of Maraschino
  • wine glass of Vermouth
  • two lamps of ice
  • pony of Old Tom Gin
  • Garnish with a quarter slice of lemon
One source lists this originally happening in 1849 in the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco for a miner with a small gold nugget on the way to Martinez.

In 1870 (another source says 1874), Julio Richelieu's saloon on Ferry street in Martinez, California (the city that claims the birth of the martini) claims the origins of a drink for a miner who was difficult to satisfy. After several attempts he produced a drink with gin, vermouth and an olive and named it after the town.

Another story of the origin of the drink refers to the Martini and Henry rifle used by the British army between 1871 and 1891, supposedly both the drink and the rifle had a strong kick. One should note that this story is accepted only in Britain.

The drink that we most recognize as a martini is from Steward's Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them by Thomas Stewart published in New York in 1896 which listed a drink named the Marquerite as:

The word 'martini' first appeared in print in New and Improved Illustrated Bartending Manual published by Harry Johnson in 1888.

The most recent account of the Martini name comes from 1911 at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York where the head bartender was named Martini di Arma di Tagga who mixed equal parts London Gin, Noilly Prat Vermouth and added some orange bitters. This drink was chilled and then strained into a chilled glass. Upon this basic the regulars at the bar asked for variations.

During the 1920s within North America with prohibition, the martini gained popularity because of the ease of making gin (like in a bathtub). The cocktail glass that is familiar today is claimed to come from this period also allowing for one to drink quickly (three gulps) in case the speakeasy was raided by the police.

One of the great debates of today is how much vermouth should be added to the drink. Obviously, the original drinks were a bit sweeter than what people drink today. Some claim that the amount of vermouth should be the bartender saying the word "vermouth" in the vicinity of the glass. The Winston Churchill Martini is described as 3 parts gin and a glance at the bottle of dry vermouth. Slightly less dry has the bartender passing the bottle over the gin to allow a drop or two of vermouth to fall into the glass. Other methods include pouring the vermouth into the shaker with ice and then pouring it out, allowing for only a light coating of the ice. The pub that I frequent has the vermouth poured into the glass with ice (to chill the glass) while preparing the gin. Once the gin was ready, the vermouth and ice were poured out of the glass leaving a slight coating.

Some purists claim that only the martini is that of the gin and vermouth mixed drink. Others have tacked the name "martini" on to most anything that goes into a cocktail glass regardless of prime ingredient (vodka has become rather popular). As abhorrent to the purists as this may seem, when considering the Martini di Arma di Tagga version of the origin of the drink - an "apple martini" would the basic drink with vermouth substituted for apple schnapps or similar flavored liquor. Not quite the abomination that it is made out to be.

Confusing the issue of 'what is a martini' somewhat, is that one of the brands of vermouth is the Martini & Rossi that is made in Italy. The web site for this company is From this the 'vodka martini' popularized by James Bond would be vodka and Martini brand vermouth, which may make more sense.

I feel compelled to add a bit of information to m_turner's fine and informative writeup above. The martini may be the only drink in the world which has received the solemn respect of standardization. The American Standards Association (predecessor to the American National Standards Institute), whose initials live on in photographic film ratings, ceased operations in 1966 before morphing into the aforementioned ANSI. The last published standard from that body was, in point of fact, American Standard K100.1 1966: Safety Code and Requirements for Dry Martinis. This opus was produced by Sectional Committee K100 on Liquids Management, and was approved as a standard in August of 1966.

Thanks to George B. Kaufmann, writing in the journal Chemical Educator in 20011, we have the following excerpt, which defines some of the oft-debated characteristics of the drink:

Dry Martini: A cocktail made with English or American dry gin of at least 86 proof and dry vermouth, preferably French in origin, in accordance with requirements of this American Standard.

Gibson: An unpardonable form of perversion. See Onion Soup.

Lemonade: A term applied to drinks which have been subjected to the peel of a lemon. There is no place for the rind of any citrus fruit, or its oils, in an American Standard dry martini.

Onion Soup: the unholy abomination produced by the introduction of one or more pickled onions into a dry martini cocktail.

Rocks: the solid state of H2O on which an American Standard dry martini is never served.

Vodka: A distilled alcoholic beverage made originally from potatoes, but now encountered in grain alcohol versions. It may be clean, palatable, and nonlethal, and when encountered in this form, is a fitting accompaniment for fresh caviar. It is never employed in a dry martini.

2.1 Basic Nomenclature: The American Standard dry martini shall come in the following three sizes:

  • Regular–not less than 3.5 oz.
  • Large–not less than 5 oz.
  • Double–not less than 7 oz.
3.1 General: Only the following three ingredients shall be used in the preparation of the American Standard dry martini.

3.3.1 Use of Vermouth: The employment of vermouth in an American Standard dry martini shall not be mandatory, provided no other ingredient is employed as a substitute.

3.4 Olives: While the use of olives is not encouraged, nothing in this specification shall be construed to mean that the inclusion of an olive will not be accepted, provided it conforms to Table 1 and subparagraphs 3.4.1 and 3.4.2.

I have been fruitlessly searching for an actual hardcopy of this standard for years and years. I'm told by a couple of engineers who have seen it that the copies they have seen have been enshrined in libraries and trophy cases, so the likelihood of my finding one is low - but we do what we must, because we can.


As of October 2010, The long wait is over.

The internet told me that this did not exist. I refused to believe that.

Professional archivists and librarians told me that this did not exist. I refused to believe them.

Finally, after several years of searching, the Internet has come through. A computer museum located a copy in its archives and scanned it in August 2010.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: K.100-1/1966.

Safety Code and Requirements for Dry Martinis.

(A version with darker text can be found here, but that version is missing the second page which states flatly that this is the final American Standard.)

Thanks to the excellent Oaklift, we also have a source for the subsequent revision - K100.1-1974, American National Standard Safety Code & Requirements for Dry Martinis.

The FDR Martini

There have been many famous martini drinkers, but perhaps none so distinguished as President Roosevelt. He famously introduced Stalin to the martini (who, after finishing it, is reputed to have said "Well, all right, but it is cold on the stomach.") and indulged in all-night benders with Winston Churchill at the White House. Churchill was partial to the martini, and his version is said to have been mixed by pouring a glass full of cold gin while looking at a bottle of vermouth. Nikita Khruschchev called the martini "America's most lethal weapon" - high praise indeed.

While FDR's martini may not conform to K100.1 as listed above, it is recognizably a martini:

Rub the lemon twist around the rim of a chilled martini glass. Shake the gin, vermouth and olive brine with cracked ice (or, preferably, in a chilled shaker). Strain into glass; garnish with twist.

The Fissionable Martini

Another American classic, the Fissionable Martini is attributed to J. Robert Oppenheimer and the men of The Manhattan Project.

Additional Trivia

The phrase 'Dry Martini' does not in fact refer to the amount of vermouth in the cocktail. Rather, it indicates that the drink should be constructed with French (dry) vermouth, rather than the Italian (sweet) version with which it originated. This is how FDR's mix, with only a 2:1 ratio of gin to vermouth, can still properly be called a 'dry martini.' However, requesting a martini be made 'dry' as an adjective in most venues will indicate to the bartender to use a smaller amount of vermouth in the mix. At the extreme, there is the aforementioned Churchill Martini or Fissionable Martini - or the Optical Martini described in K100.1/1966, or Noel Coward's version in which one pours a drink of gin and then waves it in the direction of Italy. Notes:

1 - Kauffman, George B. "The Dry Martini: Chemistry, History, and Assorted Lore." Chemical Educator 2001.6 (2001) 295-305.

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