The Vodka Martini’s presence in the cocktail universe is much like an old yet relevant relic, a “Tale as old as time, as true as it can be.” The drink has been served a few thousand times across decades all over the world. Comprising vermouth and gin, this timeless classic is neatly adorned with either an olive or a lemon twist as garnish before serving.
The true starting point of the Martini is a constant source of debate, forming one of the most contentious tales in cocktail history. Some theories propose its development from a drink called the Martinez, itself seen as a variation of the Manhattan.
The first and original recipe for a Martinez cocktail emerged in 1884, featuring a blend of sweet vermouth, curaçao, gin, and orange bitters. Concurrently, the earliest explicit mention of the martini cocktail can be traced back to the second edition of Harry Johnson's Bartender Manual in 1888. This rendition prescribed sweet vermouth, Old Tom gin (a sweet variant), orange curaçao, Boker's bitters, gum, and a lemon twist.
In the 1890s, various cocktails were being referred to as 'Martinis.' However, the earliest version of today's Martini can be traced back to the recipe for a 'Marguerite' outlined in the 1904 publication Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them. The instructions for this drink specified one part French (dry) vermouth, two parts Plymouth (dry) gin, with a dash of orange bitters.
An alternate narrative suggests that the Martini was created in 1911 at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York by bartender Martini di Taggia. As the story goes, it was served to billionaire John D. Rockefeller, featuring equal parts dry vermouth and London dry gin.
Subsequent renditions of the Martini cocktail tended to adhere to the formula of dry gin and dry vermouth. This particular version gained popularity in the early twentieth century, just a few years before the onset of the Prohibition era.
The period of Prohibition in America from 1920 to 1933 surprisingly did little to dent the Martini's popularity, given the relatively open illegal production of gin during this time.
However, in the 1960s, the Martini's popularity began to decline. This shift was attributed to the increasing quality and accessibility of alternative beverages like wines and beers. Additionally, growing concerns about alcohol consumption and its impact on health contributed to the diminishing appeal of the Martini.
Surprisingly, the iconic American cocktail journeyed across the ocean to be immortalised in Ian Fleming's literary works during the 1960s.
In the inaugural James Bond novel, Casino Royale, the prescribed ratio involves one measure of Russian vodka, three measures of Gordon gin, and half a measure of Lillet aperitif wine. This mixture is vigorously shaken until ice cold, and then garnished with a large, thin slice of lemon peel.
Aptly dubbed a "Vesper," it pays homage to Bond's romantic interest in the book, a woman named Vesper Lynd, whose fate takes a tragic turn by the story's end. As the narrative unfolds, notably in the subsequent novel, Live and Let Die, Bond shifts to guzzling Vodka Martinis, a preference that persists when the inaugural Bond film, Dr. No, graced the screens in 1962.
The drink is experiencing a revival in recent times. The Vodka Martini has regained popularity amidst the contemporary fascination with "retro" aesthetics and cultural elements. Emerging reports highlight an increased desire for this classic cocktail among younger demographics.
Stir the vodka, dry vermouth and a little ice together or put them in a cocktail shaker to combine.
Strain into a chilled martini glass. Serve with an olive on a cocktail stick or a twist of lemon peel.