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Stirred not shaken (eh?) - understanding the Martini family...

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

Welcome to the first of my articles that will hopefully map out the exotic world of cocktails into an understandable subject. My last blog promised to show you the basis of why …..

M...y D...aiquiri S...hould H...elp F...lip O...melettes 

So the first of the six we are going to look at, is the Martini. I don’t know about most people but my understanding of the Martini up until now has been pretty confused - James Bond would ask for a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, then go on to save the world from destruction by the evil SPECTRE.

If I were to criticise I would say to Mr Bond that he

should hold the glass by the stem to keep his drink cold....!

...but who's going to argue with this guy....?

However, whenever I saw 'Martini' it was a label on a bottle on a less well looked at shelf in the off licence I worked in and it was definitely not a cocktail! (Trust me about the off licence - I used to work in one as a student - and learned an awful lot from the Manager - who ended up being the best man at my wedding and her's still giving awesome advice - thanks Norman!) 

Then I look at cocktail books and see that you can make ‘a martini’ from gin and vermouth or vodka and vermouth - how confusing is that….?

This is where the template comes in. The original spirit used, was indeed gin - but James Bond popularised vodka as the spirit component. It appears that the Vermouth trade was behind much of the popularisation - not due to the vodka bosses - as vermouth was pushed hard in the mid 20th century and gained social traction by cashing in on celebrity endorsements and who better than Mr Bond..!

IMHO - the best of the Bond films...!

A Classic Martini goes along the lines of:

  • 2 measures of gin

  • ¾ measure of dry vermouth

  • A twist of lemon or an olive

…. and that’s it folks …. as easy as that ….!

Or is it…?

The more I read, the more it seems that martinis were the forerunners of today's coffee orders. 

Look at the similarities - it’s amazing.

A coffee many years ago meant 

  • Adding hot water to coffee granules

  • Stir

  • add milk

How similar is that - strong soloist (coffee) backed up by a great but nevertheless supporting (milk) band - just as heavy duty gin (soloist) is backed up by less strong backing group called "The Vermouth Singers" that nobody else has heard of….!. 

Nowadays I get confused asking for sugar-free, decaf, skinny, maxi, wet, dry, double/single shot coffees that take 30 seconds to rehearse in the queue at the favourite coffee shop and 2 minutes to describe at check out.....

Martinis are the same. But don’t be confused….


Choose between gin and vodka first. Gin is an aromatised spirit - juniper (by definition) plus however many botanicals according to your choice of herbal with lemon / lime etc bottle. Vodka is not aromatised usually - although watch out as THBC is soon to be producing artisan vodkas with similar flavourings to our gins!)