How can I Make a Perfect Martini?

Garry Crystal

It could be considered the most well known drink in the world. James Bond strides to the bar and asks for a vodka martini, "shaken, not stirred." However, according to barmen the world over, this famous drink would not be a genuine martini. First, a martini is never shaken, and second, it is a gin-based cocktail; mix it with vodka and it is simply not a martini.

A martini with three olives.
A martini with three olives.

The drink that is consumed in huge quantities by James Bond is known in the bar trade as a Vesper. The reason he asked for it shaken is because shaking the drink dilutes it and enabled Bond to keep a clear head. Making a classic martini is very simple. Take a good gin and a splash of vermouth; the ratio should be about 15 to one, although for a stronger drink the ratio could be upped to 20 to one.

Due to the strength of the drink, cocktail makers can mix a variety of martini based drinks.
Due to the strength of the drink, cocktail makers can mix a variety of martini based drinks.

Once you have stirred the spirits together, the mixture should be strained into a glass and an olive should be be added. Another rule is that there should never be an onion placed in a martini. If there is an onion in it, then it is called a Gibson.

Dry ice can be incorporated into a martini's presentation for added effect.
Dry ice can be incorporated into a martini's presentation for added effect.

The martini is meant to be a cold cocktail, but as the glass should not contain ice, the glass should be cold beforehand. This can be achieved by placing the drink in a freezer or by placing the glass half full of water in a fridge. Alternatively, you can mix the martini with ice before straining it into a glass. You should also hold the glass by the stem, so the heat from your hand does not warm up the drink.

A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make a martini.
A jigger is used to measure alcohol to make a martini.

The classic martini is a strong drink, and because of this, cocktail makers can deliver a variety of martini based drinks. The Gimlet cocktail is a basic martini with lime juice added. It is more sour than the classic drink, but nowhere near as dry. At once cloudy and luminous, it looks like a glass of bitter lemon but tastes much nicer.

Gimlets were supposedly invented at sea to stave off scurvy. The sailors always had plenty of limes, but didn't want to drink lime juice non-stop. If lime juice is a little too bitter, how about a martini with a shot of black coffee and a little Kahlua liqueur? It's guaranteed to keep you awake, yet still feeling pleasantly mellow. Sounds just like the sort of thing James Bond would order first thing in the morning.

Vodka is a popular martini ingredient.
Vodka is a popular martini ingredient.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


What I find interesting about the perfect martini is that all of the martinis I see on menus are apparently not real martinis at all. Whenever I go into a restaurant you will see a whole martini menu, and if you're lucky one might actually be gin and vermouth.

It's interesting to me that the martini was considered James Bond's signature drink, as I have always thought of martinis as girl drinks. I suppose this has to do more with the modified ones I have seen. I am not sure how manly it is to drink a lemon drop martini or a sexy strawberry martini.


While there is of course the traditional martini made with gin and vermouth, I think half the fun of martinis is all the great recipes that are around that hold martini in their title. I am pretty much anything that comes in a martini glass can now be considered the real thing.

For myself, the pomegranate martini is absolutely amazing and even has a famous fan, Oprah! This martini is made with vodka, orange liqueur, pomegranate juice and lemon.

You take 1 oz of the vodka, 1/2 oz of your orange liqueur and 3 oz of your pomegranate juice and shake it with ice in a cocktail shaker. Once it is well mixed add it to a nice big martini glass, top it off with lemon and enjoy.

With the lovely citrus of the fruits the pomegranate martini is an awesome summer drink.


@ahain - The "wet and dry" equals "sweet and salty" thing makes a lot of sense, but there are a few exceptions where fruit juice ends up on the dry side. One is in my friend's favorite style of martini, the blue martini.

Of course, according to this WiseGEEK article the blue martini technically isn't a martini at all, because it's made with vodka instead of gin! Maybe it's what James Bond keeps drinking, though -- in addition to being made with vodka, you shake it rather than stirring.

Whatever you want to call it, the drink my friend refers to as the blue martini is made with vodka, blue curacao liqueur, lime juice and a lemon or lime wedge. It turns out very dry, and has a nice bite to it, so if you're not a martini purist who can't stand the fact that it's made with vodka, give it a try sometime.


A gimlet actually sounds really good. I love the way you described it as cloudy and luminous and served, I imagine in a martini glass.

I have always wanted to find a signature drink. Kind of like James Bond with the martini.

It would be nice to have a fall back in the bar when I can't decide on anything else. But you need something that you like and which is sophisticated, as well.

I'll have to try a gimlet and see if it is a good fit!


I had a couple of guys in my dorm who were obsessed with making martinis. They had just turned 18, which is the drinking age here, so they could finally legitimately walk in and buy the ingredients. They had a little cocktail book and a martini shaker (because, of course, they were trying to emulate James Bond, not make the perfect martini).

And then they finally made them and passed them around to everyone. It was the first time a lot of us had tried a martini. And we all hated them! Of course, we were used to RTDs and beer. The bitterness of a martini was a little out of our comfort zone.

The two guys were so disappointed. I can only look back now and laugh.


@TheGraham - I can personally testify that yes, adding coffee can make for one delicious martini.

Don't forget the Kahlua, too -- it's thick and creamy, kind of like Bailey's Irish Cream, and makes the drink seem more like a milkshake. Kahlua plus coffee is just indulgence at its best, and Kahlua coffee martinis happen to be one of my favorite kinds of drink.

One word of caution, though -- don't try making a coffee and Kahlua martini "dirty" by adding olives. That's gross, gross, gross!

See, martinis have the fun trait of being very dry and variable in flavor. You can choose to either make them even drier by adding salty things like olives (or onions, if you want a Gibson), or to wet them up with some sweet flavorings like Kahlua. Even though coffee itself is bitter, he Kahlua in that recipe keeps the drink from getting too dry.

In short, decide whether you have a sweet tooth or crave salt and you'll have an easier time picking a martini recipe that's perfect for you. I like the sweet stuff; if the coffee and Kahlua strikes your fancy, you might want to try another favorite of mine: the apple martini.


@strawCake - Ah, yes, the dirty martini recipe always calls for green olives. Olives in martinis are so iconic that I'm kind of surprised there's somebody out there who didn't know "dirty martini" meant a martini with olives in it.

Martinis themselves are very much like olives: you either love them or you hate them, there doesn't seem to be any in-between. They also taste very strongly, which means generally that there are more people who are bound to dislike them than other more neutral drinks.

Personally, I think martinis are the ultimate high-class party drink. They're much smaller than a glass of wine, so they don't take forever to finish, but they have associations with high-class indulgences that other drinks like margaritas don't seem to match up to.

Think about it -- when you think of martinis, the images that come to mind are black bowties, James Bond, ladies in slinky dresses and rich parties. Now think of margaritas. Wild partying that may or may not involve sloppy drunks!

Okay, so maybe those are just my own associations with the two drinks, but martinis definitely have class and I'm not the only one who thinks so.


@KaBoom - I'm in the same boat -- I don't like super strong alcoholic drinks. In fact, up until now I've always figured even the flavored martinis were gross after what I think of as my birthday debacle...

On my 21st birthday, my friends took me to the local Applebee's to get me my first-ever alcoholic drink. I had zero experience with whether martinis tasted good at the time, so I didn't know that everybody I know considers them to all taste gross. I ordered what sounded tasty: a chocolate martini with a dusting of cocoa around the rim of the glass.

Hearing it was my birthday, the bartender added an extra something to the cup. To this day, I'm not sure if it was the extra alcohol or just the martini recipe that made that drink so disgusting, but it was truly awful. I barely managed to choke the whole thing down.

Thanks to that birthday debacle, I always take drinks with delicious descriptions with a grain of salt. If it has a lot of alcohol in it, it's bound to be gross! Coffee's a pretty strong flavor, though -- I wonder if it would cover the alcohol flavor up enough for me to like a coffee martini?


@KaBoom - Real or fake, there is just something classy about ordering a martini. At least I thought so at 21!

I remember when I first was able to go to bars I was very excited about this milestone in adulthood. I had heard of martinis because of James Bond, but never tried one. I heard someone across the bar order a dirty martini, so I decided to order one too. It sounded fun.

Now, those of you who know what a dirty martini is will know that you should like olives if you order it. I happen to hate olives. However, I paid 10 dollars for that drink so I choked it down. But I never ordered another dirty martini again-shaken or stirred!


I must admit, I'm a bit surprised the James Bond style martini isn't a "real" martini. It does make sense that an international spy wouldn't want to get drunk on the job though!

I'm personally not much of a drink and I don't like drink that taste too strongly of alcohol. I do really enjoy some of the flavored martinis though. The one with Kahlua and coffee described in the article sounds delicious!

Post your comments
Forgot password?