If there is one thing you shouldn’t do when making a Martini, it is listen to James Bond. Yes, the man looks as though he might know a thing or two about imbibing in high society, but all the panache in the world won’t make a shaken (“not stirred”) Martini a flawless one. A proper Martini should be stirred (occasionally thrown), silky, ice-cold, aromatic, and served in only the finest of stemware.
Take the Connaught Martini for example. The world’s best bar sets the standard for what a Martini should taste, look, and feel like—it’s an iconic drinking experience that every traveling Martini lover must add to their list. “More than a cocktail, the Connaught Martini is an icon,” Agostino Perrone, director of mixology at American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property The Connaught Hotel, says. “It is so famous because it has its own service ritual. It’s designed to revisit the most classic tradition of hotel bars and make the guest the real protagonist of the mixology theater.” They famously serve their house Martini tableside on their Martini Trolley—a way to lure the guests into the art of mixology and witness the elegance of each stir, pour, and detail before it’s served in one of their custom, crystal Martini glasses. Mixing one that’s half as good at home is the goal, but even hitting that benchmark can be difficult.
Jesse Vida, head bartender at Atlas Bar in Singapore, believes that, of all the cocktails, the Martini is probably the most difficult to perfect. “I feel like this is the hardest classic cocktail to master,” he says. “You need to make at least 1,000 to really grasp all of the nuances.” Whilst it’s a seemingly simple mixture of gin, vermouth, and orange bitters, details such as temperature, dilution, glassware, and so on aren’t always given the attention they deserve.
Luckily, Vida and the team at The Connaught Bar have shared some valuable tips on how to take your Martini game to the next level. Just remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a flawless Martini (practice makes perfect!).
Pick Your Gin, Vermouth, and Ratio
First, and foremost, you need to iron out which products you’re going to use, and what proportions you prefer as there are three common forms of a classic Martini: wet (equal parts gin and vermouth), dry (4 or 5 parts gin, 1 part vermouth), and extra dry (gin and rinsed glass of vermouth). Each version also includes a dash or two of orange bitters. If you typically drink your Martinis without vermouth or bitters, stop right there. That’s just called chilled gin, not a Martini; and, thus, needs to be amended. “For us [at The Connaught Bar], the use of vermouth is paramount in order to achieve the perfect balance of botanicals and final Martini texture,” says Perrone. The Connaught Bar’s iconic Martini puts the gin on a pedestal with a 5:1 ratio of gin to vermouth.
Once you decide your Martini preference, it’s time to select a quality gin and vermouth. “Gins and vermouths are highly versatile spirits, therefore the choice of the brand will depend on personal taste,” Giorgio Bargiani, head mixologist at The Connaught Bar, points out. “Where possible, we recommend having different products to experiment at home and find your own perfect blend.”
Gin as a category is wildly vast, and varies significantly in flavor. Your best bet is to stick with a London Dry gin, or a gin with more traditional botanicals (i.e juniper, coriander, angelica root, caraway, etc.). “Sipsmith gin has been a pioneer of the London Dry Gin comeback in the capital [London] and, as such, it features high-quality botanicals and an enviable technique,” Bargiani adds. As for vermouth, there are a few brands to consider. Atlas Bar’s Vida recommends brands such as Mancino vermouth, Noilly Prat, Dolin, or Martini. “The Martini should be mostly about the gin, after all,” Vida says, “that's how I like mine—and with a lemon twist.”
Dial-in the Temperature and Technique
Making a flawless Martini requires much more than just quality ingredients, it demands attention to every detail—this means dialing in your technique to yield a crisp, silky, serve that is chilled from your first sip to your last.
The temperature of the Martini is one of the factors that really separates the average from the extraordinary, and while there are a few ways to control the temperature of the cocktail, and glass, ice is the primary component contributing to this factor. “Ice is an essential element,” Perrone says, “although it’s too often underestimated when making cocktails at home. Using your own home-made crystal-clear ice will positively influence the texture of your Martini as well as help control and maintain the correct temperature for the drink. Cloudy ice, or cubed ice purchased in supermarkets, has bubbles of air and impurities which means your ice will melt quicker. By using crystal-clear ice while stirring your Martini the dilution of the ice will be more controlled and the final texture silkier.” Depending on the size and clarity of ice, the number of stir rotations needed will vary, but at least 35 is a safe bet. Tasting periodically while stirring is the best way to gauge where the drink is at.'
“Temperature and dilution level are the main aspects that make a great martini,” Vida says, “they need to meet at the exact correct place. It's also paramount to have an ice-cold glass so that the temperature doesn't immediately drop after being poured, [and] make sure the recipient of the Martini gets the finished drink asap.” To ensure that the glass maintains the cold temperature of the Martini, you’ll want to chill your glass in the freezer (leave in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes before you get ready to serve), or add water and ice in your glass and stir to chill. (Nude glass has an affordable range of hand-blown glass stemware that we recommend, but The Connaught Bar now sells their luxurious Martini glasses should you decide to indulge yourself.)
All of these details should have you on your way to crafting the best Martini you’ve made to date, but Perrone makes note of one final step. “Last but not the least, a great Martini always comes with a smile; therefore: straight up with style and don’t forget the smile.” Seems easy enough.