Thought by many to be the precursor to the Martini, the Martinez is one classic that’s well worth rediscovering.
Rich, complex, and indulgently boozy, the Martinez is one of our favourite classic gin cocktails. The uninitiated can think of it as a cross between a Martini and a Manhattan, as well as the missing evolutionary link between the two. A bartending staple since the 19th century, this tipple is now finding its way back into the spotlight.
As with most classic cocktails, the story of the Martinez still remains a bit of a mystery. For starters, no one can quite agree on its origins. Though most cocktail historians agree that the Martinez first gained popularity in the 1860s or 1870s, its inventor is unknown.
Some credit bartending legend ‘Professor’ Jerry Thomas for first stirring up the Martinez, and cite the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, where he worked behind the stick, as its place of birth. Others point to the town of Martinez, California, located in the San Francisco suburbs, as the cocktail’s obvious namesake; the story goes that a bartender named Julio Richelieu invented it there. Still other tales suggest it was created in the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City.
Despite all the loose threads, we do know that the first version of the recipe was written down in O.H. Byron’s Modern Bartenders’ Guide, published in 1884. Byron described the Martinez simply as a Manhattan, with gin swapped in for the whisky. But even then, Byron included two different versions of the Martinez – and if the proportion of its gin to its sweet vermouth was a matter of debate then, it’s still a subject of discussion (and some disagreement) for today’s tipplers. We’ve come across recipes that go heavier on the gin than the vermouth, recipes that favour vermouth – even recipes that proffer a 1:1 ratio of the two.
Want to make a Martinez of your own? Though several historic iterations of the cocktail opted for sweeter Old Tom Gin,Sipsmith London Dry Gin works smashingly. If you want to make your Martinez into a real winter warmer, you can also reach for the V.J.O.P., which makes a beautifully juniper-rich foil to the sweet vermouth.
Either way, we’ve settled on a ratio that leans towards the vermouth. The result is rich, warming, and sweet: the cocktail equivalent of slipping under a cosy blanket as you nestle beside a roaring fire.
50ml sweet vermouth
2 dashes Maraschino liqueur
1 dash Angostura bitters
Lemon or orange twist
Combine the first four ingredients and stir over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and varnish with a lemon or orange twist.