There’s a reason the Martini is such an eternally popular drink. It’s bracing, refreshing, perfect as an after-work de-stresser, a pre-prandial aperitif, or a post-dinner digestive.
It’s versatile. There’s also something rather sophisticated and sexy about Martini drinking in general. In short, it pays off to know how you take yours. That’s why it’s more important than ever to master your Martini terminology.
For the Martini novice who struggles with the admittedly esoteric terminology surrounding the classic cocktail, we’ve put together an essential glossary of Martini terminology to help you order the perfect Martini. Whether you like yours dry or dirty, perfect or with a twist, banish your confusion and order with confidence.
Not a common order, but an interesting one. Ordering a Burnt Martini tells the bartender that you’d like a splash of smoky single malt added to your drink.
For those who prefer their cocktails with a savoury edge, the Dirty Martini is a classic choice. The term simply means that olive brine, usually from a jar of cocktail olives, has been added to the drink (an olive garnish is typically assumed as well). Most bars will add equal parts vermouth and olive brine, though you can always specify ‘Extra Dirty’ or ‘Filthy‘ if you prefer more olive brine.
Ordering your Martini dry has become de rigeur amongst today’s drinkers, but it’s Martini terminology that many drinkers don’t fully comprehend. ‘Dry’ indicates that very little vermouth has been added to the drink, so the gin base is the primary focus of the cocktail. 6:1 is a typical starting point ratio, though those who prefer theirs ‘Extra Dry’ may want only the slightest splash of vermouth, or even just a glass-coating wash.
A Gibson Martini is one that has been garnished with a pickled onion in lieu of an olive or a citrus twist.
On the Rocks
When a spirit or a cocktail is ordered on the rocks, that means that it’s served over ice – rocks being ice, in this instance. Note that a Martini On the Rocks is a very uncommon order, as the ice would typically lead to too much dilution. Those making a proper drink this way will shake or stir the cocktail with ice before straining atop fresh ice.
No, this doesn’t just mean that your drink was very well made (though we can provide some essential tips on how to make the perfect Martini). A Perfect Martini is one that uses 50% dry vermouth and 50% sweet vermouth – typically rosso.
Wannabe 007s the world over have memorised this order, though whether or not they understand the physics behind it is another matter. Ordering a Martini shaken means that the cocktail will be more agitated; it’s also typically more diluted, as the rough shaking motion breaks off tiny ice shards that can quickly water down a drink. Shaking also adds air to the drink, while stirring keeps the consistency velvety. Most (but not all!) bartenders will tell you that Martinis are better when stirred, though this comes down to individual preference and is still a subject of impassioned debate.
While Mr. Bond might disagree, a stirred Martini is typically the favourite of cocktail industry pros. A proper stirred drink will see the ingredients mixed with ice in a shaker, stirred with a bar spoon, for a solid 45 seconds at least. This ensures that the drink is properly chilled but not overly agitated.
Straight up, or just ‘up,’ refers to any drink that is prepared with ice but then strained into a (preferably chilled) glass — the opposite of ‘on the rocks.’ This is the overwhelming preference for Martinis, and most drinkers won’t have to specify this when ordering – it’s just what’s assumed.
Fittingly enough, the opposite of a Dry Martini is a Wet one. This mode of preparation has fallen out of fashion in recent years, but there’s no shame in ordering it. ‘Wet’ simply means that there’s a higher percentage of vermouth, with a typical ratio falling near three parts gin to one part vermouth. Likewise, an ‘Extra Wet’ Martini would be one with an even heartier portion of vermouth – up to a 50-50.
With a Twist
This confusing bit of Martini terminology doesn’t imply that your Martini has been made with an extra dose of pizzazz. Rather, ‘With a Twist’ specifies that you’d like a strip of citrus peel to be twisted across the top of your drink, releasing aromatic oils into the cocktail. You can typically choose between orange, lemon, and lime (pick carefully: the character of your gin determines which fruit goes best), and bartenders might also ask if you’d like the twist left in your drink as a garnish.
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