How to make the perfect martini

Perfection is found in the simplicity of a proper martini
Perfection is found in the simplicity of a proper martini
Joy Summers

Which cocktail do bartenders use as a measuring stick to judge their barkeep brethren? The martini: a simple, pristine cocktail that, sadly, is often totally botched. We met up with barman Shawn Jones of


to discuss how to best mix this classic drink and what sweet nothings should be whispered into that signature martini glass.

See Also:

First we must address the martini wrecker in our midst: stale vermouth. Vermouth is a fortified wine. Check behind the bar at most neighborhood watering holes, or peer into the bar cabinet of most home cocktail connoisseurs, and you'll see a green bottle covered in dust. It's wine. Would you crack a bottle of chardonnay, pour one glass, stick it on a warm shelf for three months, and go back in for another glass? No! Gross, right? Same deal with vermouth.

The solution is simple. "Get the good vermouth," insists Jones. "Get the smallest bottle possible. If you want a dry vermouth, get a French variety. If you prefer sweet and red, go Italian." If a small bottle isn't available, Jones picked up a tip from the grand master bartender Johnny Michaels, cocktail overlord of La Belle Vie: "Keep those tiny Schweppes bottles from club soda or tonic. Pour the extra vermouth in there, seal it, and store it in your fridge. You'll be able to use it longer."

The martini's ingredient list is brief. "Gin, vermouth, orange bitters -- it's not the same if you skip any of these. People grew out of the habit of going to the bar. They moved out of the cities, into the suburbs. My mother would just whisper 'vermouth' over the glass," says Jones. "Plus, most people are making them wrong. They're shaking them." You hear that, Bond, James Bond? You are doing it wrong.

Jones's final word on vermouth: "It goes bad in three days and Martini & Rossi is garbage." Jones prefers Dolin.

Many different gins will suffice, but Jones prefers Bombay Sapphire for its "meatiness," and he chooses Bittercube orange bitters, which imparts a purity of bright citrus flavor.

For gear, you'll want a v-glass or a martini glass, a cocktail spoon, and a strainer. Jones recommends shopping at CB2 where spoons and julep strainers are under $10.

While assembling, you'll want to put that cocktail spoon to use and stir. Don't get all violent about it. The only reason you want to shake a drink is to change the viscosity (like an egg cream) or dilute it very quickly. Shaking is important if you'd like to bring the pH in balance, like when you're using citrus, but shake a martini and all you're going to do is add a ton of water. 

(Although it is worth noting that water is an under-appreciated ingredient. It's here that we could delve into a conversation about the diluted drinks on Marvel Bar's menu. This might very well be the next big drink trend.)

But lthat is a discussion for another day. Here is the recipe for the perfect martini:

The Perfect Martini
2 parts gin
1 part vermouth
1 dropper of orange bitters
expressed lemon (optional)

Pour gin, vermouth, and bitters into a tall glass over ice. Stir half a dozen times. Strain into a martini glass. Express lemon over the glass. Serve. Rejoice in the knowledge that you're doing it right.

City Pages on Facebook | Hot Dish on Facebook | Twitter | e-mail us

Get your tickets to this year's City Pages Iron Fork competition! Sign up for our newsletter below or click here to purchase directly.

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >