2.3 Gin and Vermouth
Learn how to make the best Martini, master a Martinez, and play with Blonds
If you are keen to make a super simple, fast cocktail with lots of heritage, look no further than the original Gin&IT recipe. This cocktail breaks all the rules. Italian (‘IT’) red vermouth was traditionally sloshed into a tumbler with a shot of gin without much glamour. No ice. No garnish. I serve my Gin&IT in the authentic fashion of two parts red vermouth to one part gin. A fresh orange slice wouldn’t go amiss, but it’s not essential.
If you’re not using ice, I highly recommend chilling your gin and red vermouth in the fridge for several hours prior to mixing your cocktails. This isn’t a college house party – you deserve better than drinking room temperature booze.
For something more refined, let’s start with the Dry Martini. This cocktail really allows the gin to sing, so if you enjoyed your choice of Ludlow Gin in a G&T, try it in a Dry Martini. Add 3 parts gin and ½ part dry vermouth to a large glass. Add lots of ice and stir for a good ten seconds. Using the spoon to hold back the ice, decant your drink into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist. Add a teaspoon of olive brine to the stir for a Dirty Martini. Or you could follow Winston Churchill’s example, and stir the gin while looking at an unopened bottle of vermouth. For a Wet Martini, increase your vermouth measure to 1 part, or match ½ part of dry vermouth with red vermouth for a slightly sweeter, Perfect Martini.
‘Dry’ refers to the French sense of humour compared to the Italian red/sweet vermouth. Paradoxically, the more dry vermouth you add to a Martini, the ‘wetter’ the drink becomes. Newcomers might want to start with a wetter Martini and dry it out over time.
Blonds are More Fun
If you liked the gentle sweetness of a Perfect Martini, get yourself a bottle of Lillet Blanc and start sipping on Blond Martinis. Lillet Blanc is a sort of ‘halfway house’ vermouth. It’s drier than the full-bodied red vermouths, but has sweeter fruity notes that are cut with bitter quinine. Stir 1 part Lillet Blanc with 2 parts of a floral gin. If you are keen to test drive your new cocktail shaker, you could shake the Blond. Keep your shake short and hard to avoid over-diluting and use a sieve to decant into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Master a Martinez
The Martinez is a sweetly aromatic cocktail, widely considered the father of the Martini (although its composition sits closer to a Manhattan). Stir 2 parts gin with 1 part red vermouth, ½ part Maraschino Liqueur, and two dashes of Angostura Bitters. Hold back the ice to decant the mix into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist. Maraschino is a cherry liqueur, but some recipes might suggest an orange liqueur. Either way, you are creating a fruity depth of flavour, so you can be experimental here. White Heron’s British Cassis anyone?
The secret to perfecting a drink with no hiding places like the Gin&IT or a Martini is, as always, premium ingredients. Find out which vermouths I recommend for your home gin bar here.