How to Make a Perfect Martinez

Photo by Meg Baggott, styling by Dylan Garret

Made with gin and vermouth, the Martinez is a precursor to one of the world’s best-known cocktails, the Martini. It’s considered either a descendent of, or created around the same time as the Manhattan.

Thought to be invented around the 1860–70s, one of the first printed mentions of the drink comes from the 1884 cocktail book The Modern Bartender by O. H. Byron. His instructions for the drink simply state, “Same as Manhattan, only you substitute gin for whiskey.”

The problem with this “recipe?” Byron himself offers two different Manhattan variations directly above his Martinez entry.

Page from From O. H. Byron's The Modern Bartender, 1884
From O. H. Byron’s The Modern Bartender, 1884

The shared lineage of this trinity of cocktail classics—Manhattan, Martinez and Martini—helps illustrate bartenders’ longstanding practice of swapping a single ingredient in a drink, giving it a new name and declaring innovation. Famous bartenders of the pre- and post-Prohibition eras, from Jerry Thomas to Robert Vermeire and Harry Craddock, put preferred variations of the Martinez in their cocktail books, each changing slightly with the tastes of their era. If there’s a lesson to be found, it’s in the ability of classic cocktails to evolve, but also that blind worship of verbatim recipes from dusty books that are over a century old is usually misplaced.

Of all Martinez variations, the primary differences are usually whether to use sweet or dry vermouth, and whether to measure equal parts vermouth and gin, or create a drink that’s heavier on the spirit, like in a Manhattan.

Sweet vermouth tends to be the standard in most modern bars, but for this recipe, we’ve split the difference and gone with a “perfect” Martinez—cocktail slang that means equal parts sweet and dry vermouth. The reasoning? Old Tom gin tends to be sweeter than its better-known London dry counterpart. Combine that sweetness with the drink’s touch of maraschino liqueur, and you may find that a full measure of sweet vermouth comes off as cloying. Balancing half sweet and half dry vermouth can help cut through the sugar.

We’ve also opted for the more spirit-forward version of this drink, but see below for a 50/50 vermouth-to-gin variation that’s slightly less boozy and makes a great aperitif.

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces Old Tom gin
  • ½ ounce sweet vermouth
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 bar spoon maraschino liqueur, like Luxardo
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Orange peel, for garnish
Directions

Combine all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir for 30–45 seconds, until well chilled. Strain into chilled martini, coupe, or Nick & Nora glass. Twist orange peel over drink surface to express oils, and drop in.

Martinez Variation

For a more vermouth-forward option that works great as a pre-dinner cocktail, alter above measurements to 1½ ounces Old Tom gin, ¾ ounce sweet vermouth, ¾ ounce dry vermouth, 1 bar spoon maraschino liqueur, and 2 dashes orange bitters.

Published on March 6, 2021