There’s a tired old joke among bartenders about how to make a vodka martini: “First, add two ounces of vodka to a mixing glass. Next, pour it down the drain and start over with gin.”
While you get a more overt array of aromas and flavors from gin, the reputation of a vodka martini as a flavorless cocktail is the sign of a poorly made drink, not a poor choice in liquor. If you make a classic vodka martini the right way, the spirit can accentuate the nuances of vermouth without overpowering them.
The best vermouth for a vodka martini is one you’d enjoy on its own. Try more citrus-forward, floral, or even herbal and savory vermouths, rather than those with subtle or primarily grape-prominent profiles.
Instead of a dry vermouth, meant to allow gin’s botanicals to shine, opt for a bolder blanc/bianco offering. Vermouths like Carpano Bianco, Channing Daughters VerVino Vermouth Variation 5 or Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth provide enough backbone and depth to keep your vodka martini interesting.
Though sure to divide martini purists and opinionated cocktail lovers, we use an extra ingredient once integral to martini recipes, but has seemingly fallen by the wayside since the drink’s creation in the mid-1800s: orange bitters. It can be omitted if you use a quina vermouth like Cocchi Americano or Contratto Bianco, which will give your martini a flavor profile akin to a vodka tonic.
- 2 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce dry vermouth
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Thick-cut lemon peel, for garnish
In chilled mixing glass filled with ice, combine vodka, vermouth and bitters. Stir quickly clockwise for 45–60 seconds, keeping back of spoon against side of glass at all times. Try to not clink ice to avoid overdilution. (A chopstick is fantastic if you don’t have long-handled spiral barspoon.) Strain into chilled martini coup. Cut large slice of lemon peel, avoiding excessive pith. Squeeze or twist peel over drink to express oils. Drop peel in drink.