Make way for the Martinez

The Martini has been my favorite cocktail for decades. So it’s a little weird that until now I’d never tasted, much less made, the Martini’s close relative: the Martinez.

Or maybe not that weird. Although often listed among the basic mixed drinks everyone should know, the Martinez gets passed up by many cocktail authorities. It’s not even mentioned in Jeffrey Mogenthaler’s epic The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique. And Michael Brunelle’s essential alphabetical recipe book Cocktails zips straight from “Margarita” to “Martini” to “Maverick” without so much as a glance over its shoulder.

What I knew of the Martinez up til now was mainly that it could be described as a “sweet Martini”—which isn’t inaccurate but doesn’t really do justice to the depth and complexity of the drink, which I think rivals that of most dry Martinis. But there’s no doubt that, in one respect, the Martinez is as old-fashioned as an Old Fashioned; it definitely hails from the Victorian era of mixed-drink construction, when almost every concoction contained a sugar cube, a sweet liqueur, or both.

Then there is the question of the actual familial relationship between the Martinez and the Martini. The former is generally credited to Jerry Thomas, the first modern mixologist, who included the Martinez in his (posthumously published) 1887 book How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks (reprinted as The Classic Guide to Cocktails). But the mid-19th century saw a flurry of new gin cocktails, as first Italian (sweet) vermouth, then French (dry) vermouth, found their way into the pitchers and shakers of the day. And as Gary Regan points out in The Joy of Mixology, some Martini recipes of that vintage call for exactly the same ingredients as the Martinez, creating a whole chicken-and-egg problem that probably never will be reconciled.

Regardless, that first Martinez called for a 2-to-1 ratio of sweet vermouth to gin; most modern versions reverse that. I split the difference and go for a 1-to-1 ratio of vermouth to gin. A few recent interpretations sub in various amounts of dry vermouth; go far enough down that road, though, and you’ll end up right back in Martini Town.

Oh, about the gin: It must be Old Tom, not London Dry or any other type, for a real Martinez. Itself a throwback to the dawn of distilling, barley-based Old Tom hadn’t been produced in the United States since Prohibition until an Oregon outfit, Ransom, began making it a few years back, to widespread acclaim. Its malty, smoky overtones give the Martinez a unique character—one that, admittedly, was not universally popular here at Chateau Cuisine Stupide. This longtime Martini drinker, however, is happy to welcome the Martinez to the family.


Adapted from Michael Dietsch, Serious Eats

  • 1 1/2 ounce Old Tom gin
  • 1 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth (we go with Noilly Prat, always)
  • 1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and orange bitters. Stir until very cold, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over cocktail to express its oils and use as garnish.

2 thoughts on “Make way for the Martinez”

  1. The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) lists the “Martinez”, followed by “Martini (dry)”, “Martini (medium)”, and “Martini (sweet”). They use either sweet Italian vermouth, based on red wine, or dry French vermouth, based on white wine, or both in the case of the “Martini (medium)”, which we know as the Perfect Martini. However, French companies like Noilly Prat make both dry and sweet vermouths, and so do Italian companies. To further confuse the issue, there is an Italian vermouth producer called Martini. If you order a Martini in Spain, France, or Italy you will likely be served sweet vermouth on ice with an olive on a toothpick and perhaps a twist of lemon peel.

    I was taught to make a martini by pouring gin into the glass and barely adding a dash of dry vermouth. Some customers thought that even that was not dry enough. They really just wanted a glass of gin with extra olives.

    Here is a serving of dry humor. I’ll make it a double:

    A Roman walks into a bar and asks for a martinus.
    “You mean a martini?” the bartender asks.
    The Roman replies, “If I wanted a double, I would have asked for it!”

    A German walks into a bar and asks for a martini. The bartender asks “dry?”, he replies “nein, just one”

  2. When I was in Finland in 2019, I ordered a Martini at the hotel bar. They tried to give me a glass of Martini & Rossi vermouth. I switched to a gin & tonic, which seemed to overcome the language barrier.

    My shtick (not original) when making a Martini for someone who requests extra-dry is to briefly glance at the open bottle of vermouth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.