At a busy nightclub or a quiet jazz bar, knowing not only the “right” way, but your way to order a martini is essential. You’ll look sweet, and you’ll get the drink you want. Plus, the bartender won’t short your pour because they think you’re an idiot. Here are the cardinal rules for a great martini:
1) Know what you’re up against.
If you order a martini at the bartop the bartender will probably ask you “gin or vodka.” Maybe. Depending on the noise level, the pace of the bar, or the laziness of the employee (all usually high) they probably won’t even ask that. So, if you just say, “hey dude, gimme a martini,” the bartender will probably assume you want a gin martini, straight up, no olives, shaken like a rattlesnake. If you order from a cocktail waitress, it’s worse. They usually don’t know more than the types of liquor they carry, so ordering “your” martini will probably confuse them. Be prepared by knowing – and saying – exactly what you want.
2) Vodka or Gin.
A simple question, and one that you shouldn’t need help answering. If you don’t know, you’re not ready for the martini.
If gin is your poison, Bombay Saphirre is a good start and almost everywhere carries it for a price that won’t destroy your bar tab. If its vodka you want, Grey Goose, Belvedere, and Ketel One (my favorite) are great as well as Chopin, a great potato vodka. A good martini starts with its number one ingredient – liquor.
3) Sweet or Dry?
The next step is vermouth. The options are:
VERY DRY – Basically no vermouth at all. It’s just a huge shot of chilled gin or vodka. Don’t be pretentious, just ask for a huge chilled shot of vodka. Honesty and humor might even get you a little something extra.
DRY – An eighth of an ounce or so of dry vermouth (36 proof). A good bartender will just coat the ice in the vermouth and then pour out the rest. If that’s what you want – order it.
SWEET – Sweet vermouth (30-32 proof) traditionally tastes a little better than dry, so it’s applied more liberally, especially in martinis like the manhattan which can be an ounce or more in some cases.
VERY SWEET – Like “sweet,” but more.
PERFECT – ordering a “perfect” martini is just half an ounce of sweet and half an ounce of dry vermouth. It’s balanced. You know…perfect.
4) Shaken or stirred?
Ever since James Bond this question has divided martini enthusiasts over shaky opinions of what is best for your drink. Shaking a martini is purported to spread the vermouth more evenly throughout the drink leading to a more rounded taste, but it also adds more bubbles to the drink and breaks the ice up more, making it watery. Stirring a drink allows the liquor to reach the taste buds more easily and it keeps the drink from getting cloudy or “bruised” as some purists put it. It’s really your call, but more often than not a martini comes shaken these days despite which side you champion.
5) Garnish it with confidence.
One olive? Two? Six? Be specific, because a standard dirty martini will never come with more than 2 olives. If you want a lime, ask for a Gimlet. If you like onions, go for a Gibson. They all have really distinct flavors, and it’s fun to order something a little off the beaten path.
6) On the rocks?
There is only one way to order a martini – up. If you want a drink with ice, get a jack and coke. Don’t be the guy with ice in your martini – they already come chilled.
After that you’re pretty much set. Try to work out a way of ordering that flows in one sentence. A martini is a chic drink, so don’t draw out your explanation, because just like a pitcure, a good martini is worth a thousand words.