The Martini

June 6th, 2018

The Martini

“Martini, shake or stir”. Here’s my take on that.

James Bond ordered his Martini’s Shaken not Stirred because that is the EXCEPTION to the rule. If he had ordered just a “Martini”, it would have been stirred because that is the classic recipe.

If the guest requests it there is nothing wrong with shaking this drink, but you will never see a decent cocktail book that suggests you to shake a Martini.

The general rule is, if it has only spirits in it, you stir. If it has any type of juice in it, it is shaken.

When stirring a drink you are trying to chill it and also add water to it, or “dilute” it as we say. Try taking some gin and vermouth, put it in a bottle and put it in the freezer. Don’t stir (or shake) it with ice. That’s not a Martini. It will be too strong and it will not taste very good.

When stirring a drink with ice we are looking for a silky texture, which is desirable in a Martini or Manhattan style cocktail. When shaking a drink, like say a Margarita, you are looking to make a bright drink with some air bubbles introduced.

How long do you stir? I was at an event recently and in the swag bag was a bar spoon with a thermometer on the top. It was in Celsius so I was looking to get to about 0 degrees or a little colder. What I discovered was that I wasn’t stirring long enough.

You noticed I said “0 degrees or a little colder”. Interestingly enough, through some science that I may never understand, you can actually make the drink a little colder than the ice!

Dave Arnold, the upmost authority on the science of drink making, talks about that in his great book Liquid Intelligence. Tristan Stevenson also mentions it in his book The Curious Bartender. He and I talked about it when I interviewed him back in episode #122.

Dave Arnold’s Liquid Intelligence will be our book of the week. This book is highly recommended and a great resource. Dave is famous for using scientific equipment like rotovaps and centrifuges. I went a long time without reading this book, because I though “I’ll never have a centrifuge”, but he took what he learned using this equipment and uses it to teach interesting techniques and stuff you might not have though of otherwise.

In the book he also talks a lot about the effects of stirring and shaking. Interestingly enough, when stirring or shaking a drink, eventually equilibrium is reached and it wont cool anymore or dilute anymore. It will of course eventually start to warm up and the ice will start to melt, adding more dilution, but it can only get so cold.

This is helpful to know for a couple reasons, one of which is to keep in mind when building a large round of drinks. For instance if a Martini is the order, you might want to add the ingredients to your mixing cup, add the ice, but stir later. Or you can stir and let it sit there with the ice still in the cup while working on the rest of the round, then strain at the last moment. According to Dave Arnolds experiments, there won’t be much difference.

Does the size of the ice matter when shaking or stirring? It seems like the answer is, “not really” although that could be an entire podcast to itself. As a general rule it seems that once proper temperature is reached the dilution will be correct, no matter the size of the ice, although the one exception would be crushed or shaved ice.

The Martini is our cocktail of the week. What’s the best way to make it? The way your guest wants it! Ask a lot of questions when somebody orders one.

The history of the Martini is difficult to trace. David Wondrich, the ultimate cocktail historian will tell you so, and in fact does just that in his great book Imbibe!

In the late 1800’s the drink was usually made with Old Tom Gin, which is sweetened. Sometimes gum syrup was added. The “Dry Martini” appeared around the turn of the century, but it wasn’t dry in the sense that we think of it today. In fact one recipe published around that time period had a 1:1 ratio of Gin to Dry (or “French”) Vermouth.   The Gin was changed to a London Dry style gin or Plymouth Gin which is also not sweet at all.

Back in the day, Orange Bitters were always added, which is a really interesting addition to a Martini. Give it a try! I wouldn’t force it on an unsuspecting guest, but try it yourself, see what you think, and maybe suggest it to an adventurous customer.

Back to the amount of vermouth. I think the average consumer expects very little vermouth in their Martini, although it is becoming popular in Cocktail Bars to have a 1:1 Martini on the menu. It’s a wonderful drink this way, with the orange bitters and a lemon twist, but of course you need to have a quality vermouth that has been taken care of properly and is not too old. Please store your vermouth in the cooler! Write the day you opened it on the back label of the bottle. Ideally you don’t want to keep it more than a month after opening. At 2 months, throw it out! I use Vacuvin wine stoppers in my open Vermouth bottles. This is a very inexpensive item – about $12 – that pumps the air out of open wine bottles to help preserve it. They are perfect for Vermouth and other fortified wines as well.

Next thing to talk about is the glass. Those giant bird bath or “Steakhouse” martini glasses are ridiculous. Believe me I know. I Bartender at a Private Club, we use them. The Members expect nothing less. Those stupid things hold 8 oz if you fill it to the very top, which people seem to expect! That’s not one drink! That’s 4 drinks!

So what kind of glass is good? You often here me talk about a chilled coupe glass, which is ideal for a Martini.   For anyone who might not be familiar – it’s the old fashioned champagne glass that’s like a saucer or bowl with a stem.

Ideally we want the glass chilled in the freezer until the last minute, but if you don’t have a cooler to keep your glasses in, of course you can chill it with ice and water. Before you start making the drink, pack the glass with as much ice as you can fit and fill to the top with water.

For garnish, olives are traditional. If the guest doesn’t specify, its olives. One big or 3 small on a cocktail pic.   Always an odd number, an even number is bad luck. Ha. I don’t know why, but it is. I asked David Wondrich about this one time and he said “it’s a tradition and if you choose to perpetuate it, you should.” I said “I do! I do choose to perpetuate it!”

A lemon twist is my favorite. The best twists are made with a y-peeler. Then hold the twist over the drink and using both hands put it between your thumbs and index fingers and start to sort of fold it in half lengthwise. This expresses the oils from the drink into the glass. Its awesome. Personally, I actually like my Manhattan this way too.

So the Martini – seems like a simple drink on the surface, but there are some things to consider.

Dave Arnold, Don Lee and Greg Boehm, who founded Cocktail Kingdom, are opening a new bar in Manhattan. It should be opening any day now…that should be really interesting. Don Lee is a super smart dude and Dave really knows his stuff. Greg is a very interesting guy too. One innovation that I read about at this new spot is: those in a hurry can buy bottled cocktails from vending machines with a $15 token. I can’t wait to check this place out.

Your can still apply for Bar methods for the August 2018 session. I’m recording this on June 6, 2018 and applications are still open for a few more days. I did this course back in 2016 and trust me, you wont regret it. Its 3 days of education in Manhattan, with happy hours and dinners and parties. You stay in the awesome Park South Hotel and the price is extremely reasonable. Trust me. Apply at

Another great educational opportunity - BarSmarts Advanced is coming to Philadelphia on September 26. This is a full day of education for the likes of Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich, Paul Pacul, the list goes on. For this you need to do the BarSmarts online course first. Check that out at

There are a few more sessions of CITC for this year with Gary gaz Regan. Not sure if he has any room left, but that is a wonderful experience. You can find out about that at

I’ve done all three of these educational experiences. I get nothing for telling you about them, but I just want you to know about them, because they are all amazing (and affordable).

I missed a few podcasts in the last few weeks. I have a lot on my plate right now family wise, I wont go into the details, but if you are interested you can scroll back in the feed to the show called “Real Talk From Bartender Journey”. It looks like things are starting to get better, so hopefully we’ll be back on track soon.

I am definitely going to Tales of the Cocktail this year – the trip is already booked, so I’ll have lots of great stuff for you from there as well.

Please follow me on IG. @ Bartender Journey

Here’s our toast:

May the chicken never be hatched that will scratch your grave.





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