The Traditional Martini – Which Is Better, Gin Vs. Vodka?

The martini is a simple and classic cocktail that consists of two primary ingredients: a base spirit of vodka or gin and vermouth. Top it off with an olive garnish and the option of bitters, and you have yourself a tasty, classy cocktail.

Whether to make your martini with gin or vodka is a debate as old as the drink itself. Over time, the mindset surrounding how to make a proper martini has shifted. If you visited a more classic bar, for example, they would most likely serve your martini with gin.

A more contemporary bar, on the other hand, might be more inclined to serve the drink with vodka. The great part about martinis is that you can experiment with different types of gin and vodka to see what best fits your particular tastes.

There are a ton of different ways to make a truly tasty traditional martini. In this post, we’re going to give you some tips for building your perfect version of this classic cocktail.

Let’s get to it!

Differences between gin and vodka

Gin and vodka overlap in certain areas and are vastly different in others.

Both vodka and gin are clear spirits that undergo distillation. This is a process of separating components of a mixture based on different boiling points, giving the spirit its own unique flavor profile and taste.

Additionally, both drinks are popular mixtures for cocktails—especially martinis. This is because they both pair well with vermouth, the other key ingredient in the creation of a successful traditional martini. The main difference between vodka and gin is their taste. Although both spirits are clear and colorless, their effect on the palate varies.

Gin has a distinctively herbal taste. Alternatively, vodka is generally neutral and tasteless, apart from the spirit itself. This phenomenon occurs because gin is distilled with juniper berries and other botanicals to give it a distinct and unique flavor, while vodka is water-based.

Gin can technically be classified as a flavored vodka because it is redistilled from vodka in addition to botanicals and other spices. However, vodka cannot be referred to as a type of gin, as it does not undergo the same herbal-infusing processes.

When it comes to incorporating these spirits into your martini, it is best to make sure that they are thoroughly chilled. This will capitalize on the natural viscosity of the spirits, giving them the perfect taste alongside the vermouth.

Gin offers a more complex and botanical flavor, while vodka can give your martini a smoother, more modern taste. It all comes down to your own personal preferences and utilizing the spirit that best caters to your own unique pallet.

Traditionalist or modernist approach

A traditionalist might literally become offended at the notion of using vodka as the base of your martini.

This offense might be misguided, however, as the origin of the drink was rooted in an Old Tom style gin and sweet vermouth. Naturally, as with many cocktails, the cocktail evolved over time and continues to do so today. The ‘traditional martini’—which uses gin—is actually nothing like the original martini. So why limit yourself to gin?

The natural evolution of the drink allows for varying perspectives and experiments experimenting with your desired spirit. When it comes to taste, tradition matters less than evolution. If your palate skews more traditional, go with gin! But you should never feel guilty about substituting vodka.

Shaken or stirred?

Another classic debate amongst martini lovers is whether the drink should be shaken or stirred.

Traditionally, all spirit drinks should be served stirred. The method of shaking is usually for beverages that include citrus, egg whites, dairy, or other forms of thick syrups and liqueurs. But James Bond changed all that when he requested his martini to be shaken, not stirred. So why would Bond—the ultimate representation of modern class—request his martini to be shaken rather than stirred?

Shaking your martini with ice is going to bring the drink to a colder temperature at a faster rate. This process also dilutes the drink with water due to the melting of ice, imparting a different texture and mouthfeel that might be more satisfying for those who don’t like their cocktails to be overbearing on the booze.

Colder temperatures mask flavors and aromas naturally produced by mixing the two spirits with vermouth. And some people like it that way! An ice-cold martini is easier to drink, bracing some of the alcoholic punch that a traditional martini provides.

Dry or wet?

When constructing your martini, you’ll have to decide how ‘dry’ or ‘wet’ you’d like your cocktail to be. This depends on how much vermouth you put into the concoction. The more vermouth you add, the ‘wetter’ the martini becomes.

Martini’s with just a splash of vermouth is very dry. Inversely, lots of vermouth makes the martini wet. Most people prefer a 50-50 split, meaning that the martini uses equal parts gin/vodka and vermouth. Again, there is no right amount of dry-to-wet ratio in your martini. You should experiment with different ratios and find what works best for your particular taste.

Traditional gin martini recipe

The ingredients you will need for a traditional gin martini include:

  • 1.5 ounces dry vermouth
  • 1.5 ounces gin
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 olive (or your garnish of choice)

To execute the assembly of the drink, you’ll need to:

  1. Place some crushed ice into a martini glass and set aside to chill.
  2. Place the rest of the ice into a cocktail shaker, and add the vermouth. This is where you will have to decide whether to stir the vermouth (making as much contact with the ice as possible) or shake the vermouth to dilute.
  3. Pour the vermouth out using a strainer.
  4. Add the gin and stir well to combine.
  5. Remove the ice from your serving glass and add the olive (or your garnish of choice)
  6. Using the strainer, pour the gin into the serving glass.

Remember—this recipe is just a guide! You can alter the vermouth-to-vodka ratio, garnishes, and chilling process if you so desire.

Vodka martini recipe

To construct a more modern vodka martini, you’ll need:

  • 1.5 ounces dry vermouth
  • 1.5 vodka of your choosing
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • Olives or citrus-based garnish

To make the drink, follow these steps:

  1. Place some crushed ice into a martini glass and set aside to chill.
  2. Place the rest of the ice into a cocktail shaker, adding the vermouth and vodka.
  3. Shake or stir the blend, based on preference.
  4. Remove ice from a martini glass.
  5. Add your garnish of choice.
  6. Using the strainer, pour the vermouth and vodka into the glass.

This will give you a more modern take on a martini!

Your perfect martini

When it comes to creating your own perfect martini, personal taste is what’s most important.

The debate between whether or not to use gin or vodka for this traditional drink is sure to rage on; so you might as well use the spirit that best suits your palate.

No matter if you are using gin or vodka, Saucey can deliver the spirit right to your home in under thirty minutes.

So get experimental, have fun, and try different types of martinis to see which spirit works best for you!

After all, if you’re drinking a martini of any kind—you’re sure to feel classy. So dive right in!


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