What Is A Dry Martini?

The martini is one of the most famous cocktails in the world. Dating back to the turn of the 20th century, the martini is one of the most heavily documented and talked about alcoholic beverages in history. It fell out of fashion in the 1970s and 80s, but beginning in the 1990s, it saw a major resurgence.

This drink has become synonymous with the word “cocktail.” Made with gin and vermouth, this classic mixed drink is known for its tremendous versatility and balanced ratio of ingredients.

Anyone who knows their martinis knows that there are several different ways to prepare this drink. For that reason, it is important to know exactly what you want. If you were to go up to a bartender and simply ask for a martini without any specific instructions, you’d be exposing yourself as a beginner. It is wise to avoid embarrassment at the bar and get situated with this drink before ordering it.

There are few rules to making a martini. Though its main components include gin and vermouth, you can add in other spirits and flavoring agents as well.

How about a vodka martini garnished with some olives? Throw in a twist of lemon on there, and you’ve got yourself a tasty treat. You can even add a splash of juice to your martini for a milder, easy-to-sip option, although purists might tell you that’s a sin.

One of the most popular styles of this cocktail, however, is the dry martini. As opposed to a conventional martini, the distinguishing factor in this drink is that this recipe uses less vermouth than a wet martini would (weird, we know).

As you can imagine, this drink is hard-hitting and straight to the point. To continue learning more about the dry martini, keep reading below with Saucey.

What is dry vermouth?

Dry vermouth, also known as white vermouth or French vermouth, is a transparent, sometimes yellow spirit characterized by its botanical palate. The name implies that the flavor profile is extremely dry, usually containing less than five percent sugar in the final product.

When combined with gin and other delicious cocktail ingredients, dry vermouth gives off a wonderfully bold, smooth flavor. For those that aren’t into sweet, syrupy cocktails, the martini is the one for you.

If you’re looking to enjoy the natural flavor of vermouth, try a dry martini. Besides drinking the spirit straight, this might be the most pleasant way to drink vermouth. Unlike many other cocktails, the martini was never subjected to cheap sweetening agents like a sour mix, neon cherries, or sugared syrup, so you’ll really be getting the flavors of the spirits you include.

What are the different types of martinis?

There are dozens of martini recipes out there, each claiming to be the correct version. While a perfect martini will have equal parts sweet vermouth and dry vermouth. On the other hand, a dry martini will have less dry vermouth, as odd as it might sound. A wet martini will have more dry vermouth, generally in a ratio of three parts gin to one part vermouth.

Old school classic martinis tend to have equal parts gin and vermouth, although dry martinis tend to be the norm these days. A martini may also feature a dash of orange bitters to spice it up a little.

If you’re looking for ways to spice up your martini, consider the dirty martini, in which you add a splash of olive brine to the dry gin or vodka and vermouth in your mixing glass.

A Gibson is the same basic recipe as a martini, but it will feature a cocktail onion rather than the traditional olive. Another possible garnish is a lemon twist (made of lemon peel).

Shaken vs. stirred

In the classic recipe, a stirred martini was the norm, like most other spirit-forward cocktails. However, after James Bond ordered his martini “shaken, not stirred” in Casino Royale, shaking martinis with ice cubes surged in popularity. You strain the liquid into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy your martini slightly diluted.

Also known as the Vesper Martini, this version often includes Lillet as well.

A murky origin story

The exact origin story of the martini is controversial. Multiple accounts are explaining how this drink was first made.

One thing that we do know is that the original martini was enjoyed as a sweet drink. In the 1880s, this cocktail contained sweetened gin, along with Italian sweet vermouth. Some of the earliest renditions of the martini included gum syrup, bitters, and maraschino liqueur. The martini resembled what the Martinez is today; a manhattan made with gin.

A huge reason for this was that London dry and Plymouth gins, the most popular forms of unsweetened gin at the time, were largely unavailable in the United States. In the early 1890s, these unsweetened gins began to hit the market, contributing to a shift in the reputation of the martini.

By 1896, the dry martini was a hit. Not only did it become a household name, but the dry martini also made its way into practically every bar in the country this year.

The story of the miner

So how did it all begin? The most popular origin story of the martini takes place during the California Gold Rush of 1848 to 1855.

According to legend, the martini was created by a miner who successfully struck gold and became rich. One day, he walked into a San Francisco bar to celebrate his newfound success. Apparently, he asked the bartender for a bottle of champagne.

Unfortunately, the bartender was all out of bubbly. To make up for it, he promised to fix up something special for the miner. The bartender ended up serving him a martini. This drink was supposed to be a quickly-made hodge-podge of alcohol. However, it turned out to be a historic invention in the world of drinking.

The miner enjoyed the cocktail so much that he ordered it for everyone else in the bar. And the rest is history. This story allegedly takes place in the city of Martinez.  Though there is no concrete evidence behind this tale, it is generally accepted as the origin story behind the martini. In fact, the city of Martinez has made the most of these claims, holding a Martini Festival every September.

Every year, the city comes together to enjoy live music, dancing, and of course, a boatload of martinis. Locals even dress up in formal vintage clothing from the 1950s and 1960s, when the martini’s popularity was at its peak. The event lasts an entire month and has even inspired cities like Pensacola and Tampa to create their own.

The impact of prohibition

The traditional style of the martini slowly changed during Prohibition. When alcohol was scarce, people were forced to make cocktails with whatever they could get their hands on.

During Prohibition, vermouth was relatively easy to find on the black market. However, gin was hard to come by. People became so desperate for gin that they started brewing it in their bathtubs, which was very harsh and unrefined.

To offset the bitter taste of the bathtub gin, people would use as much vermouth as possible in their martini mix. Pretty soon, the standard for a martini became three parts vermouth and one part gin. After Prohibition, though, this practice would essentially become obsolete.

Even when better gin options returned to the market, the 3-to-1 dry martini remained the dominant style of the drink. Due to its robust taste, the dry martini actually became a symbol of masculinity.

Still, though, the dry martini had not reached its full form. Compared to a dry martini today, the ones in the mid-twentieth century were still fairly sweet.

A post-World War II martini

It wasn’t until after World War II that we began to see the clear, super dry martini that we know of today. It took a lot of trial and error to get to that point, but the dry martini had finally been perfected after the war.

In addition, the end of the war also brought a new face to the market: vodka. In the past, this spirit was considered a Russian drink. But during the 1930s and 1940s, vodka started to become a respected spirit in America. In 1951, the first vodka martini recipe was created. Within just two decades, martinis made with vodka started to outsell martinis made with gin.

In the past few decades, vodka has started to lose traction with craft cocktail enthusiasts. More and more, we’re starting to see people go back to using vermouth in their mixed drinks.


A dry martini is fit for any occasion. Whether you’re out at a nightclub or a fancy dinner, you’ll fit right in with a martini in your hand.

And best of all, this drink is easy enough to make from your home. Five minutes, and you’ll be done. All you need is some gin, dry vermouth, and garnish to put it all together. It’s up to martini drinkers to decide whether they want to go the traditional route and stir it or if they want to follow in the footsteps of James Bond and pull out the cocktail shaker.

If you’re looking for a bottle of vermouth to try for your next cocktail, we’ve got some great recommendations for you.

The Stock Extra Dry Vermouth is imported vermouth, transparent in color. It is one of the driest vermouths you can get.

For a more flavorful option, check out the Martini and Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth. This vermouth comes from Italy and is distilled with a blend of over 30 herbs and spices, including sage, allspice, coriander, and Roman camomile.

Our last recommendation is the Gallo Family Vineyards Extra Dry Vermouth. This bottle contains flavors of lavender, honeysuckle, jasmine, sweet grass, and green olive.

For the widest selection of gins and vermouths on the market, check out Saucey. We deliver alcohol to nearly every major city in the country. Visit our site to place your first order.

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