The history of the Martini

In On the Rocks 

The story behind this iconic drink

The Martini, more than any other cocktail, has captured the hearts and minds of drinkers around the world. There is something ever so cool about perching on a bar stool, catching the eye of a waiter and ordering a dirty Martini. It is a drink that has become synonymous with the stylish and sophisticated; stepping off a yacht, dressed in a white linen suit with a Martini glass in hand.

Their continuing popularity could be something to do with the elegant simplicity of gin and vermouth, nothing fancy, no muddling, just a few subtle extra touches, and as Ernest Hemmingway said,

I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.”

The invention

Like all great cocktails the Martini has its own muddied creation story. And, there are many variations on the tale, one claims that a man walked into a bar in Martinez, California during the gold rush and ordered a glass of champagne to celebrate striking gold, however, there was none so instead he created a concoction of his own, thus the Martini was born. Another story claims it was created by Jerry Thomas in San Francisco around 1887, however this story doesn’t seem to ring true as his drinks was so different to the classic Martini we see today.  Possibly it could have been created in New York by the bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia who then named the drink after himself.

However it was created it probably doesn’t matter, as the cocktail has taken on a life of its own. It has become a staple of the tux dressed gentleman lounging around the casino, the girls on a night out dressed to the 9s, or the bar fly observing the room from an obscure corner. James Bond gave the drink a revival, whilst at the same time drawing scorn from hard-core Martini fans when he dared to ask for it, “shaken not stirred.” So, whatever the story the most important thing is that you enjoy your evening out with a good cocktail in hand.

The preparation & variations

Every bartender worth his salt should know how to make the perfect Martini. But, for those of you who don’t know here are the instructions for a classic (gin!) Martini:

  1. Fill a shaker with ice and pour over a cap full of dry vermouth to coat the ice cubes…not drown, coat them!
  2. Next pour in the gin (cold from the freezer) about 4oz should do it.
  3. Shaken or stirred? Unlike James Bond the correct way to mix a Martini is to stir. When you shake you dilute the ice far too much and ruin the flavour. You must stir and swirl your Martini.
  4. Finally strain the Martini into a chilled glass or two.
  5. Time for the garnish, take a toothpick and skewer two olives, place them nonchalantly inside the glass.
  6. If you like your Martini a little dirty add about 1oz of olive liquid, to give it a salty and savoury flavour.

Of course this is the classic Martini, however, over the years it has changed and adapted. Some choose to add vodka instead of gin and others add liquors and other concoctions.

Here are a few of my favourite takes on the Martini.


The French Martini really isn’t a Martini, however, it is served in the same glass and it looks and tastes great! Vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord are strained over ice. Fruity and with a bit of a kick, it is definitely worth a try.

The Cosmopolitan has to be the most famous modern incantation of the Martini. When you and your girlfriends order a round of cosmos you know you are in for a good night. Cointreau, lemon vodka and cranberry juice give this cocktail a sweet yet sour flavour, plus they look chic in a Martini glass.

For all you coffee lovers out there looking for a sophisticated wake me up during an evening out, the Espresso Martini is for you. Simply replace the vermouth with a shot of cold brew coffee, use the strainer to create the creamy froth on the top and top with 3 coffee beans.

Made famous by Ian Fleming’s James Bond, The Vesper is 3 parts gin, 3 parts vodka and half a measure of Cocchi Americano, which is a slightly bitter Italian aperitif wine. Shaken over ice cubes, strained into a Martini glass and garnished with a twist of lemon, the perfect drink for standing suavely at a bar in a tux.

The Appletini may be the source of many jokes, however, this fun and fruity Martini concoction is a delicious choice of drink. They are basically vodka, apple liquor and apple juice, simple yet tasty!

The gin joints

There are many great cocktail bars around Dubai; however, if you are looking for a Martini then here are Keep Dining’s recommendations.

It is hard to go wrong at Cocktail Kitchen, order their Reverse Martinez for a twist on the classic cocktail, or if you are after something more traditional I am sure the bartenders will whip you up something not on the menu. Little Black door at the Conrad Hotel has a uniquely crafted cocktail menu, and their Nextpresso Martini does not disappoint, inspired by the Italian tiramisu, with vanilla syrup and a coffee kick this is a delicious take on the Martini.  On the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa is At.mosphere; you can enjoy breath-taking views over the whole of Dubai whilst sipping your classic gin cocktails, simply divine.  For an Asian twist on the Martini head on over to Karma Kafé, particularly delicious is the Bison Spice, an apple Martini with chili and ginger, or work your way through their classic Martini menu.

So if you are in the mood for something traditional or with a bit of a twist there is a Martini out there for everyone!

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