We quiz Joe McCanta, a Grey Goose Vodka global ambassador, on the relative merits of a good vodka martini.
How did the martini begin?
There is agreement that it started its life as the Martinez cocktail, named after the town where it is believed to have come from.
One story is that the great Professor Jerry Thomas – who wrote the first cocktail recipe book ever – created it for a wealthy businessman who needed a morning ‘reviver’. The martini that we now know is much, much drier than the Martinez.
How has the martini evolved?
From a flavour perspective it has evolved massively over time. It has always been about simplicity (just three ingredients!) but unlimited complexity with how you mix those.
Originally it would have been very sweet, very bitter and very aromatic, led by the use of sweet (Italian) vermouth, possibly the addition of sugar syrup or liqueurs, and aromatic bitters mixed with the spirit.
Through the years, the martini became a little more subtle and sleek. In the 1950s the Vodka Martini became extremely popular, coinciding with a drop in the aromatic bitters and vermouth, so it became drier.
Vermouth was even completely removed by some in the 1970s to ’90s as well as adding the sad habit of serving shaken as standard, which created a much more diluted drink. Thankfully, we have arrived back at the glorious ’50s version.
What makes a great vodka martini?
First of all you have to choose a great base spirit. The majority of the flavour comes from it so it’s important to select the best!
Secondly, stirring a martini is about introducing just enough water through stirring to dilute the cocktail to the perfect point.
This slow stir also chills the martini to the perfect sipping temperature. Never shake a martini. You lose control of temperature and dilution as tiny fragments of ice chip off and turn into water.
Well why does Bond like it shaken not stirred?
He was a rule-breaker for one, and two, when you shake a martini it does get very cold for the first 30 seconds before it climbs quickly up to room temperature. Bond never keeps his martinis around for more than 30 seconds before he’s slugged it back and run off to kill or sleep with someone!
Is the martini making a comeback over sweeter cocktails?
Absolutely. Bartenders are committed to the craft and the guest is also very informed. A martini is a drink you can truly own: you can select your favourite spirit, ratio of vermouth to spirit and even your garnish. People feel connected to their own recipe and want to share it with friends and bartenders alike.
Best places in the world to order a vodka martini
- The American Bar at The Savoy, London
- Harry’s Bar, Venice
- Bar Hemingway, The Ritz Paris
- Piz Gloria, Schilthorn, Switzerland
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