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Feb 23, 2010 01:39 PM

Is Martini the proper term when you want it with Vodka?

I know that a classic martini is made with gin but I've heard that nowadays it's okay to ask for one with vodka and still call it a martini if it is served with olives. Thoughts?

I've also gotten in a big fight with a local NYC bartender for making my extra dry martini with extra vermouth because the vermouth bottle said "extra dry". He seemed to be convinced he was right based on his years of experience making them that way. I'm certain he was wrong. I've also run into this problem when I was traveling to small towns on business and had to eat at Applebee's or TGIFs. I suppose it was my mistake to order a martini in places like that anyway. Anybody?

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  1. The proper term for a martini made with vodka is "Vodka Martini"

    A martini is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth.
    It can be made...
    dry, with dry (aka 'French' ) vermouth
    sweet, with sweet (aka 'Italian' ) vermouth
    perfect, with one half each dry and sweet

    It is the ingredients, not the ratio of gin to vermouth, that defines whether it is dry, sweet, or perfect.

    A martini made from vodka, instead of gin, is a Vodka Martini.

    You may add more, or less, "extra-dry" vermouth to your drink to your own personal taste, but never because the label says extra-dry, or whatever.

    If you enjoy Vodka Martini's, may I recommend you try a Vesper cocktail.
    Popularized in the James Bond book and movie Casino Royale, it is becoming more common now, and has both vodka and gin, and is a good gateway into cocktails with more flavor.
    Vesper Cocktail:
    3 oz gin
    1 oz vodka
    1/2 oz Lillet Blanc
    Stir with ice and strain, lemon twist garnish

    And yes, Applebee's and TGIF's are NOT the places to discuss cocktail semantics.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jerryc123

      The drink made with vodka and vermouth is called a Kangaroo. It's not a name that is used much any more but it is the proper name.

      1. re: jerryc123

        While my instinct is to agree with you, I think terminology changes over time, and these days "dry" tends to refer to the amount of vermouth in the drink rather than the type. If you order a martini extra dry, chances are you're going to get just a misting of vermouth.

        I usually order exactly what I want -- ie. "Boodles martini, don't skimp on the vermouth." That ensures I get what I want. As the OP said, too many bartenders think dry refers to the amount of vermouth, and in their defense, that's probably what most of their customers mean as well.

        It also seems like I'm seeing more places that think a martini should be made with vodka, so if you don't specify, you're likely to get something crappy.

        1. re: jerryc123

          A variation of the Vesper is the Kinopanorama™ martini, which is named after the Russian 3-film widescreen format [the Soviet's answer to Cinerama]. Here we go:
          40-ml [2 shots] Plymouth English dry gin,
          20-ml [1 shot] Russian 40% Vol Vodka,
          10-ml of a 50/50 blend of Lillet and Dolin dry vermouth.
          Stir [do NOT shake] gently in a cocktail shaker for 30-seconds or so. Use only pure ice. Add 3-strips [get it?] of lemon twist.

          John Lasher

        2. Whoa, that's a big cocktail. I've never made one, but doesn't the vodka just dilute the gin botanicals? I don't understand this drink. Why not just make a martini with Lillet instead of dry vermouth?

          2 Replies
          1. re: EvergreenDan

            Probably a good drink to get people who think they don't like gin to actually try the stuff. Most of my friends who refuse to drink it ("I don't like drinking pine trees!") have no clue what quality gin tastes like and when faced with a drink like a Pegu Club are shocked to discover that--yes--it is composed primarily of gin. Even better, the Vesper subs Lillet for vermouth, that evil poison that should be used in the merest of drops in a Martini--if at all--and never get mixed in in substantial quantity.

            Oh wait--Lillet is quite similar to vermouth? And this drink has gin in it? And it actually tastes pretty good? Thanks, Bond! Now get over that "shaken not stirred" thing and we'll be on to something.

            1. re: EvergreenDan

              EvergreenDan: I may have it wrong. It is MEASURES not OUNCES. But methinks Bond would down a large cocktail, no problem...

              davis_sq_pro: Yes, that was my thinking. Using vodka to mellow the assertive flavor of gin would be a way to get people to ease into gin drinking. And the Vesper is a pretty good drink. I also put a dash of orange bitters in mine.

              "A dry martini," Bond said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."
              "Oui, monsieur."
              "Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"
              "Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
              "Gosh, that's certainly a drink," said Leiter.
              Bond laughed. "When I'," he explained, "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."

              —Ian Fleming, Casino Royale

            2. This is a link to a great little article on the martini.


              The guy who runs this site really knows his stuff especially in the history department.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lexineffect

                Thanks for that link, lexineffect. I thought I knew a lot about the martini, but I learned something new while reading it.
                That article did an excellent job at answering the original posters question, including the concept of a "dry" martini incorrectly becoming a glass of cold gin.

                Frequent users of this board already know about Robert Hess, aka DrinkBoy, but for those that are just discovering this board, I would highly recommend his other website for how-to cocktail videos...

                However, the one thing the article did not address is the popularity of the dirty vodka martini, which (correct me if I'm wrong) is a glass of vodka flavored with olive brine.
                How is it people can complain about the taste of "pine tree" flavored gin, but embrace salty olive flavored vodka?

              2. Not much more to add here...but here it goes anyway.

                My take is that a "dry" martini has evolved to mean less (if any, in the case of Winston Churchill) dry vermouth, and not that you want to have it made with dry vermouth. Similar to a Manhattan, which would be made with just sweet vermouth unless ordered as "perfect Manahattan" which then gets you dry and sweet vermouth.

                As for the Vesper, it is a remarkable cocktail. The origin is completely tongue in cheek by Ian Fleming, who was determined to make Bond bigger than life and the ultimate man's man. The Lillet Blanc is much smoother and just a hint fruiter and sweeter than dry vermouth. The vodka and gin mix is just Bond being Bond. However, this is a tremendously sophisticated cocktail and I urge you to try it, in the proportions listed below. I use Plymouth gin and Ketel One vodka in mine.

                2 Replies
                1. re: stanmsak

                  I believe Kina Lillet was much more bitter than the Lillet available today. Perhaps a closer substitute would be Bonal Gentiane Quina? In fact, that sounds like a rather good drink, although the vodka still seems like an unnecessary to me.

                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    Tried 2 oz gin (Bluecoat), 1 oz Bonal, 2 drops Angostura Orange, lemon twist. Didn't blow me away. I also tasted it with 1/2 oz Bonal, which might have been more to my taste. Still, I think I prefer a Martini with about 4:1 gin to Bossiere and a nice olive. Not my best effort.

                2. Old jokes, have your mother-in-law walk theoug