How to Order a Martini Like You Know What You’re Doing

We all know that James Bond takes his martini shaken, not stirred, but if you spend any amount of time around people who love martinis, then you also know that it’s a little more complicated than that. There are dirty martinis and wet martinis and dry martinis — and don’t even get us started on the number of drinks that purely end in “-tini”.

martini bar bartender
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All of the terminologies may seem a bit much. In order to make your next martini experience easier, we sat down with New York City bartender Tom Walker to find out how to order a martini. Walker is a gin enthusiast and has worked at world-renowned bars such as The American Bar at The Savoy in London, Bramble Bar in Edinburgh, Attaboy in NYC, and George Washington Bar at the Freehand Hotel. It’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about ordering a martini.

Gin or Vodka

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want gin or vodka. As you can read in our guide to vodka martinis, this in and of itself is a dividing topic. As a gin-thusiast, Walker goes with gin (and of the gins, he picks Boodles). The choice is entirely up to personal preference.

Wet or Dry

Once you’ve picked your spirit, then comes the fun part. Think of it as accessorizing your martini. Say you want it dry. Do you even know what that means or are you ordering a dry martini because you heard someone else do it once?

martini cocktail glasses bar
Nick Fewings

A martini is pretty much a combination of vermouth and liquor. Let’s break it down for you:

  • Dry: Less dry vermouth.
  • Extra dry: Even less dry vermouth or none at all.“Possibly even taking it the way Sir Winston Churchill preferred it, which was iced cold gin with a glance at an unopened bottle of vermouth,” according to Walker.
  • Wet: More dry vermouth.
  • 50-50 or perfect: Equal parts gin and vermouth in the mixture.

Walker’s favorite way to build a martini is to use a two-to-one ratio of Boodle’s gin to dry vermouth, poured from a bottle that is fresh and already chilled. Some people refer to this as a ‘wet’ martini, due to the presence of vermouth, as it still contains more dry vermouth than your average martini order.

Dirty

Once you’ve gotten the vermouth thing settled, it is onto this question of being dirty. You may like other things in life dirty (we won’t judge), but if you don’t like olive brine, then you’re not going to like you martini dirty.

martini

If you love olive brine, then you can get one extra dirty, wherein the bartender will add even more olive brine to the drink.

Garnish

Then, Walker says, it’s time to think about the garnish. Again, we’re not talking about the drinks that were first popularized in the 1990s and feature, well, just about everything as long as you add “-tini” to the end of it. “A classic martini is not a sweet drink and never has been,” Walker reminds us.

Your options for garnish, then, are a twist of lemon or an olive. If you get your martini dirty, you’re going to want to keep that train going and get the olive. If you’ve ordered your drink sans brine, then think about getting it with a twist.

“For me always a twist; the lemon peels help perk up the drink and bring it out of its alcohol heavy dimensions,” Walker admits.

If you’re an onion fan, you can always order a Gibson, which is a martini with a pickled onion garnish.

Shaken or Stirred

Finally, there’s the issue of shaken or stirred. In pop culture, the suave-est spy alive takes his shaken, not stirred, but is this right?

In short, no. Not in the least. Though, if you want it that way, more power to you.

“Ten times out of 10, stirred,” Walker says. “The martini is a silky smooth drink that should be super velvety and cold as steel. All of these can be achieved by stirring, using the right equipment and the right ice.”

how to make a vodka martini glass pouring out getty images
Glowimages/Getty Images

If your customer insists on shaking it, then so be it. Just make sure it’s with the biggest piece of clear ice you can find and it goes into the coldest glass in existence. You could technically order a martini on the rocks (aka on ice) as you would other cocktails, but why would you want to?

“Straight up or on the rocks would probably be the most common request to a drink that is thoroughly defined by how its drunk, so much so that it has a glass named after it. In essence, a martini on the rocks also doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, but the drink has become so widespread that it has outgrown any language contradiction that may befall other drinks,” Walker elaborates.

We’re don’t know about you, but we’re pretty ready for a martini. Thankfully, Walker’s parting words to us were a martini recipe. Check it out and get ready to sound like the smartest martini drinker in the bar. Feel free to replace Boodles with the best gin in America.

boodles proper martini
Boodles

Boodles Proper Martini

  • 2 oz Boodles Gin
  • 1 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • Lemon Twist

Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir until very cold, strain in a chilled cocktail coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

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