While many cocktails have their fair share of mixers included to help dilute the taste of alcohol (and to look pretty), there is a whole bunch of cocktails that are made purely from a combination of spirits. They include the outright classics such as the Negroni and the Old Fashioned, but another that deserves mention is the vodka martini.
The drink of choice for none other than British secret agent James Bond (unless you count the Vesper Martini from Casino Royale, of course), the vodka martini, like other spirit-only cocktails is ‘meant’ to be stirred down, as opposed to being shaken. Our James was never a stickler for the rules.
But because the end result is a spirit-based one, getting the vodka martini right isn’t as easy as just mixing some ingredients together. There’s a preferred method, and getting it right will make you the guy to know at your next dinner party.
Origin Of The Vodka Martini
The vodka martini is, as its name suggests, based on the martini, a cocktail traditionally made with gin. This variation clearly substitutes the gin for vodka. The exact origins of the drink are a little hazy, but Proximo’s Tequila Specialist Hayley Dixon tells us “the earliest known reference to the Vodka Martini was in Ted Saucier’s ‘Bottoms Up’ in 1951 but it wasn’t until the rise of Vodka in the 1980s and 1990s that Vodka became the popular Martini choice.”
That popularity was in no doubt helped by Ian Fleming’s James Bond character, where it first made its appearance in the 1956 novel, Diamonds Are Forever, along with the famous phrase “shaken, not stirred”, although James doesn’t say it himself until the 1958 novel Dr. No.
Vodka Martini Ingredients
A classic vodka martini will consist of just two ingredients, as well as a garnish. However, how you order your vodka martini will determine which garnish you get:
- Vodka (As it’s the main ingredient, you’ll want to go premium. Russian Standard Platinum, Crystal Head Aurora and Reyka are all good vodkas to start with)
- Dry Vermouth (Dolin, Noilly Prat, Maidenii)
- Lemon Twist Garnish
- Olive Brine (dirty)
- Olive Garnish (dirty)
- Cocktail Glass
- Cocktail Mixing Glass
Classic Vodka Martini Recipe Measurements
There are three main variations of the vodka martini: dry, wet and dirty. The measurements of your ingredients will be determined by which variant of the vodka martini you prefer. Dry and wet vodka martinis use the exact same ingredients but varying amounts of dry vermouth, while a dirty vodka martini will introduce olive brine into the mix.
The official vodka martini recipe calls for the following (this would be considered a dry vodka martini):
- 60ml vodka
- 10ml dry vermouth
Wet Vodka Martini
To make your vodka martini wet, simply add more dry vermouth. The more you add, the ‘wetter’ it becomes, 20ml should be good.
Dirty Vodka Martini
To make a dirty vodka martini, use the above measurements, but add a small amount of olive brine, around 10ml, before stirring down.
How To Make The Vodka Martini
Being a spirit-only drink, the vodka martini is traditionally stirred down, although if you really want to be like James Bond and shake one up, we can’t really stop you. Here is the traditional way of making a vodka martini.
- Pour ice into a cocktail glass to chill
- Pour ingredients into a cocktail mixing glass (and decide if you want it dry, wet or dirty)
- Add plenty of ice to the mixing glass, you want your vodka martini to be expertly chilled.
- Stir with a stirring spoon until the cocktail is cold
- Remove ice from the cocktail glass and strain in cocktail from mixing glass
- Garnish with a lemon peel twist (with little pith) if dry or wet, or a couple of olives on a cocktail stick if dirty
Expert Twist On The Vodka Martini
Hayley Dixon is once again on hand to provide her devilishly delicious twist on the classic vodka martini, she tells us “While the vodka martini is typically made wet, dry or dirty, it hasn’t stopped bartenders from getting creative with their spirit, vermouth and garnish choice. This twist is just a very simple elevation of that.”
- 60ml Vodka
- 20ml Fino Sherry
- 10ml Elderflower Liqueur
- 2 Dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
- Garnish Lime Twist
- If you have some large ice cube moulds make sure you get them in the freezer in advance, large ice is best for this one
- Get your Coupe Glass or Nick & Nora Glass and put it in the freezer. This cocktail will be served up with no ice so it is best to have your glassware as cold as possible
- Grab your Mixing Glass, Barspoon, Strainer and Jigger or another measuring device
- Measure all your ingredients into a Mixing Glass, a large glass or into one half of a Cocktail Tin
- Cut your lime twist, ensuring you remove as much pith as possible from the zest
- Add ice to your mixing glass and stir your cocktail down for approximately 45 seconds. Keep tasting as you go. The idea is to get your drink as cold as possible and to start introducing dilution. If you feel the cocktail still tastes a little ‘boozy’ keep on stirring
- Once your cocktail is nice and cold, get your glass out of the freezer and strain your cocktail into the glass straight away
- Garnish with your lime twist by expressing the lime oil from the peel over the top of the drink and then dropping the twist in
How To Drink A Vodka Martini
Similar to the Vesper Martini, the vodka martini should be had only when wearing your finest tuxedo, either out at a bar or formal event, or when hosting your own dinner party. As with any other spirit-only drink, the spirit needs to be great to really shine, so plenty of fun can be found in experimenting with different vodkas and dry vermouth variations.
Vodka Martini FAQ
It depends on your preference. Gin is the more traditional choice, with its botanical and more complex flavor. Vodka makes the martini smoother and gives it a more sophisticated taste. The olive juice or brine in your dirty martini will give it a pleasant saltiness. It also has the standard olive garnish, mixed with ice in a cocktail shaker. Vermouth is fortified wine, so if you need to replace it, look for another fortified wine. Dry sherry or Lillet are good alternatives if you are craving a martini.
Are martinis better with gin or vodka?
What does a dirty martini taste like?
Can you make a vodka martini without vermouth?
It depends on your preference. Gin is the more traditional choice, with its botanical and more complex flavor. Vodka makes the martini smoother and gives it a more sophisticated taste.
The olive juice or brine in your dirty martini will give it a pleasant saltiness. It also has the standard olive garnish, mixed with ice in a cocktail shaker.
Vermouth is fortified wine, so if you need to replace it, look for another fortified wine. Dry sherry or Lillet are good alternatives if you are craving a martini.