How would you like your Martinez cocktail?


In my blog about the history of the Martinez cocktail, I explored the timeline of a drink that is considered a classic, but is known today by a relatively standard recipe. In searching through old recipes I found that many, including some of the oldest, called for dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth, and that over the years the recipe had undergone many changes. Since then I’ve been asked by a lot of bartenders which recipe I like the best and if there is a definitive recipe for the classic Martinez. The answer to the latter question is of course that there is no definitive recipe, but my thought is that the Martinez is more of a style of drink than a single drink with only one recipe.

If we look at other classics that developed around the same time such as the Manhattan and the Martini, we see striking similarities. They are cocktails that feature a spirit combined with vermouth and bitters, they are simple stirred drinks and of course they have stood the test of time to become classics. The one difference between our understanding of the Martinez and the others though is that both the Martini and the Manhattan appear as a family of drinks that include different styles of vermouths in different ratios. We’re all familiar with sweet or perfect Manhattans, and the same was originally true of the Martini, but for some unknown reason the Martinez has always been assumed to be a drink made only with sweet vermouth.

It’s a guideline not a recipe!

In my day job I spend a lot of time educating bartenders about bourbon, and this week during a tasting session I was asked to discuss how to adapt some classic recipes to suit different bourbons. All too often we are presented with ‘the recipe’ for making a certain drink, but just saying 20ml of vermouth or 50 ml of gin doesn’t always lead to creating a well balanced drink. The moment you change one ingredient the balance of the drink changes.
When it comes to making cocktails, everywhere you turn you are presented with recipes be it in blogs such as this or in cocktail books or magazines, but maybe we should be talking about guidelines not recipes. It probably seems like common sense to good bartenders that you would always just balance your drink depending on what ingredients you are using, but to the less experienced bartender or cocktail enthusiast it is easy to get caught in the trap of following a recipe blindly.