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Happy hour history: the martini

First things first, don't take James Bond's advice...


All you need to make one is a glass full of gin, a dash of vermouth, some ice, and, if you're feeling fancy...an olive or three! 

Nothing can divide a room of bartenders and mixologists quite like a martini. For a recipe involving just two ingredients, the debate over its correct preparation is endless. Vodka or gin? How wet? How cold? Shaken or stirred? And should you ever use salt? There's certainly plenty of twists on the classic, and plenty of ways to make it. After all, the espresso martini has become the drink of the moment and there's even a strong debate whether you should have a lemon peel or an olive as a garnish.

And just how there are numerous variations on the cocktail's exact recipe, there are many variations on it's origins. The most popular story of the martini comes from the most famous brand of Vermouth (one key ingredient everyone can agree belongs in a martini), Martini & Rossi. At some point in the 1800s,  somebody splashed the vermouth into some gin, and when pressed for a name, that mystery person looked at the vermouth bottle, and said, "It's a Martini!"

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That is, of course, just one of the many tales surrounding this cocktail's origin. Another popular theory points to the town of Martinez in California where historians and locals alike claim the drink was invented during the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. As legend has it, a gold miner who had recently struck gold decided to celebrate his good fortune at a local bar. He requested Champagne, which they didn’t have, so the bartender instead mixed together another beverage made from ingredients he had on hand: gin, vermouth, bitters, maraschino liqueur, and a slice of lemon. Thus, “The Martinez Special” was born. The name, through the years, eventually morphed to the "Martini." The popularity of this sweet, bracing drink spread, and it was first published in the Bartender’s Manual in the 1880s. However, both these theories are believed to be well, theories by Barnaby Conrad III, author of a book on the Martini’s origin who claims that the drink was, in fact, invented in San Francisco. He believes that a miner requested a pick-me-up in the city on his way to Martinez. 

Regardless of the drink’s true origin, there is one thing bartenders, historians, martini purists and mixologists can all agree on: the glass. 

Here at Food&Wine, we believe a true martini consists of gin (of the dry persuasion), a whisper of vermouth. Stirred, never shaken and served with three olives, no more and no fewer. Oh, and it should also be cold - frostbite cold. So with our firm beliefs, we decided to ask the mixologists over at Gordon's Gin for their ultimate martini recipe - because who better to ask? Keep scrolling for their take on the ultimate martini recipe...

The Ultimate Martini Recipe


  • 50ml of Gordon's gin
  • 15ml dry vermouth
  • 3 Green olives (per serving)
  • Crushed ice


  1. To prepare, stir the vermouth into the gin until mixed, add the ice and stir again.
  2. Strain into martini cocktail glass and garnish with three green olives.

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