Knowledge Base

Shaken not Stirred – The Story of the Martini

A long time before James Bond asked for his to be ‘shaken not stirred’, the Martini had already established itself as a cocktail with a spirit that would last forever.

Made with gin and vermouth and garnished or ‘dressed’ with an olive or a twist of lemon, the Martini cocktail has become one of the best known and popular mixed alcoholic drinks.

One famous Martini admirer is of course British Secret Service Agent 007. While he always requests his to be ‘shaken not stirred’, Martinis are actually more often stirred and not shaken. Bond prefers the ‘Vesper’ Martini, made with gin, vermouth and vodka along with a twist of lemon peel.

In the Martini’s earliest known form, the ratio of gin to vermouth was 1:1, but the amount of gin has increased over the years. A ‘dry’ martini contains less vermouth, while a ‘dirty’ Martini has dashes of olive brine. A ‘Kangaroo’ Martini is when vodka is used instead of gin,’ and a ‘Gibson’ sees a cocktail onion used instead of an olive.

There are a number of different stories about its origins. One story comes from the town of Martinez in California where it is claimed that the drink was conceived during the mid-1800s after a gold miner, who had struck it rich, wanted to celebrate his new found wealth at a local bar. He asked for champagne but they didn’t have it, so the bartender concocted something made from what he had available; vermouth, gin, maraschino liqueur, bitters, finished with a slice of lemon – the Martinez Special.

Another theory is that the drink was first created in San Francisco, when a miner visited a bar requesting some refreshment on his way to Martinez. There are also suggestions that the drink was actually named after ‘Martini & Rossi’ vermouth and the name then shortened to just ‘Martini’. Perhaps it was at New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel where the Martini made its first appearance. The story has it that bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia served a particular drink that could have been an early incarnation of the Martini we know today.

While we may never all agree on the Martini’s true origins, it is impossible to deny the steady popularity of this drink. As Ernest Hemingway once said about the Martini; ‘I’ve never tasted anything so cool and clean. They make me feel civilized’.

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