Can you call it a Martini when there's no vermouth? Is it even legal?

When at a local watering hole recently, one that was well-known for the quality of its martinis, I learned that they use no vermouth. Can you really just stick a couple of cheese-stuffed olives on a toothpick into chilled gin and call that a martini? Is it even in keeping with the provisions of a liquour license to do that?

A liquor license has to do with regulations regarding business and alcohol distribution, it has nothing to do with the names of drinks or their specific ingredients.

Everybody and his brother sells “martinis” that don’t even have gin, so I doubt that lack of vermouth is going to generate much of an uproar.

No vermouth means no martini in the traditional sense. When you have a condiment and an alcohol it’s not even called Neat - which is booze and nothing else.

The drinks you describe are just named martini’s, but not really martini’s. As for a liquor license…that is not affected at all. Only if the bartender serves people past their limit to drive…and even that is over-looked at most if not all bars…

Gin?! :barfing smilie:

Somewhere I have a bartender’s guide copyright 1909. Need to dig it out. There are recipes in it for all sorts of bizarre-sounding drinks and cocktails including several variations on what it calls a “martini cocktail.” Several of the variations contain neither gin nor vermouth. Since then, of course, the martini did settle into being gin or vodka and vermouth.
I’d sooner have a glass of chilled gin with an olive in it than some of the vile concoctions they have been serving at the tres chic “martini bars” frequented by the younger set over the last few years. In those joints, apparently all a drink needs to be classified as a martini is to be poured into a martini glass.

Try to convince those damnable vodka “martini” drinkers that they’re not drinking martinis.

“That’s not a martini. It has vodka in it.”
“Yes it is. It’s a vodka martini.”

Anyway, I’d gladly accept a martini with no vermouth than one with no GIN.

If my mixology lore is correct, the original martini was a 3:1 ratio - vermouth to gin. Sometime in the 1920’s the proportions were reversed (probably at the point of a 1920’s-style death ray).

In the 50’s the proportions were changed to about 5:1, and in the Martini craze of the late 1990’s, even 20:1 was the norm.

I had a collegue who added his vermouth via the ‘photon method’ - he simply waved the bottle of vermouth over the martini shaker and let photonic action place the exact number of vermouth molecules required into his drink.

BTW - shaking a martini makes a MUCH better tasting cocktail than simply stirring. It makes it colder, plus the aereation increases the bouquet of both the gin and vermouth.

A few years ago I received a wonderful martini set from my lovely wife. In it came this odd mister? I was very confused and not sure what it was for. Upon reading said instructions it was for the dry vermouth. It was fantastic! One spray over your saphire martini is enough. I’m getting a bit thirsty…

I like mine extremely dry - almost to the point of leaving a fine film of dust in the glass. I mix them about 5:1, but there IS vermouth in the mix.

Vodka I can accept. Anything else (chocolate martinis?) is an abomination before God and the both the bartender and the patron should be shot. I know this is an abomination before God because he’s an old drinking buddy of mine. He’s a bourbon guy, but other than that he’s alright (tends to get kind of weepy after he’s had a few - you know, the “Man, I really love you, man…you’re a great guy…” That type.)

So I guess you guys haven’t tried “saketinis,” an abomination served at Uni’s, a Dupont Circle sushi joint here in DC.


Please! A shaken martini is a waste of good gin and vermouth! Even the Master has weighed in on this one:

"There are three main differences between a martini (or a vodka martini) which has been stirred and one which has been shaken. First, a shaken martini is usually colder than one stirred, since the ice has had a chance to swish around the drink more. Second, shaking a martini dissolves air into the mix; this is the “bruising” of the gin you may have heard seasoned martini drinkers complain about–it makes a martini taste too “sharp.” Third, a shaken martini will more completely dissolve the vermouth, giving a less oily mouth feel to the drink. "

This gin-on-the-rocks guy don’t know nothing bout no martooties.

A friend’s father once told me that his perfect martini recipe includes a whisper of vermouth. That is, you make the martini, put your mouth by the glass, and say “vermouth”, very quietly.

I fill the glass with gin, then show it a picture of a bottle of vermouth…

Actually I swirl the vermouth around in the glass, then pour it out.

Mmmmmmmm hard liquor…

I do the same thing, lost4life. Pour, swish, discard.

And I fully concur with the “stirred is better than shaken” position. Never had respect for Bond beause of that. Well, that, and the vodka.

I too do the whole “In and out martini” you have just described. The most creative one i’ve seen is known as the Churchill Martini. Apparently you drink straight vodka while looking at the vermouth bottle. :slight_smile:


Hey, how about a little respect for trademarks? Vermouth is a brand name. Please capitalize it.

One more piece of Vermouth trivia. Unlike many liquors that improve with age, Vermouth goes bad. Old vermouth turns yellow.

well if I remember the master’s article correctly(yes I am so lazy I won’t click the link), the reason Bond orders his “shaken not stirred,” is that he is drinking a Vodka Martini. While it is true that a shaking will “bruise” gin, no such limitation exists with Vodka.

Or you could fill a Martini glass with gin, and put 6 drops of Vermouth into the room humidifier…


I took a Learning Annex class in San Diego last fall and again this spring on “How to Make the Perfect Martini.” (It was such a fun class I took it twice.) Beside the frou-frou designer Martinis we mixed and sampled, we also dealt on the traditional drink.

A Martini without Vermouth is called “extra dry.” The bartender will usually wave the Vermouth bottle in the air to acknowledge this order, but pour no Vermouth into the drink. And puting the bottle of gin or vodka in the freezer does not make an extra dry Martini. The drink must be shaken or stirred with ice to be a proper martini.

Interestingly, if you order a dry Martini instead of straight or on the rocks gin or vodka, you’ve just increased the price of basically the same drink.

We were taught for our dry Martinis to use a mister like Phlosphr mentioned, to spray the Vermouth inside of the glass before pouring in the gin. I prefer mine with Bombay Sapphire gin, shaken, which shelbo correctly identified as bruised. I like the tiny pieces of ice that you create that way. And the size of your cubes make a difference in the Martini’s perfection. You also want to use a chilled glass, but don’t put in the freezer as that will give the glass a strange taste.

In lieu of a mister (but not as cool), I’ve also poured the Vermouth over the ice in the shaker and then down the drain before pouring the gin in. Another way is to swish the Vermouth in the glass and pour it in before adding the cocktail. My favorite martini recipe is one I read in a Jack Douglas book, “The Neighbors are Scaring my Wolf.” Douglas was a comedy writer for Johnny Carson and others. He described his neighbors’ weekly cocktail party as everyone standing outside holding glasses of gin in the air while a crop duster flies over and sprays the air with Vermouth.

We were also taught some history on the drink in the class I took. A Martini with an onion instead of an olive is called a “Gibson.” Turns out the man the drink was named after was a millionaire teatotaler, who liked to give partys. He would drink water and used the onion to distinguish his drink from the others. Others wanted to emulate him and thought he was drinking alcohol, so they started drinking Martinis with onions in them.

A Martini with a bit of olive juice in it is called a “Dirty Martini.” And the instructor said that there was no such thing as a pitcher of Martinis. They are each made individually. So what they were drinking on the show that inspired me to want to drink Martinis when I became an adult, “Bewitched,” were not really Martinis but just pitchers of gin or vodka. According to the teacher, there is also no such thing as a “double Martini,” as all Martinis are mixed as doubles to begin with.