The Martinez Cocktail is widely regarded as the great-grandfather of Dry Martini. Despite the fact that it calls for gin or genever, it is undoubtedly a drink based on red vermouth. This clearly distinguishes itself from cocktails like the Manhattan or Vieux Carré.
The drink is first mentioned in OH Byron’s The Modern Bartender’s Guide from the year 1884. From the middle of the 19th century, the European vermouth houses began with extensive exports to the USA, where the herbal wine quickly became the favorite of connoisseurs and bartenders.
Martinez is the most important representative for this vermouth boom in USA, which of course is also reflected in other classic drinks. Vermouth was the foundation of this cocktail when traditionally this role was held by whiskey or rum.
Martinez is different from the Martini
Today’s dry gin aperitifs, work as a classic three-part drinks. Gin (or, if necessary, vodka) represents the indisputable basis, which is underlined and deepened by flavors and modifiers. In the classic dry martini, these additives are vermouth, combined with lemon zest, orange bitters or an olive.
The Martinez Cocktail works differently. It does not aim to modify it’s base component. Its magic lies in the balance achieved between sweetness and bitterness. Vermouth, Maraschino (or Triple Sec) and possibly an Old Tom Gin add the sweetness.
The bitterness comes, of course, from the bitters used in cocktails, but also from the vermouth and gin, if London dry variety is used.
Recommended Sweet Vermouth
Many a red vermouth taste just like a little bit of sugar with bitter herbs. That might be okay if it is used in a supporting role, but in the Martinez is is the main cast.
There it needs depth and aromas that go beyond sweet and bitter.
Mancino Vermouth Rosso Amerato, Cocchi and Carpano Antica Formula deliver the best results. If you looking for something more affordable, try the Dolin Rouge.
The rather cheap Martini Rosso does not have the depth required for this drink.
A good vermouth not only brings the most balanced sweet-bitter taste, but also gets particularly wine’s aromas into the drink. It gives it a breadth that is required from the main ingredient in any cocktail.
The Right Maraschino (or Triple Sec) and Bitters
If you like strong orange notes in your Martinez, you can take a triple sec instead of the maraschino. Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao is a classic, but it is on the higher side of the price spectrum. Bols Triple Sec is cheaper but also of good quality. Lastly, if you already have Cointreau, you can use it instead, but the flavor profile of the drink is better with triple sec.
Luxardo is the first choice among maraschinos. But since it is not particularly dominant in terms of taste in spite of its quantity in the drink, the brand has negligible affect on this cocktail. So you will be better of choosing a less expensive maraschino.
Which Cocktail Bitters you should use depends heavily on your personal favorite combination. The classic Angostura bitters blend in very well in the Martinez.
Gin for Martinez
With heavy juniper gins, the Martinez usually acquires an aroma that lightly resembles fresh paint. On the other hand, gins that are too mellow (e.g. Caorunn Gin, Bombay Sapphire) are lost in the presence of Antica Formula.
Although both Beefeater and Tanqueray London Dry are juniper forward, we find them to work not badly in the Martinez. Tanqueray 10 works very well and so does Monkey 47 and Sipsmith due to their light juniper and citrus profile.
Tanqueray Malacca is another good choice due to the fruity flavors it brings into this cocktail.
- 2 oz Sweet Vermouth
- 1 1/3 oz Gin
- 1/4 oz Maraschino or Orange Curacao
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Stir all ingredients together on ice in a shaker for about a minute.
- Strain into a pre-chilled Martini glass or Coupette.
- Spray with an orange zest and throw it in the drink as garnish.
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