If you fancy yourself a grade-A home bartender (or hope to become one) there’s one cocktail you definitely need in your repertoire: a classic vodka martini. Bright, spirit-forward and easily customized, the martini tastes fancy but is so simple to put together. Plus, the ingredients won’t cost you a bundle like some complicated cocktails can.
Ready to wet your whistle? Keep reading to get our vodka martini recipe and some tips for adjusting it to your tastes.
Budding bartender? Here’s how to stock your home bar cart.
How to Make a Martini
Since there isn’t much for it to hide behind, the type of vodka you use matters. If you don’t already have a go-to brand, these are some of our favorites.
- Ice cubes
- 3 ounces of vodka, chilled
- 1 ounce of dry vermouth, chilled
- Lemon peel or pimento-stuffed olives
- Cocktail mixing glass
- Bar spoon
- Martini or coupe glass
Yield: 1 martini
Step 1: Mix
To start, place a few ice cubes in a martini glass to cool it.
Next, to a cocktail mixing glass, add chilled vodka and dry vermouth, then fill it the rest of the way with ice. Use a bar spoon to gently stir the cocktail between the ice and glass for about 20 seconds or so (you want the cocktail to be very cold).
Step 2: Pour and garnish
Dump the ice from your martini glass, then place a strainer on the mixing glass and pour the liquid into the martini glass.
Garnish by twisting a lemon peel over the cocktail to release the oils, then place the peel in the drink. Or, thread three pimento-stuffed olives on a skewer and place it along the rim of your glass.
Editor’s note: For a martini like James Bond would order, try it shaken. Just add the vodka, vermouth and ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake for 20 seconds, or until a good amount of condensation has formed on the shaker. Since shaking allows more of the ice’s surface to be covered with the alcohol, it melts more quickly, creating a slightly frothy cocktail with a higher water content.
Make It Your Own
Small changes make a big difference in this classic cocktail. Here are some ways to adjust it to your taste.
Want to add sweetness? Play around with the vermouth. Vermouth is an apéritif, a fortified wine that’s infused with herbs or spices. There are two main types, sweet and dry, but there are also more peripheral types like rosé, extra-dry, red or amber. Changing the vermouth will affect the overall flavor, and color, of your martini, so experiment (even mix some types together) to find which you like the best.
Do you prefer it dry? The dryness of your martini can be easily changed by altering the vodka-to-vermouth ratio. This recipe uses a 3:1 ratio for a drier martini. If you like that mouthfeel, you can even increase the ratio of vodka to 5:1, 12:1 or even just a vermouth rinse on the glass. A drier martini will have a higher ABV, so drink responsibly.
On the other hand, you’ll want to increase the fortified wine ratio if you don’t like a dry mouthfeel. A 2:1 or even 1:1 ratio would do the trick.
What about garnishes? Utilizing the peel and oil of citrus fruit will give your martini a bright, fresh flavor. Lemon is traditional, but you can also try it with orange, lime or grapefruit (which is my personal favorite).
You can achieve a more savory flavor with a salty garnish, like an olive, pickled onion or capers.
Now that you’ve mastered the martini, try your hand at these other easy cocktails.