It’s one of the most famous and celebrated mixed drinks on the planet. It conveys elegance and sophistication. It’s the drink of the world’s coolest secret agent and our grandparents sipped, swigged and guzzled them down at lunch, before dinner, during dinner and pretty much anytime they pleased. Yet, the debate rages: what’s the secret to making the perfect vodka martini at home.
Well, duh… but like anything with an ingredient in its title, the type and quality of that ingredient is going to make a huge difference in taste. The highest price doesn’t necessarily equal best taste when it comes to vodka. Purists would insist on Russian vodka, but others swear by many of the excellent Polish varieties. There are even North American vodkas that have their fans. As a guide, the vodka you use for a martini might not be the same you use for mixing with soda or juice – it should stand on its own with a smooth finish and nuanced flavors.
It needs to be white and dry or extra dry. Technically, vermouth is fortified wine, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the quality. Sake is fortified wine too, but it can taste exceptional and you can pay exceptionally for the pleasure. Unfortunately, the selection of vermouth tends to fall short in many liquor purveyors, but do your best to select it with the same discrimination as your vodka.
They make a HUGE difference in the flavor of a martini, so again – go with quality. What you’re looking for specifically are olives packed in good brine. Often olives you find in the jars of supermarkets are packed in a more water based preservative, so it’s a good idea to head over to the meat, deli or fresh prepared food sections for more suitable olive options. A martini absolutely needs the oily, saltiness of a good brine coating its olive.
It’s the secret ingredient in every good martini, but it’s not added separately; it’s created through the proper method of preparation. Water interacts with the alcohol of a martini and helps to draw out and finish flavors.
Martinis should be cold and the ice gets it there while also adding traces of water. Using distilled water to make your cubes may be best for purists.
You’ll require a martini shaker and jigger or a pitcher and tall spoon if you’re making more than two at a time for a larger group. Jiggers come in many measurements, but it is the ratio of vodka to vermouth that matters, so use whatever groovy jigger you like.
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It’s become commonplace for many households to keep vodka in the freezer, but resist the temptation. Keep your vodka at room temperature with the rest of your liquor and you’ll have an easier time producing the correct amount of water. Instead, keep your martini glasses chilled in the freezer and always store your vermouth in the refrigerator after it has been opened: it’s perishable.
The fun part -- the ritual itself is almost as enjoyable as the final drink.
- Fill the small side of the jigger with vermouth. Whether it reads ½ ounce or ¾ ounce only matters when it comes to the final size of the martini; not the taste of the martini. Now pour the vermouth that is in your jigger, inside the shaker.
- Fill the shaker with a generous amount of ice.
- Fill the large side of the jigger with vodka, and then pour that inside the shaker. Repeat at least two more times. The more vodka you add will make a dryer martini, but start at a three-to-one ratio and adjust according to your taste.
- Now… wait… wait… let everything just sit in your shaker for a full minute. Use this time to put your briny olives in the martini glass.
- Shake your ingredients for about 15 seconds then strain into your glass. (If preparing for a larger group, make in a pitcher and stir with a long spoon).
Enjoy the delicious, possibly sublime martini you just created. Take note of the dryness and adjust the ratio of vodka to vermouth for your future creations.