Whether your penchant is for gin, vodka or a splash of both, we’ve got you covered.
Is there a cocktail that has evolved more over the years than the Martini? The pre-Prohibition recipe of equal parts gin and vermouth with a few dashes of orange bitters became a behemoth pour of vodka with nary a drop of vermouth in sight in the 1950s. A few decades later, everything and anything (mostly, fruit juice and artificial flavoring) put in angled glassware was deemed a (fill-in-the-blank) ‘tini. Today, the pendulum is swinging back in favor of the real deal.
Sure, purists will declare you always have to use gin and a healthy measure of vermouth, but as long as a drink is balanced, well made and stays somewhat true to its roots, we’ll give it a pass. These modern versions – with butterfly pea extract, sea bean-infused vermouth, saline solution and even some white rum sneaked in there – pay ode to the stirred, booze-forward, elegant sip that never goes out of style.
Recipe courtesy of Ricardo Murcia, Director of Beverage, MGM National Harbor
Murcia wanted to create a take on the classic Vesper that was visually appealing and would appeal to both gin and vodka fans. His fragrant version uses a few drops of extract from the butterfly pea flower, which naturally turns it a lovely shade of blue that changes to pink or purple, depending on the light and the pH level of the other ingredients added.
- 2 oz. St. George Botanivore Gin
- 1 oz. Absolut Elyx Vodka
- 0.75 oz. Lillet Blanc
- 5 drops Butterfly pea extract (available on amazon.com)
- Orange peel, for garnish
Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with the orange peel.
Recipe courtesy of Jess Lambert, head bartender, Vol. 39
The design and name for the swanky, book-themed bar at the Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago was inspired by the tomes of encyclopedias found there during excavation. Lambert’s flight of six mini Martinis includes an Astoria, a traditional one, a Gibson riff, and this Sherry-based libation. En rama Sherry refers to a style bottled straight from the cask.
- 2 oz. Ford’s Gin
- 1 oz. Fino en Rama Sherry
- 2 dashes Orange bitters
- Lemon peel, for garnish
Add the first three ingredients to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe, and garnish with an expressed lemon peel that’s discarded.
Oyster Brine Martini
Recipe courtesy of James Nelson, beverage director, BLT Steak
“Nothing reminds me of the fresh bounty the ocean has to offer more than a freshly shucked oyster or fresh sea beans,” Nelson says. Oyster liqueur and sea beans give it the salty flavor of a Dirty Martini, without an olive juice in sight, and don’t change the character of the base spirit. “Some ingredients have the power to transport you to a different time and place.”
- 2 oz. Hangar 1 Vodka
- 1 oz. Sea bean-infused dry vermouth (see Note)
- Liquor of 1 Kumamoto oyster
- Pickled cipollini onion, for garnish
Add the first three ingredients to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with the cipollini onion.
For the sea bean-vermouth:
Seal a handful of sea beans and 2 cups dry vermouth in a sous vide bag. Cook them sous-vide just under the boiling point of alcohol until the desired flavor is achieved. Alternatively, macerate sea beans in the vermouth for a few days, then strain out solids.
Storms a Brewing
Recipe courtesy of Vandi Farren and Reyka Vodka
This libation takes the Dirty Martini to a whole new level. Juice from a jar of black olives gives it way more color than the typical cloudy greyish-brown liquid. If you like a wetter Martini, add a splash of vermouth in with the vodka and olive brine instead of just using it to rinse the glass.
- 2 oz. Reyka Vodka
- 0.5 oz. to 1 oz. Black olive juice
- Dry vermouth, for rinsing glass
- Black olive stuffed with chèvre cheese, for garnish
Pour a little vermouth into a coupe, swirl to coat, and then pour out the excess. Add the first two ingredients to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into the prepared coupe, and garnish with the black olive.
Recipe courtesy of Tony Krash, co-creator, Midnight Rambler
The name of this cocktail refers to a brand of sound equipment used by Sears from 1915 to 1972 (as well as the hue of the drink). Solomon sought to update the Gibson with Texas flavors, ingredients and onions. He uses Crazy Water #4 from Mineral Wells, Texas – straight and in a saline solution – which he says “allows for enhanced perception of the flavors and nuances of the drink.”
- 0.75 oz. Crazy Water #4 mineral water (can substitute another water high in mineral content)
- 0.25 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
- 2 oz. Beefeater 24 Gin
- Dash orange bitters
- 2 drops Mineral saline (see Note)
- Chipotle pickled onion on a pick, for garnish
Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with the chipotle pickled onion.
For the mineral saline:
Solomon mixes 10% kosher salt by weight into Crazy Water #4. You can substitute another water high in mineral content for a similar effect.
Two Paths One Way
Recipe courtesy of Jeff Jagger, bar manager, Townsend
This sip is Townsend’s variation on a classic gin Martini, with the base spirit of a contemporary partner. “The blanc vermouth adds depth, the génépy adds a refreshing and herbal complexity, [and] Jamaican rum provides tropical and bright fruit notes,” Jagger says. “This Martini is smooth, refreshing, and perfect for the sunny days ahead of us."
- 1.75 oz. Gin
- 0.75 oz. Génépy
- 0.75 oz. Blanc vermouth
- 0.25 oz. Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum
- 3 dashes Lavender bitters
- Lemon peel, for garnish
Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail glass, add ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with the lemon peel.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter or Instagram @kmagyarics.