How to Order Like a Pro: Martini Edition

July 18, 2014

The martini is a true classic, enjoyed by cocktail lovers across the world. This drink may seem simple, consisting of only two ingredients (gin and dry vermouth), but in actuality it’s not always that easy to order… At least if you don’t know the appropriate lingo. This post will walk you through how to order a martini like a pro.

The basic martini has a deceivingly simple recipe, usually consisting of 4 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth (I say usually, because the ratio can easily be changed to suit your liking, but more on this a little further down).

Photos by ADV Photography


The Basic Martini

2 oz gin
½ oz dry vermouth

Pour in a cocktail shaker over ice and do one of the following things: Stir for approximately 30 seconds and strain into a martini glass OR Shake vigorously for approximately 30 seconds and strain into a martini glass (more on shaking vs. stirring below).


This might seem like a very easy drink to order at a bar or to make yourself but there are so many variations, all of which taste quite distinct. You may have your heart set on the above cocktail just to find out the bartender decided to give you a glass full of olive brine instead (The Dirty Martini: You either love it, or you hate it – more on this below). There are a couple of standard terms and concepts everyone needs to be aware of when ordering this delicious libation.

Vodka Vs. Gin

The traditional martini cocktail is made with gin, however, many people prefer the taste of vodka. If you’re at a bar and you order a martini, it will always be made for you using gin. If you’d like vodka instead, don’t expect to be asked. Make sure to order a vodka martini instead.

Some Like it Sweet

The martini is made with dry vermouth (a dry fortified white wine). You could also ask for sweet vermouth in your cocktail (a sweeter red version). This is done by ordering a sweet martini. You could also order a perfect martini which uses 50% sweet and 50% dry vermouth.


Wet or Dry

This refers to the ratio of gin (or vodka) to vermouth. If you order a wet martini, the amount of vermouth will be increased.  If you order a dry martini, expect it to be heavier on the base spirit. A dry martini may only have a splash of vermouth while a very dry martini may have no vermouth at all (yum! I love martini glasses filled with nothing but vodka!!).

You Dirty Bastard!

Now we get to the olive brine… yummy!!!

A dirty martini consists of the standard martini recipe with an added kick: the brine that the bar olives were soaking in. Although the idea of drinking olive infused salt water may not appeal to everyone, the people who love this version REALLY love it. To them, a martini without this added feature is pointless if not completely stupid and irrational. A dirty martini will have a couple of splashes of brine in it, while an extra dirty martini will have quite a bit more.

What Goes on Top?

All fine cocktails need to be garnished with something on top and the martini is no different. Here you generally have 4 options:

1) Some Olives – This is common for a dirty martini, but sometimes you’ll also find them in a regular one.

2) A Twist of Lemon – If you want your martini garnished with a lemon twist ask for a “martini with a twist”

3) A Cocktail Onion – This garnish will completely change the name of your cocktail from a martini to a gibson (God knows why, let’s not question it).

4) Clean – This means without a garnish

If You Go Out Naked it Won’t Stir Me or Shake Me Up

Once you’ve chosen the ingredients for your martini you’ll need to prepare the cocktail by mixing it together. Easy right? Well, there are actually 3 different ways that this is done. You could choose to have the drink stirred or shaken. Some people feel that stirring the drink will keep it from bruising the spirits and becoming diluted with water while others think that shaking the drink is the only way to properly unlock the flavours. If either option isn’t to your liking you could order it naked. This means that the ingredients will be taken directly from the fridge and poured into a chilled cocktail glass (no stirring or shaking required).

Well-Known Variations

There are also some other variations of the martini worth mentioning. Firstly, the traditional Italian vermouths could be swapped out for something different. For example, using Dubonnet instead of vermouth will create the “Zaza martini” (also known as a Dubonnet cocktail). You could also choose a more complex combination of spirits. A martini with gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc will give you the Vesper Martini, James Bond’s, and this author’s, preferred version (yes, I’m comparing myself to James Bond).

Other Concoctions

You may have noticed that I didn’t include any of the drinks commonly found on the “martini” menus of certain bars and restaurants. There is a simple reason for this deliberate exclusion: Although being occasionally tasty and potentially worth a try, these “-tinis” are definitely not martinis. In order to classify as a martini, a drink must have gin (or vodka, though some purists will insist that even vodka doesn’t count) and vermouth.

There are however some very tasty exceptions, for example the Patriot Martini.

A Quick Recap


Now for the, “I want to order a martini!” cheat sheet

When you decide on ordering a martini, keep the following questions in mind;

1) Do you actually want a martini, or just something in a martini / cocktail glass? If you chose the first option, continue to step 2.

2) What base do you want?

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Both (You’re crazy!)

3) Do you want a standard martini or do you want it to be sweet (or perfect)?

  • Standard = dry vermouth (no need to specify)
  • Sweet = sweet vermouth
  • Perfect = half dry and half sweet

4) Do you want it wet or dry?

  • Dry means less vermouth
  • Wet means more vermouth
  • Not specifying will give you something close to the standard recipe listed above

5) Do you want a dirty martini? How dirty?

  • Dirty martinis have olive brine
  • Go for extra dirty if you really like olives

6) What do you want to garnish it with?

  • With a twist (of lemon)
  • Olives
  • A Gibson (with a cocktail onion)
  • Order it clean if you don’t want a garnish

7) How do you want it prepared?

  • Shaken, stirred, or naked

For example, if you want vodka with just a splash of dry vermouth, garnished with a lemon, and shaken, you would say:

“Give me an extra dry vodka martini with a twist… shaken please.”

If you want a ton of olive juice in there, go for an;

“Extra dirty vodka martini, shaken.”

Now that you know the lingo, don’t be shy when ordering a martini next time you’re at your local watering hole, just ensure you know what you want and don’t be afraid to make sure you get it.

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  • Reply Mano Kardaras July 18, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Marco, a very informative post! I think it’ll really help people understand the general principles of a martini.

    I often find that unless I’m at an authentic cocktail bar (or at least one with a knowledgeable bartender), I get asked whether I want a gin or vodka martini. The assumption isn’t always gin. So depending on the venue, you may want to specify from the get-go.

    We probably have James Bond to thank for this. He loves his vodka martini.

  • Reply Brandon Wright July 18, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Love the post, very thorough! Couple more things worth noting:

    Quality of the ingredients is always important, but it’s probably the number 1 most important thing in a martini, because there is simply no masking the flavours of a low-end gin or vodka with sodas, fruit, syrup, or anything else that you may have in other cocktails. If you’re at home, spring for the good stuff, and if you’re at a bar, don’t be afraid to ask for a higher-shelf alcohol by name.

    Secondly, those stems on martini glasses aren’t just there to look cool! They’re also there to keep your drink cool, so make sure you’re holding the glass by the stem, so that you don’t unduly warm your drink up. They’re meant to be enjoyed slowly, after all.

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