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Do you know how to make a Classic Vodka Martini? Here’s a clue: it takes just three ingredients—vodka, vermouth, and lemon peel—and you should definitely NOT shake it.

Photography Credit: Nancy Mitchell

Drinking a martini feels like a very grown-up thing to do: sophisticated, classy, in-the-know.

While we can’t promise you’ll feel all those things every time you drink one, you’ll definitely feel something after having one or two, because a martini has a ton of alcohol in it. You’ve been warned!

Classic Martini - stirred vodka martini with pitcher

Classic Martini - stirred vodka martini with pitcher

THE PROPER WAY TO MAKE A MARTINI

Sorry, James Bond. “Shaken, not stirred” is not the proper way to make a martini. The proper way to make a martini is to stir it, and definitely not shake it.

Drinks that have juice in them, like lemon or lime, are meant to be shaken to thoroughly mix the ingredients. But a cocktail without any citrus, like a martini, which contains just two ingredients—vodka and vermouth—doesn’t require shaking.

In fact, the shaking makes the drink look cloudy and less visually appealing. A martini, then: always stirred, never shaken.

WHICH VODKA TO USE FOR A MARTINI

This is a very spirit-forward drink. You’ll definitely be tasting the alcohol, so it’s a good time to use a high-quality vodka. I like Ketel One, but any vodka you prefer will work.

Vodka Martini Shaken Recipe - clear martini on gold tray with lemon garnish

Vodka Martini Shaken Recipe - clear martini on gold tray with lemon garnish

A BIT ABOUT VERMOUTH

Vermouth is a fortified wine that’s been flavored with herbs and botanicals. (Try it on its own—it’s quite tasty!) Vermouth comes in a few different varieties, but the most common ones you’ll encounter are sweet (Italian) and dry (French).

For a martini, you’ll want a dry vermouth, which adds some herbal nuance to the smoothness of vodka. I recommend Dolin or Noilly Prat’s dry vermouth.

If you’re looking for a sweeter, gentler drink, try a blanc vermouth, like Dolin Blanc, which combines the sweetness of a red vermouth with the dryness of a white one.

THE BEST VODKA-TO-VERMOUTH RATIO

Vermouth has its own martini controversy, namely: how much should you add?

Opinions vary. Some say to mix 4 parts vodka with 1 part vermouth; others recommend just rinsing the glass with vermouth before pouring in the vodka, and some drinkers forgo the vermouth altogether! (That last one is not really a cocktail so much as a chilled glass of vodka, but hey, do what makes you happy!)

For my part, I think a ratio of roughly 3:1 vodka and vermouth is the way to go.

LOVE A GOOD COCKTAIL? TRY THESE RECIPES!

Classic Vodka Martini Recipe

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It should be noted that the other classic martini is a gin martini, so feel free to go in that direction if that’s more your style!

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 3/4 ounces dry vermouth
  • Lemon peel
  • Ice

Method

1 Mix the vodka and vermouth: Fill a mixing glass or pint glass with ice. Add the vodka and vermouth.

2 Stir: Stir for at least 30 seconds.

3 Prep your glass: Allow the drink to sit for a minute. Meanwhile, rub a lemon peel around the rim of a cocktail glass.

4 Strain: Strain the drink into the glass, and drop the lemon peel in. Sip and savor!

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Nancy Mitchell

Nancy is a writer and photographer living in New York, New York. She makes drinks with local and homegrown ingredients and writes about the New York cocktail scene on her Instagram feed Instagram and at her blog, The Backyard Bartender.

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Category: Recipes