Shaken or stirred? It all comes down to personal preference
Channel a bit of classic cocktail charm and learn how to build a better martini at home
Martinis have come a long way since the original Martinez (two parts red vermouth, one part gin and a dash of maraschino liqueur).
Justin Taylor, head bartender at Yew Restaurant & Bar in the Four Seasons Hotel, Vancouver (and representing Canada at the Giffard International Cocktail Challenge in France), shares a simple recipe for creating a better martini bar right at home.
Q. What is – and isn’t – a martini?
A. A martini implies gin and vermouth; you can throw vodka and vermouth in the same category. Over time, the martini evolved to more gin and less vermouth, and the vermouth changed from red to white. Martini is the formal name of this specific drink; everything else is a cocktail.
Q. What are the must-haves for my home martini bar?
A. The number one thing is glassware. You need durable glass that won’t chip. A really nice martini glass isn’t necessarily the traditional V shape. There’s a coupe glass which has a more rounded shape, or you can use an old-fashioned glass.
You need a proper mixing glass like a Boston shaker, which is a 16-ounce pint glass, and a steel part that is slightly larger than the glass. You need a strainer like a Hawthorne strainer, which is a metal piece with a rounded coil to stop the ice from getting into your drink.
Those are the essentials; without them you can’t produce a good drink.
Q. Which really is better, shaken or stirred?
A. It’s personal taste. From a bartender’s perspective, the rule of thumb is if it’s stirred, the only ingredient is alcohol. If shaken, there are juices involved. They have different viscosities and you shake to infuse them better, but then again, that’s a cocktail not a martini.
Bar Talk Tips
- The classic martini calls for 2 parts gin and 1/4 part white vermouth stirred with ice, strained into a martini glass and topped with your favourite garnish
- An olive is a standard garnish; a pickled onion makes it a Gibson. “Dirty” refers to the olive brine added to a martini
- Ice should be made from filtered water. Cubes should be large and fresh from the freezer
- For a great martini or cocktail bar, you’ll need vodka, gin, rum, some type of whiskey, tequila, red (sweet) vermouth and white (dry) vermouth, three bitters (Peychaud’s, Angostura and orange) and an orange liqueur
- Use a vegetable peeler on citrus peels, then squeeze the peel over the liquid in the glass or rub it around the drinking edge for extra flavour.