Classic Vodka Martini

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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

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

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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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink

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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5 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Steve

    I agree with James that a Martini is a mixture of gin and dry vermouth. Keep the barbarians at the gate! But a mixture of vodka and dry vermouth is also a legitimate cocktail. It’s a Kangaroo. Yeah, I know. That’s why nobody uses that name.

    I’ve resigned myself to accept the Vodkatini nomenclature for the Kangaroo.

    I did a side-by-side taste test with friends. Martini, Vodkatini. Lemon twist, olives (just as garnish, no excess brine). All 3:1 ratio. Unanimously, we picked lemon twist for the Martini. The olives fought the nuances of the gin. The lemon twist added brightness and brought the drink together. And we all picked olives for the Vodkatini. Here, the olives added umami that really improved the drink. The lemon seemed boring.

    On ratios and gins and vermouths… THAT is what makes the Martini so awesome. Negroni? Set in stone. Martini? You get to decide! Find your favorites! And remember the old saw, “There’s no wrong way to insult someone else’s Martini.”

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. JAMES

    If you want to tell people how to make a martini, then stop talking about vodka. A martini is made with GIN

  3. chris

    been a long time since i’ve had/made a martini, but now you’ve made me miss them (even the original, with gin). something important to note is that you should twist the lemon peel (skin side down) over the poured cocktail. this releases oils from the lemon that enhances the flavor and aroma. i also prefer ketel…might have to do some martini-ing soon…

  4. Mike

    It’s been a LONG time since I last watched a Bond movie, but I think in the movies he was ordering a martini, but in the books he was drinking a Vesper, an exceptionally strong and large drink and shaking it w/ ice made it much colder and with that much alcohol, a little watering down didn’t hurt.

    I don’t drink much at all but if I do drink hard liquor it’s a dirty, very dry* vodka martini, so the cloudiness is there already and I want it ice cold, so shaken is my preference. If you’re a host or bartender, you should always cater to your guest or customer’s desires. ( in drinks, at least)

    *Just a drop or two of vermouth or better, just wave the cork over the glass or even better yet, just whisper “vermouth” to the vodka.

  5. Pam

    Glass on ice in the freezer since morning: fill full of ice, add 2 drops of vermouth to ice, add 3 small pimento-stuffed green olives, pour vodka over all. Cheers!

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