If you didn’t know any better, you might assume the classic martini was a vodka-based drink. And while it can be made with vodka (it usually needs to be referred to as a “vodka martini” in that case), historically speaking, the main ingredient is actually gin. The next ingredient is vermouth. From there, this highly adaptable cocktail can be made a variety of ways — depending on the drinker’s preference.
Do you enjoy your cocktail a little sweeter? Use sweet vermouth. Do you enjoy it dry? Dry vermouth is for you. Do you enjoy your cocktails on the boozier side? Add a lot more gin than vermouth. In fact, if you really love the botanical spirit, a simple splash of vermouth will do. Throw in an olive, or a lemon peel and you have the makings of a great evening.
Since June 19th is National Martini Day, we decided to ask some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the best gins to mix into the iconic drink. James Bond would be proud of their choices — running the gamut from household names to lesser known brands.
Tanqueray No. 10
Chris Gaeta, bartender at The Dawson in Chicago
I like to choose a gin that truly celebrates the spirit and the one that always comes top of mind is Tanqueray No. 10. Besides being an amazing gin for cocktails, the small bitch production holds its own with just a splash of dry vermouth. You can experience notes of juniper and pine but also more citrus flavors like grapefruit, orange, and lime.
I like how clean and complex this gin opens up when diluted just right — which makes it ideal for use in a martini.
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The Damrak Harbour Method: Shaken Glassware: Coupe Glass Garnish: Dried Orange Wheel -⅔ oz Lemon Juice -⅔ oz Green Tea Syrup -⅓ oz @ferrandcognac Dry Curaçao -2 oz @damrakgin Combine all the ingrediënts in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and double strain into a chilled coupe glass. Add garnish. • I've started a new drink in the making. Starting with this Gin Sour.🍋 The goal for this drink is creating a story, that is changing this drink to a tiki drink. So a concept drink, with knowing what I kinda want to reach in the end. So short story: Sour -> ? (Dont know how many changes it gets) -> Tiki.🗿 For the story about this drink we start at the origin. It’s the Golden Age. The Damrak harbour (Amsterdam’s “inner harbour”) is the mooring place for merchant ships arriving from and departing to exotic ports across the globe.🗺 Here herbs, fruits and spices are unloaded🏗 before being weighed and tested for quality.👨🏼🔬 This drink is composed out of some of the fruits and spices that this harbour received. As we received many oranges from Curaçao, herbs and spices from South East Asia oh… And gin became recently very popular as a typical English product and a hype was born. • Cheers • #MixersOriginals #MixersDamrakHarbour #MixersCapeColony #CocktailCoalition #Lemon #GreenTeaSyrup #Teacocktail #Gin #Amsterdamgin #Drycuraçao #orangeliqueur #Damrakgin
Ryan Andrews, lead bartender at Prohibition in San Diego
This is an impossible question to answer as every gin is unique and different. If I want a citrusy martini, I’ll go with something like Damrak. If I want savory, I’ll go with Gin Mare or St. George Terroir.
The Botanist Gin
Cari Hah, bar manager at Big Bar in Los Angeles
I’m a martini fanatic and the gin I use depends on the kind of martini I’m making. If I’m in the mood for a dirty martini, I love using Botanist Gin and adding a measure of Dirty Sue Premium Olive Juice to the party with really dry vermouth (Miro dry vermouth is my favorite). The Botanist Gin is made at Islay in Scotland and it has a really subtle savory smokiness that goes perfectly with Dirty Sue.
If it’s a regular martini I love using Sipsmith Gin because it’s a lovely botanical bouquet that still manages to stay dry and pairs well with dry vermouth. I like all my martinis with a lemon expressed over the top and an olive. Because why choose one when you can have both!?”
Old Raj Gin
Sean Stangle, Bartender at Estiatorio Milos in Las Vegas
I love Old Raj in my martinis. This Scottish Gin has a higher alcohol content and is made with a unique botanical (saffron) which sets it apart from others. Depending on your preference of vermouth, I love Ransom Dry with Old Raj — this gin can be very versatile.
Bombay Sapphire London Dry Gin
Pamela Wiznitzer, mixologist at The Lookup in New York City
I like a great London Dry gin for my martinis, and Bombay Dry is the perfect gin to make a 50/50 style martini (with olives please).
Daniel King, beverage director at Butchertown Hall in Nashville
I’m always advocating for Leatherbee gin. The spice is very on the nose and tip of the tongue. The gin stands up great on its own, so it makes a very bright and clean martini that is pretty hard to mess up. Almost everyone I’ve made one for wants to take a picture of the bottle before they leave.
Josh Cameron, head bartender at Boulton & Watt in New York City
My buddy recently got me reaching for Empress Gin. Its balance, light citrus, and viscosity — not to mention its indigo hue, thanks to the butterfly pea flower blossom infusion — has guests asking questions and wanting more.
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🎉Cheers to FRI-YAY!!!🎉What do you have planned for this weekend? . Wanna know more about THIS champagne cocktail?🥂🍹?! Super easy!! Just grab some of your favorite top shelf dry gin, squeeze fresh lemon juice🍋, Prosecco and finish off with a Luxardo cheery🍒, it’s like a mini dessert at the end of your cocktail sips!!! . . . . . #craftcocktail #proseccotime #proseccolover #champagnecocktail #gincocktails #gincocktail #cocktailsofinstagram #cocktailsoftheday #gindrinks #luxardocherries #shanisprague #edgyvegetarian #sophisticatedhippie #healthylifestylecoach #healthylifestyletips #healthylifehappylife #healthylifestyleblog #healthylifestyleblogger #socialmarketer #microinfluencer #microinfluencers #firstwealthishealth #cheerstolife #aviationgin #champagnelifestyle #healthycocktail #healthycocktails #healthydrinking #drinksofinstagram #drinksoftheday
Mark Ferguson, bartender at Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse in Irvine, California
Aviation Gin is by far my favorite to use in a martini because it’s naturally a dry gin and that’s how I enjoy them.
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On the search for the best thirteen “Classic Vesper Martinis” and “New Modern Classics” in the UK with the @UKBG_team National Cocktail Competition, we start the weekend with a Vesper Martini from @homeofPlymouthGin. . 3 parts Plymouth gin 2 parts Absolut Elyx 1 part Kina @lillet . Garnish with lemon twist. 🍋 . Salute! 🍸 . . . . . . #PernodRicard @absolutelyx #plymouthgin #absolutvodkaelyx #vodka #gin #UKBG #london #uk #bartenders #cocktail #mix #competition #hospitality #spirits #events #createnotmade #drink #amazing #bartending #italspirits #cocktailrecipes #cocktailrecipe #cocktailbars #mixologyguide #craftedmixology #bartenderstyle
Phil Testa, beverage manager at Dream Midtown in New York City
Plymouth Gin is hands down is the best gin to add to a martini. Whenever I am out, I always order Plymouth as long as the bar carries it.
Ilan Chartor, spiritual advisor at KYU in Miami
My favorite gin to add to a martini is Beefeater. I firmly believe it’s the most balanced gin on the planet, so minimal bruising to it is ideal.
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One must break free from the ordinary, to bring out the extraordinary! . And to answer your question, no Gin Raw was wasted in this photo, it was water ;) . Your unforgettable Liquid Journey with @ginraw awaits you only @hotelartsbarcelona . . #dondiegobcn #happydays #liquidjourney #ginraw #gin #ginlover #mondaymotivation #mondayfunday #hotelartsbarcelona #bcn #barcelona #bartender #bar #drink #cocktail #cocktailtime #martini #rcmemories #instadrink #instagin #imbibe #ilovewhatido
Rico Velasquez, bartender at Jaleo by José Andrés in Las Vegas
I would choose Gin Raw from Barcelona. A Spanish gastronomist decided to experiment with distilling the gin at a lower temperature to pull a more concentrated flavor out of the gin. The main notes are makrut lime leaf, cardamom, and citron. I prefer my gin to have a citrus component.
Finish the martini with a lemon twist; the perfect garnish.
Chase Voight, head bartender at Saint Stephen in Nashville
Favorite gin for martini? Hendricks Gin. I really enjoy the heavily pronounced herbal flavors of Hendricks. It really shows up in a martini and doesn’t need any help.
Monkey 47 Gin
Dylan Knox, bartender at Vol. 39 in Chicago
Monkey 47 is the perfect gin for a martini. Structured and complex, this is one of the few gins I’ll sip neat, and the berry and lavender play really well with a good dry vermouth.