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.