The Martinez Cocktail Evolves

Plus 3 different versions of this gin-based cocktail


By Judith Klinger

The elusive Martinez is an aromatic, gin based cocktail with an underlying sweetness. And that’s about all that anyone will ever agree on. This classic cocktail is slowly being rediscovered, but what version you will be served is anyone’s guess.

Maybe it was invented by the legendary bartender Jerry Thomas for a traveller on his way to Martinez. Or maybe the traveler’s name was Martinez. Or maybe O.H. Byron should be credited with inventing the Martinez because his version was published in 1884 in the The Modern Bartender’s Guide; while Thomas’s version wasn’t published until 1887 in the 3rd edition of The Bar-Tender’s Guide (also called How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant’s Companion.).
It seems as though cocktail history stories are like shaggy dogs stories, they grow more complex and bewildering with every telling.

In the early days of cocktails, most were sweetened by using Maraschino liqueur, Italian sweet vermouth, curacao or even gum sugar; so it’s no surprise that the Martinez has both sweet vermouth and Maraschino. The original version of this gin based cocktail would most likely have been made with Old Tom Gin, which was a sweetened gin, so by all accounts this would be a very sweet drink.

Jerry Thomas’ version went like this:
1 part Old Tom Gin
2 parts sweet vermouth
1 bar spoon of Maraschino
1 dash Boker’s Bitters

Thomas shook his Martinez, but modern mixologists stir. Boker’s Bitters aren’t made anymore, but some cocktail historians recommend using Fee Brother’s Old Fashioned Bitters if you are looking to recreate the original Martinez.

Dale Degroff has an interesting version of the Martinez in his book, “The Essential Cocktail.” He uses equal parts gin and sweet vermouth, a few dashes of Angostura bitters, but he replaces the Maraschino with a dash of curacao.

Around our house, we have two versions of the Martinez:
2 parts gin to 1 part sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
1/4 part Maraschino OR 1/4 part Triple Sec depending on our mood
Garnish with a flamed orange peel or lemon slice.

We always stir, never shake our Martinez.

If you’d like to try a trendier version of the Martinez, this Balsamic version comes from Agostino Perrone, the head bartender at the Ritz bar in London:

1 part gin
1 part sweet vermouth
Dash of Maraschino
Dash of Galliano
Dash of Balsamic vinegar (the real, aged, syrupy Balasmic)
Dash of Abbots bitters

The Martinez evolves and changes, but it fundamentally remains a delicious, classic cocktail. And who cares if it was the precursor of the Martini?  It deserves its very own place in your cocktail repertoire.

This article originally appeared at Honest Cooking, an international online food magazine featuring more than 70 food and wine writers from across the globe, with a focus on exciting recipes, food news and culinary travel.

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