Martini Variations

For me, the classic martini cannot be beaten.

However, I have experimented with a whole world of martini variations and have enjoyed it thoroughly so I wholeheartedly recommend it to you all.

A martini is in all honesty a very simple drink. It consists of a glass, gin or vodka, vermouth and a garnish.

The smallest alteration to this combination can make a world of difference. Indeed, some of the most classic variations have barely different ingredients at all.

A few teaspoons of olive brine makes a dirty martini. A pickled onion makes a gibson. The lightest touch converts them into a wholly different experience, some with completely separate identities, processes, stories and fans.

There is only one way to find out which you are the biggest fan of. You need to experiment and try as many as possible.

Not in one sitting, of course, there are so many types to try! It could take months. It should probably take years – but make sure you enjoy the journey, collect the stories, experiment – this is all part of the fun. If you find – or even create – a variety that you particularly like over all others, please let me know.

I love to hear what preferences other people have, be it the timeless dirty, the luscious lychee, the subtle vesper – regale me with your own experiences. And if you come up with a new martini innovation please share it with us – your clinking comrades!

For now, here are several varieties for you to try. Have fun!

THE TITANS

#1 The Classic Martini

The unquestionable baseline. standard. It’s made with gin, plus a small measure of vermouth.

It comes on the spectrum of sweet to dry depending on how much vermouth you add.

It should also be served with a twist of lemon peel or 1-3 olives – but not the olive brine! That would make it a dirty martini.

#2 The Vodka Martini

This variation was once known as the Kangaroo, before Sir Ian Fleming enshrined it in the martini world. In its most simple form it is made exactly the same as a classic martini but with vodka instead of gin.

#3 The Dirty Martini

The Dirty Martini is made almost the same way as a classic martini, but with the addition of olive brine, usually 2-6 tsps according to taste.

There are different conventions on the number. Some people recommend that it should be an odd number, usually one or three, others stand by the rather iconic looking two olives. I would leave it up to you to decide your preference. It’s not critical, particularly if you have some on the side as well.

#4 The Filthy Martini

Many people assume that a filthy martini is simply a dirty martini with a particularly large volume of brine added to it.

In fact, a filthy martini is like a classic, but garnished with a pickled caperberry.

Its salty-sour flavour makes it an excellent accompaniment to seafood.

It is a highly underrated martini variation.

#5 The Gibson Martini

This is a classic martini but garnished with a small, pickled onion. It can be visually striking and has a distinctive, slightly pungent flavour that gives it a perfect sharpness before dinner whilst also retaining the oily-smooth consistency of a classic martini.

I also think it looks striking in an understated, almost demure fashion. The drink has clean geometry with the straight lines of the glass paired with the perfect sphere of the pickled onion, nestling in the glass like a baby full moon.

#6 The Perfect Martini

Much like a filthy martini, the perfect martini is often misunderstood.

While some people think it means “an ideal type of martini” or something along those lines, it is actually quite a specific recipe involving two parts gin or vodka with one part each of sweet and dry vermouth.

#7 The Upside Down Martini

This is like a classic martini but mostly vermouth with a splash of gin or vodka. It’s not nearly as strong as a classic martini, but still as elegant and you can partake in just as much of the martini ceremony. It’s a version that needs more publicity.

#8 The Bone Dry Martini

This is a simple martini variation, but with only the smallest amount of vermouth, ranging from half a teaspoon to mere molecules of vapour around the glass.

The challenge, but also potentially fun part of this martini is making sure you add the correct amount of vermouth.

You can rub, swill, dump, drop, spray or even gargle your way to the finished product, but be warned – this one is strong!

#9 The Montgomery Martini

Named after Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, the 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, this is a classic martini defined by its 15:1 gin-to-vermouth ratio.

In homage to his North African victories in World War Two, it’s a dry martini, albeit not as dry as a Bone Dry Martini.

#10 The Churchill Martini

Sticking to the theme of World War Two, the Churchill martini is served the same way the First Sea Lord liked it: without vermouth.

It is simply a martini glass filled with sufficiently cold gin, but there are some delightful ceremonies that have sprung up about the pourer’s interaction with the vermouth.

#11 The Vesper Martini

Created by Sir Ian Fleming in his novel Casino Royale, this martini variation includes both gin AND vodka. It was brought to the attention of many in the 2006 film starring Daniel Craig as Bond and the beautiful Eva Green as the femme fatale Vesper Lynd after whom the drink is named.

#12 The Martinez

This is likely the closest thing to the first martini ever made or could at least be thought of as the “prequel” to what we drink today.

There are a number of stories over its creation and several variations of the recipe itself, but in general this martini is much sweeter to the dry martinis we are more accustomed today. Nonetheless it is still a good quality cocktail still often appearing on menus around the world.

#13 The Hot Martini

This is simply a martini, made as you like it, topped with some high proof alcohol and set alight.

It naturally creates a dramatic visual flair plus a heady aroma, without heating up the martini itself.

Needless to say that this martini variation comes with more safety warnings than normal.

#14 The Spicy Martini

This is a simple, classic martini, with the addition of a few drops of some form of hot sauce to taste. It’s a fantastic drink for whetting your appetite or if you fancy something with a bit of fiery bite.

You can also garnish it with a number of items, including lemon, chilli, pepper or olive, although if you pick the latter you might prefer the next martini in the list.

#15 The Hot ‘n’ Dirty Martini

This is very similar to the spicy martini, but with the addition of olive brine to taste (usually around 2-6 tsps). Garnish with roasted pepper, or olives. If you can find olives stuffed with pepper or chilli even better.

Those who order the martini are rarely boring.

#16 The Paisley Martini

This is an underrated variation in need of a revival. It’s a classic martini with the addition of a teaspoon or two of whisky, named after the Scottish town which was once the centre of the whisky industry.

The drink sounds quite explosive and dangerous but I thoroughly recommend it as a really interesting, complex and surprisingly civilised drink. It’s especially lovely in winter.

#17 The Smokey Martini

This is a beautiful and evocative martini with just a hint of whisky (preferably a peaty malt) rubbed around the inside of the glass.

If you’re wondering what martini might go well with a cigar, this is the one.

It also just seems to work when the nights are drawing in and it’s time for a quiet drink by the fireplace.

#18 The Gypsy Martini

This is a slightly sweetened variation with a very pretty garnish.

Make a classic martini or a vodka martini, and garnish with a single maraschino cherry.

Those who prefer this variation tend to prefer their martinis with a little more vermouth than the bone dry fans. You might also prefer it with a sweet vermouth rather than a dry one.

If you’re going to pour this one, I would also recommend adding a teaspoon or two of the maraschino syrup to really enhance the flavour.

#19 The Limoncello Martini

This is a very simple variation on a classic martini. Add a teaspoon or two of limoncello to a classic martini and garnish with lemon peel, rather than olive.

The tart citrus adds a pleasant and refreshing kick to the martini whilst also toning down its dryness. It’s very good after a hot day and an ideal primer for any sort of fried seafood.

#20 A Martini on the Rocks

This is a classic martini served to your usual preference, but in a glass with ice.

It is usually a contingency drink, for when you haven’t kept the gin in the freezer. Nonetheless, it is a refreshing version and while not nearly as magical as the original, it still hits the spot.

UBIQUITUOUS COCKTAILS

#21 The Espresso Martini

Despite only having been invented in the 1980s, this drink has taken the world by storm and firmly established itself in the cocktail history books in a comparatively short period of time.

It combines vodka, kahlua and espresso, shaken vigorously with ice, then poured gently into a glass, allowing the creamy froth to float to the top. It’s a luxurious pick-me-up with a stimulating, balanced taste and exquisite texture.

#22 The Lychee Martini

This is a martini for those who prefer something a little sweet. It is another American invention, having been first concocted in New York City, but it has decidedly Asian roots and influence.

#23 The Porn Star Martini

A bombastic, provocative and titillating martini variation, I was tempted not to include it on the website, but relented due to its sheer success. It contains passion fruit, vanilla, vodka and lime juice and comes with a shot of sparkling wine as a chaser.

#24 The Breakfast Martini

This beautiful cocktail mixes gin or vodka with orange liqueur, lemon juice and the magic ingredient: marmalade

This is a very special drink that I would recommend at any time of the day, not just at breakfast.

Indeed it makes a delicious post-dinner cocktail with a lovely fresh, sweet-and-sour taste and pick-me-up sugar hit if you’d rather avoid the caffeine high of an espresso martini.

This is such a delicious drink, don’t be put off by the time of day it suggests.

#25 The Lemon Drop Martini

This cocktail marks another chapter in the martini history of San Francisco.

Strong, sweet and sharp it’s a simple mix of vodka or gin with lemon juice and sugar.

It’s a delightful hit and easy to prepare.

#26 The Candyfloss / Cotton Candy Martini

If ever there was a martini for those with a sweet tooth, this is it.

This cocktail also brings the visual flair of the candyfloss/cotton candy sitting on top of the glass like a pastel cumulonimbus.

Wait until you drop it into the drink itself and watch it dramatically dissolve at high speed; it’s a theatre of glucose.

#27 The Appletini

This is a retro classic that keeps coming back, probably because it’s delicious.

It balances the sweet, sharpness of apple, with the strength of vodka, but there are several variations, some with liqueur, some with apple juice, some with honey or other sweeteners. For me, the simpler the better, and I tend to prefer a vodka/schnapps 50:50 mix.

#28 The Gimlet

This is a vital cocktail to have in your repertoire. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare, sweet and sour, refreshing and half the strength of a classic martini.

Some people will make it using freshly squeezed lime juice but you can whip them up using a 50:50 mix of vodka/gin with Rose’s lime cordial (but it’s got to be Rose’s). This might sound cloying and excessive but it works!

#29 The French Martini

This is another New York creation, originating in the 1980s. It takes its name from its French ingredient Chambord – a sweet, raspberry liqueur.

It also includes vodka and pineapple juice.

It’s technically a sweet, fruit cocktail rather than a strict martini, but I include it in this list because decades later, the martini name has stuck.

#30 The Cucumber Martini

This is a very refreshing, delicate martini that involves muddling cucumber into your gin or vodka in advance of pouring.

If you are able to let the cucumber infuse the gin or vodka for a few hours in the fridge before straining and placing the alcohol into the freezer to get really cold you can enjoy a really beautiful martini, garnished with an additional slice of fresh cucumber.

Further Variations

Here is a selection of miscellaneous posts on previously made martini variations. As you can see, some of these involve an experimentational approach, but the possibilities are endless. Scroll down further for selections of martini variations arranged by category.

Infused Martinis

These are martinis where the gin or vodka has been infused with an additional ingredient prior to being served, adding extra dimensions of flavour to the drink.

Mar-tea-nis

These are a specific type of infusion martini made using gin or vodka blended at home with certain types of tea. Some of them work, some of them are less effective, but it’s an interesting journey of discovery regardless.

Sweet Martini Variations

This a selection of martini variations with sweeter characteristics.

Savoury Martini Variations

This is a selection of martini variations with more savoury flavours.