The Martinez

Don’t be fooled, the sweet old grandfather of the modern martini is still a powerful cocktail.

While the historical birth of the Martini is an understandably blurry account, with competing theories on where the drink was created and by whom, the story of the Martinez provides compelling narrative.

Of all the stories documenting its beginning, one of the more believable is that it was created in the town of Martinez in California. A prospector struck gold nearby, then entered a bar to celebrate his find. He requested that the barman mix him up something special – something different – and the earliest version of the drink was reportedly created.

It is believed that the first version was based on the Manhattan cocktail, but using gin instead of rye whiskey. As the story goes, this version of the drink was named after the California town but the name became corrupted (like many of us) over time as the drink evolved into the drier libation we know and love today.

This first iteration of the drink is thought to have involved old school Genever or Old Tom gin, with the addition of orange bitters and more vermouth, making it much sweeter than martinis we are familiar with today.


Given that the original recipe was not written down until several years after its apparent creation, there are numerous variations on the Martinez recipe. There is no single, definitive correct way to concoct it. However, one of the earliest written recipes calls for the following:

  • 1 oz / 30 ml vermouth
  • 0.5 oz / 15ml Old Tom gin (if using a dry gin you could sweeten the drink by using a sweet vermouth)
  • 3-4 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 3 dashes of sugar syrup

If you keep your gin and martini glasses in a freezer you could pour the drink straight into the glass and stir it, perhaps with a lemon garnish (although the original recipe does not specify a garnish). Otherwise, the original recipe calls for stirring the ingredients with ice and straining into a wine glass.