The martini remains one of the most popular drinks of all time – in part because how classy the drink looks to drink out of those martini glasses, and partially because there are so many variations of them. The best martini variations, of course, remain loyal to what a true martini is.
In truth, fans of gin, vodka, and even chocolate can find that proper martini cocktail that tickles their fancy. Whether a snazzy drink sipped before the city skyline or an after-dinner cocktail to take the edge off a long, hard day, the martini serves its duty as the reliable beverage – and the best martini variations serve their duties to expand ol' reliable into a whole new spectrum of flavors.
The prototype. The martini first became codified and established in the 1930s. Before that, in the 1880s, we had the Martinez, a cocktail that would later evolve into the popular drink of choice. While I list it among the best martini variations, the martini truly is a variation of the Martinez.
To prepare a Martinez, simply take 1.5 oz of gin, 1.5 oz of sweet vermouth (not dry vermouth, as in the classic dry martini), 0.25 oz of maraschino liqueur, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, and an orange twist.
Unlike James Bond's martini of choice, this must be stirred, not shaken.
Another predecessor to the martini that now is regarded as one of the best martini variations (ironic, again, considering how this cocktail predates the gin martini), the Turf Club. This gin cocktail shares a lot in common with the martini, in particular two ingredients: gin and vermouth.
1.5 oz of gin, and 1.5 oz of sweet vermouth (yes, not dry), with a dash of Angostura bitters. This blend of gin and vermouth serves to create a very balanced taste. It resembles the "perfect" martini blend favored by some martini drinkers.
The Dry Martini
People have manhandled the classic martini. It's had something of an identity crisis, as some people who claim to love the martini don't even know what it is. They treat it like any cocktail. An undignified approach to a classy gin drink.
The original martini recipe is simple. Gin. Dry, white vermouth. While the quantity of gin has decreased over the years, the original recipe from the 1930s consists of three parts gin, and one part vermouth. However, now the popular recipe is six parts gin, and one part vermouth. Either way, the drink will serve you well.
The Dirty Martini
The first corruption of our classic martini, this cocktail throws in olives into the game. It came shortly after the emergence of the classic original, but, immediately, became part of martini culture. Possibly the best martini variation, and certainly among the more popular.
Gin and vermouth are still core players in this drink. Simply take the classic martini, and add a splash of olive juice or olive brine. Adorn the drink with an olive or two, both to soak in the alcohol of the martini, as well as leak a certain tart flavor to the drink.
And then – the first massive deviation.
The classic and dirty martinis both came with gin. Gin was the primary ingredient to the martini. But then in comes the vodka martini, substituting gin with vodka.
The balance between vermouth and gin versus vermouth and vodka are completely different, thus off-setting the entire flavor of the beverage.
Four parts vodka. One part vermouth. A perfect blend of flavors to properly balance the drink. In its own respect, the vodka martini gave mixologists the bravery to transgress tradition, to shake off the shackles of the classic martini, and use the vodka martini's success to explore a brave new world of martini cocktails.
Blue Dolphin Martini
While there are many blue martinis, only the blue dolphin martini ranks as one of the best martini variations. This isn't just the kind of drink you consume when you're feeling blue (haha, see that? I made a pun. Laugh. I need validation.).
Preparation is simple: six parts vodka, one part blue curacao, and one part peach schnapps. This blue beverage makes an ideal drink for colorful parties that require both fabulous blues and that illusion that you are fancier than you really are.
The elderflower martini is a variation on the dry martini that adds a little extra something to give the drink just a dab of sweetness to it all. It retains the class of the martini, while bringing to the table something else. Something alluring.
Simply take four parts gin, one part dry vermouth, and one part St. Germain, an elderflower extract liqueur perfect for adding a classy hint of sweetness to your martini. One of the best martini variations around, as it alters the recipe only a little without losing that classic martini flavor.
Some may not feel like the watermelon martini deserved to be ranked among the best martini variations, as it is more a vodka cocktail than a vodka martini variation. However, I disagree. While it lacks vermouth, this martini cocktail is just as good as any other cocktail.
And good for those fakers who hate martinis, but want to look classy.
There are several recipes for this. One of the best is the following: 1.5 oz of watermelon vodka, 1 oz of watermelon juice, 0.25 oz of cranberry juice, 0.25 oz of simple syrups, 0.25 oz of lime juice, and a watermelon wedge for garnish. There! A classy drink.
Bailey's Chocolate Martini
Decadent does not begin to describe this variation on the classic martini. Sacrilegious to some, as this is where the idea of the martini itself became corrupted beyond measure. Gone is the lovely gin cocktail served with dinner in a fancy place. Here we have a dessert drink.
To prepare, you need 2 oz of Bailey's Irish Cream, 0.25 oz of vodka, 0.5 oz of chocolate liqueur, and sprinkles of cocoa powder. Garnish with chocolate shavings. One of the best martini variations, and it doesn't even have vermouth in it, dry or otherwise.
Vesper Martini (or the James Bond Martini)
Ian Flemming's classic MI-6 agent sure loves his martinis. If you read the original novel, Casino Royale (which, for a number of reasons, ended up being adapted for the twenty-first Bond film), James Bond does not order a dry martini nor a vodka martini, but, rather, a Vesper Martini. It remains one of the best martini variations, in part due to how it only changes a few little things.
Having a tough time choosing between gin or vodka for your martini? Bond doesn't. He puts both in. Or, at least, prefers both. 3 oz of gin (preferably, Gordon's Gin), 1 oz of vodka, 0.5 oz of Lillec Blanc (or Cocchi Americano), and a lemon twist.
Shaken, not stirred.