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Vermouth in Martinis


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i mentioned making a perfect martini in the rob roy thread (vodka/gin + equal parts dry and sweet vermouth). mike k. thought about mocking me, then tried it and pronounced it not evil. slkinsey reports that articles have been written about "classic" martini ratios with not only sweet vermouth alone but red vermouth to boot.

anyone else?

i know the martini invites a certain kind of snobbery by design. in a world where all beginning purists know to scoff at "girlie drinks" the minimalist martini seems to be the cocktail most invoked to separate the keepers-of-truth from the dilettantes. i've met my share of people who like to talk about martinis as being just chilled vodka with a hint of dry vermouth introduced through the air-conditioning in the room, and other ridiculous things. (of course, many of these people have never even tried a gin martini.) to such people, and less extreme versions, only a super dry martini will do--a martini with sweet vermouth? why, i must be a barbarian. (as it happens i am a barbarian, but that's neither here nor there.)

so let's hear it on the subject of martinis and vermouth.

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I'll add my 2 cents...

First of all, a martini, hell alcohol of any kind sounds damn good right now considering the day I've had so thanks for making me want something I can't have!

Second, for me, I like my martinis with 3 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. I think this is a great flavor combination. This combo, to me, has to be served w/ olives.

Going back to work and wallow in (non-alcohol induced) self-pity!

Brian Hoffmeyer

"It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black."

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3 parts gin, 1 part sweet vermouth, garnished with a cherry: the classic sweet martini.

Sophisticated but not self-consciously so.

Get those damned olives out of my sweet martini!

Add a little Campari and a drop of orange oil for my signature drink.

I brandied some fresh sweet cherries, so I'll have nice big ones this winter, instead of those minuscule french ones.

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Ah, the things I do for scienceGullet. "Perfect" was ok. "Sweet" isn't cutting it for me. Campari did not help. Perhaps I added too much, but I will not repeat it. At least not today. And I'm all out of orange oil. It's not really so terrible, it's just not for me.

I agree with the appropriate use of dry vermouth, 3 to 1 is good, perhaps a tad lighter on the vermouth. This waive-the-vermouth-bottle-over-the-glass machismo stuff is silly though. I have nothing against gin on the rocks, or well chilled with ice and strained, but there's no reason to call it a martini.

A dirty martini works for me too. I never order them, not quite knowing how old that jar of olives behind the bar is or who's fingers have been it, but I sometimes make them at home.

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A dirty martini works for me too. I never order them, not quite knowing how old that jar of olives behind the bar is or who's fingers have been it, but I sometimes make them at home.

Like mine. :raz:

(when it isn't raining and I'm scheduled for an outside bar.... /mini-rant over)

Sweet Martinis or Perfect Martinis are no biggie. I've grown to accept that a "martini" is in fact a style that many other drinks throughout history have suffered as well. (Read through Q&A with Gary Regan -- there were eras when every new drink was referred to as a "corpse reviver," etc., etc.)

As I've typed before (yawn) and most likely will type again in one of these martini debate threads I'd have 99% of the martinis returned by my guests for serving up a gin with a good dose of vermouth. Our gin sales are s-l-o-w. Where I work (more indicative of the city and not my specific place of employ) a martini equates vodka -- dry or extra dry, chilled and up in a cocktail glass.

At the bar and while at work it isn't much of my ambition to correct my guests on what constitutes a proper martini but to serve up and sell what it is they are wanting, as quickly as possible with a smile.

Think variations upon a lovely, classic theme.

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Ah, the things I do for scienceGullet. "Perfect" was ok. "Sweet" isn't cutting it for me. Campari did not help. Perhaps I added too much, but I will not repeat it. At least not today. And I'm all out of orange oil. It's not really so terrible, it's just not for me.

I agree with the appropriate use of dry vermouth, 3 to 1 is good, perhaps a tad lighter on the vermouth. This waive-the-vermouth-bottle-over-the-glass machismo stuff is silly though. I have nothing against gin on the rocks, or well chilled with ice and strained, but there's no reason to call it a martini.

A dirty martini works for me too. I never order them, not quite knowing how old that jar of olives behind the bar is or who's fingers have been it, but I sometimes make them at home.

6:1 gin:dry vermouth is better for the dry martini.

3:1 is the proper ratio for the sweet martini. Which is not really sweet, just not dry.

This is a good drink to test a bartender to see if they can follow instructions. I tell them exactly what to do. Last time I ordered it, the guy put in a skewer of jumbo stuffed olives instead of the cherry I requested.

Not listening...

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I like to experiment with vermouths for martinis, so I've tried quite a few, dry, sweet and somewhere in between.

Carpano Punt E Mes, for example, turns a martini into a drink remarkably similar to a Negroni. Katherine's suggestion for a sweet vermouth and a little Campari would, I imagine, be in the same family.

Blond Lillet, which is not exactly sweet, but is much more floral and fruity than most dry vermouths, is a great addition to a martini.

When I use dry vermouth, I often add a drop or two of something else -- Green Chartreuse, Pernod, Pimms, Campari, bitters of various sorts -- just for variety.

I somehow don't think that perfect or sweet martinis (or any variations, for that matter) would appeal to drinkers of vodka martinis, who, as beans has pointed out, rarely even like any dry vermouth in their drinks. If what one likes is the relatively taste-free effect of ice cold vodka, it doesn't seem likely that one will enjoy the complexity afforded by substantial additions of vermouth.

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I haven't tried sweet white vermouths, so I can't comment on these.

Carpano Punt E Mes, for example, turns a martini into a drink remarkably similar to a Negroni. Katherine's suggestion for a sweet vermouth and a little Campari would, I imagine, be in the same family.

The drink with a touch of Campari is something I only make at home. It takes only about 1 teaspoon of Campari to give it the right edge, and for some reason, even bartenders given explicit instructions think Campari! Negroni! I can make that! and put in a whole ounce. I hate Negronis, way too sweet for me.

I somehow don't think that perfect or sweet martinis (or any variations, for that matter) would appeal to drinkers of vodka martinis, who, as beans has pointed out, rarely even like any dry vermouth in their drinks. If what one likes is the relatively taste-free effect of ice cold vodka, it doesn't seem likely that one will enjoy the complexity afforded by substantial additions of vermouth.

I did have a sweet martini made with vodka once, again, by yet another bartender who had trouble following directions. Tasteless.

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I haven't tried sweet white vermouths, so I can't comment on these.
Carpano Punt E Mes, for example, turns a martini into a drink remarkably similar to a Negroni. Katherine's suggestion for a sweet vermouth and a little Campari would, I imagine, be in the same family.

The drink with a touch of Campari is something I only make at home. It takes only about 1 teaspoon of Campari to give it the right edge, and for some reason, even bartenders given explicit instructions think Campari! Negroni! I can make that! and put in a whole ounce. I hate Negronis, way too sweet for me.

I somehow don't think that perfect or sweet martinis (or any variations, for that matter) would appeal to drinkers of vodka martinis, who, as beans has pointed out, rarely even like any dry vermouth in their drinks. If what one likes is the relatively taste-free effect of ice cold vodka, it doesn't seem likely that one will enjoy the complexity afforded by substantial additions of vermouth.

I did have a sweet martini made with vodka once, again, by yet another bartender who had trouble following directions. Tasteless.

Katherine,

What are you telling these bartenders that don't appear to listen to you? :huh::raz: Do you tell them to add only a splash of Campari? Or order a sweet, Plymouth gin Martini, stirred and served up in a cocktail glass?

If you specify the gin, I don't know how you are getting vodka. I hope you sent it back correcting the bartender.

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so, all you people who occasionally dabble in martinis with sweet vermouth: red vermouth or the sweet "bianco" vermouth?

I think the idea is that a gin-and-red-sweet-vermouth cocktail isn't a "martini" but rather something else. I have a recipe for a cocktail made with gin, sweet red vermouth and several raspberries, all shaken together. It isn't a martini.

As for a gin-and-white-sweet-vermouth (viz. Cinzano Bianco, Martini & Rossi Bianco,etc.) cocktail... that strikes me as a martini. Even though these brands of vermouth are sweeter than, say, Noilly Prat, they're still fundamentally "dry" vermouths compared to their "Rosso" counterparts. Really, I think the distinction between "red" and "white" makes more sense than between "sweet" and "dry" or "French" and "Italian."

--

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As for a gin-and-white-sweet-vermouth (viz. Cinzano Bianco, Martini & Rossi Bianco,etc.) cocktail... that strikes me as a martini.  Even though these brands of vermouth are sweeter than, say, Noilly Prat, they're still fundamentally "dry" vermouths compared to their "Rosso" counterparts.  Really, I think the distinction between "red" and "white" makes more sense than between "sweet" and "dry" or "French" and "Italian."

How so Sam?

Sweet vermouth can be either red or white (generally 15-16 percent alcohol/30-32 proof with about 15 percent residual sugar).

Then there's dry vermouth that is white (generally 18 percent alcohol/36 proof containing about 5 percent sugar).

Edited by beans (log)
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What are you telling these bartenders that don't appear to listen to you?  :huh:  :raz:  Do you tell them to add only a splash of Campari?  Or order a sweet, Plymouth gin Martini, stirred and served up in a cocktail glass?

If you specify the gin, I don't know how you are getting vodka.  I hope you sent it back correcting the bartender.

What I say is, "Three parts gin, one part sweet vermouth, a dash of Campari, and a cherry." That is, in the few places in town that actually stock Campari.

What does "dash" mean to you?

I think the problem is that I'm basically invisible. They don't always listen, so they don't necessarily get it right the first time (ie, olives instead of a cherry). Then, the second drink, they don't remember exactly what the first one was, so they guess, based on -what?- my physical appearance? - I'm a woman over the age of 40, so I must want vodka? -, instead of asking. The same bartender also messed up a saketini, mixing 3 parts vermouth to 1 part sake, and claimed that was the recipe. (Just give me the octopus!)

I don't like to send back more than one drink in an evening. I just take it as a sign that I'm at the wrong bar, or shouldn't be out drinking tonight.

It seems to be a problem with male bartenders rather than female.

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As for a gin-and-white-sweet-vermouth (viz. Cinzano Bianco, Martini & Rossi Bianco,etc.) cocktail... that strikes me as a martini.  Even though these brands of vermouth are sweeter than, say, Noilly Prat, they're still fundamentally "dry" vermouths compared to their "Rosso" counterparts.  Really, I think the distinction between "red" and "white" makes more sense than between "sweet" and "dry" or "French" and "Italian."

How so Sam?

Sweet vermouth can be either red or white (generally 15-16 percent alcohol/30-32 proof with about 15 percent residual sugar).

Then there's dry vermouth that is white (generally 18 percent alcohol/36 proof containing about 5 percent sugar).

Because I think that, for the purposes of mixing, the taste difference between a red and a white vermouth by far trumps any effects of the sugar percentage -- and I think the color difference (or rather the flavor difference that goes along with the color difference) is where the fundamental break lies. A sweeter or dryer white vermouth is still a white vermouth. Intra-vermouth sweetness differences provide a distinctly different and separate drinking experience primarily when one is drinking vermouth by itself. I don't feel that these differences are important enough to make a formula into a different cocktail if, for example, one uses sweet white vermouth instead of dry white vermouth.

For example, a martini will still taste like a martini whether or not it is made with (dry) Noilly Pratt or (sweet) Cinzano Bianco -- both white vermouths. On the other hand, switch colors to red vermouth and the resultant cocktail won't taste at all like a martini (and, indeed, it wouldn't be a martini).

--

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Some general thoughts on sweet vermouth and martinis:

As far as I can tell from various books, the martini almost certainly started out as a drink made with gin and sweet red vermouth (and bitters). Just after turn of the twentieth century, the dry variation came into being, and overtook the original, sweet variation in popularity. By the time Prohibition rolled around, "martini" meant "dry martini," the sweet variation was usually referred to as "Gin and It" (the "It" being Italian vermouth). Also, as DrinkBoy mentioned elsewhere, at that time, a "dry" martini meant a ratio of about 2 to 1 gin to dry vermouth, and not today's dribble of vermouth.

But so much for history. I agree with Sam that the categorical difference in taste is between red and white vermouth rather than between the drier and sweeter whites. And I have to admit that until Mongo mentioned it, it never occurred to me that anyone would think a sweet martini would be made with anything but red vermouth. My guess is that if you simply asked for a sweet martini in a bar without specifying which vermouth you wanted, you would either get a dumbfounded look, or you would get a drink with red vermouth (maybe both).

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What I say is, "Three parts gin, one part sweet vermouth, a dash of Campari, and a cherry." That is, in the few places in town that actually stock Campari.

I guess that's an advantage to living in San Francisco. Even the diviest of dive bars here have Campari in stock.

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I'm kinda suprised that all ewe all have failed to mention, while deconstructing the histoire of the Martini/Martinez, that it would "originally" (and yes, I ewese the term with deliberate ambiguity) have been made with Old Tom Gin. That Old Tom was a comparably sweeter drink then its London-based drier version, would inevitably have influenced the style of vermouth used in the drink (that is, sweet rather than dry).

As my addled memory recalls, the use of dry vermouth in a Martini acted as a concomitant move, in line with the growing prevalence of dry gin, hence the advent of the "dry Martini" - indicating, not the amount of vermouth ewesed, but the style of gin and the style of vermouth - a move which shadowed the decline and disappearance of Old Tom.

So, my point is this: While we all may wish to replicate as best we can the "original" martini, through the use of sweet vermouth, and bitters (orange), ultimately is it not a moot and futile experience, given we have no access to the main constituent? Hmmm?

irony doesn't mean "kinda like iron".

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Out of curiosity, what do we know about Old Tom gin other than it was sweet? Would it be possible to make a reasonable Old Tom facsimile just by adding a little sugar? I have always understood that people who have tasted examples of Old Ton Gin found it more or less indistinguishable from London gin mixed with sugar. Weren't there, at least as of a few years ago, some brands of Old Tom for sale? Boord's comes to mind.

--

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does'nt someone still make old tom gin?

i could have sworn i saw someone like gordons put out a new bottling recently(last couple of years?), could be my blurry vision playing tricks though.

had a martinez cocktail the other night for the first time, used beefeater with no sweetner and the rest to garys recipe and actually really enjoyed it, i'm not a big gin drinker (actually to be honest had a bad run in with it when i was 18 and have avoided it ever since, that and southern comfort) but since have even ventured onto dry gin martinis, a giant step for me, its made me start a new program of 'a new previously untried classic every night at work'

its all research after all.......

'the trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass'

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Because I think that, for the purposes of mixing, the taste difference between a red and a white vermouth by far trumps any effects of the sugar percentage

I have secured red and white Cinzano to accompany my Noilly (I used to say this properly until I heard Jamie Oliver say, "and add a bit of the noy-lee." Now I'm all messed up.)

I agree with Sam. A white Cinzano martini, while slightly sweeter, is not fundamentally different from a Noilly. Both reds however, taste and smell like I added a fortified red wine like marsala. I'll save the reds for my rob roys.

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  • 7 years later...

Last week, I tried a cocktail called the Amsterdam Sunshine (found via Bartender's Choice). It's basically a sweet martini or what is described as a "gin Manhattan" with gin, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, in the Manhattan ratios.

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I used Junipero gin which has a lot of character, with Vya sweet vermouth which has a ton of flavor as well including intense fruit aromas. It was fun to see how these two titans were playing with each other. The pairing worked pretty well.

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  • 3 years later...

I rarely drink, but I do like a good (dry) vodka martini.  Since I may only have one or two a year, I'd like it to be something special.  While there are a couple of vodka brands that I enjoy (Stoli & Absolut), I know next to nothing about vermouth.

 

Which vermouths might go well in a martini made with Stoli or Absolut?  Or does it matter at all?

 ... Shel


 

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In Casino Royale, James Bond wanted his martini made with Kina Lillet, now called Lillet blanc, a which is similar to vermouth.  At the Willard in Washington DC they make a dry martini by pouring a little vermouth in a glass, swirling it around then pouring it out.  Winston Churchill said a good martini was a glass of gin sipped while looking at a bottle of vermouth.


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