Few people turn 21, order a Martini and love it the minute it touches their lips. Even 007 probably winced the first time he sipped the booze-only cocktail. But once you do catch that cold, crisp, Martini-loving bug, you’re never the same again. Because, at the end of a day, there is nothing more satisfying (or more sophisticated looking) than slurping down a crystal clear Martini. Follow this simple guide, and welcome Martinis into your cocktail-drinking repertoire. Before you know it, you’ll be gulping down ‘tinis by the coupe-ful.
If you like salty, savory things...start with a Dirty Martini
Think of olive brine as ketchup: It takes over anything it touches. So, if you’re a salt fiend, go ahead and dump in as much olive brine as you want to cover up that pungent gin flavor. Then, over time, edge off the brine until you’re just adding a scant bar spoon to the mix. Ta-da! You officially like Martinis (dirty ones, to be precise). And one day you might even skip the olive garnish altogether in favor of a zesty lemon twist.
If you like sweet, fruity things....start with a Lychee Martini
While you could technically turn to any fruity ‘tini for your first foray into the Martini world, the Lychee Martini is actually built on the bones of a standard Vodka Martini. Unlike Lemon Drops or Pomegranate Martinis, it calls for dry vermouth, which is an ingredient you’ll have to come to know and love if you aspire to be a Martini drinker. Gradually start weaning yourself off the lychee syrup, and replace it with a few dashes of orange bitters. Swap out the vodka for gin and you have yourself a refreshing, classic, old school Gin Martini—no olive garnish required.
If you like tart, citrusy things...start with a Gin Rickey
Lime juice makes almost anything better—including a simple glass of gin and club soda. The tall, refreshing, but spirit-forward cocktail might be fizzy and stretched out over ice, but its gin-heavy flavor profile means it’s close kin to a Martini. Start by making your Gin Rickey with tons of lime juice, then take it down a notch every time you make one. Once you’re drinking a Gin-Soda, you’re ready to make the jump to Martini—just remember to sip slowly. Martinis, unlike Gin Rickeys, don’t come with a straw. There’s a good reason for that.
If you like brown spirits...start with a Martinez
Often aged, slightly sweet and made at least partially with malted grain, Old Tom gin is a gin for whiskey lovers, and it’s the base spirit for a Martinez, the Martini’s rumored predecessor. A mix of Old Tom gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters, it’s a bit like a lightened up Manhattan—or, more appropriately for our purposes, a heavier Martini. Once you’ve mastered the Martinez, stir up a Gin Martini (with orange bitters and a lemon twist). You’ll be surprised how easily it slides down your tongue.
If you’re scared of the high alcohol...start with a Martini on the rocks
While a traditional Martini is served up in a coupe (or a cocktail glass if you’re living in the ‘90s), it’s not heretical to order one on the rocks. The ice will mellow and dilute the spirited cocktail as it melts, making it more mild and much easier to drink for those who fear the burn of booze. When you first start out, give the ice plenty of time to melt down before swirling it around and taking a sip. Then, every time you order one, give the ice less and less time, until you’re taking in a mouthful the moment your bartender slides you the glass. Then, my friend, you’re ready to get your drink served up.
While the obvious answer might be to start with a Vodka Martini, we’d be assuming that you already like the taste of vodka, and that’s not always the case for everyone. So here’s the next logical step: The 50/50 Martini made with equal parts gin and dry vermouth. The cocktail is bright and citrus-forward with much less botanical bite than your classic Martini. If that’s still too much gin for you, start with Julia Child’s preferred order, the Reverse Martini, made with three parts dry vermouth and one part gin (make sure you’re using fresh, good-quality dry vermouth). As your palate acclimates to the flavors, change up the ratio, scaling back on the dry vermouth and introducing more gin. Once you’re using three parts gin and one part dry vermouth, congratulations, you like Martinis.