Martini terminology is as dense as an owner's manual for a Volvo. But it’s necessary to master if you want to receive the Martini of your dreams. To help you better communicate what you really want to your bartender, we created this guide. After reading this dictionary of terms, you’ll be ordering and drinking Martinis like a pro.
The traditional way to make a Martini is with gin, and many Martini aficionados argue that it is the only way to serve the drink. The spirit adds an herbaceous kick to the drink, thanks to its infusion of herbs and botanicals, and a touch of bitterness. Gins come in a variety of styles with different intensities of juniper and spice, and can be either unaged or cask aged. Each version of the spirit produces its own unique style of Gin Martini.
Clean, crisp and minimal, vodka is the go-to spirit for Martini drinkers who despise the pungently herbaceous flavor of gin. While it might not be the original way the drink was intended to be made, a Vodka Martini can be every bit as complex as its gin counterpart with the addition of orange bitters or vermouth.
This is the default way in which a Martini is made. The bartender pours the spirit of choice and dry vermouth into a mixing glass with ice, and then stirs until the cocktail is perfectly chilled and just slightly diluted.
If you, like James Bond, like your Martini to be extra-chilled and extra-diluted, with ice chips gracing the surface, then go ahead and order your cocktail shaken, not stirred. This is often the way in which Vodka Martinis are made.
If you like your Martini with an extra-savory twist, this is the call for you. Made with a bar spoon or two of olive brine, and traditionally garnished with olives, a Dirty Martini can be made with either gin or vodka. While most bartenders add equal parts vermouth and olive brine to a Dirty Martini, you can ask for your cocktail to be Extra Dirty or Filthy for a ratio that leans more heavily on the brine.
No, this does not mean that your Martini is made without any vermouth at all—but it is the closest you can get to drinking a Martini that’s just straight gin or vodka. This call specifies less than the standard measure of vermouth (the standard pour for a Martini is one ounce). Typically, a Dry Martini is half the usual amount and an Extra Dry Martini is made with a quarter-ounce of vermouth (or the glass is simply rinsed with vermouth).
A Gibson is simply a Martini that is garnished with a cocktail onion in lieu of an olive or swath of lemon zest.
This Martini variation is close to a Martinez, the drink that many cocktail historians believe evolved into the Martini. Made with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth, orange bitters and a lemon twist, the cocktail is more complex and boldly flavored than your standard Martini.
On the Rocks
This order calls for a Martini that is served over ice in a lowball glass rather than “up” (see below), in a coupe glass or cocktail glass. Serving the cocktail this way will keep the drink colder longer, but will also result in more dilution over time.
This term is the exact opposite of “on the rocks.” Also referred to as “up,” this call specifies that after a drink is chilled with ice (by either stirring or shaking), the cocktail is strained into a glass (preferably chilled) and served without ice. With a Martini, you generally never have to specify to your bartender that you want your drink “straight up” or “up” because that is how it is supposed to be served.
Fittingly, this call is the opposite of “dry” and specifies that you want your Martini with more vermouth than the standard amount. If you want your Martini to be equal parts gin and vermouth, you can either order your cocktail Extra Wet or, more appropriately, order a 50/50 Martini.
A Reverse Martini is exactly what its name implies: The ratio of gin (or vodka) and vermouth are flipped, resulting in a Martini that has two ounces of vermouth and one ounce of spirit. This Martini is lighter in flavor and alcohol, and obviously not for anyone that doesn’t like the taste of vermouth.
With a Twist
No, this has nothing to do with that Chubby Checker song or your bartender dancing while he or she makes your Martini. A twist simply refers to a swath of freshly cut lemon peel, which the bartender expresses over your Martini and leaves in the glass to release its oils in your drink. While a twist usually implies lemon zest, you can ask your bartender for any type of citrus peel—orange, lime or grapefruit.
This archaic term is something that you’ll probably have to explain to your bartender if you ask for it. A “Burnt Martini” calls for a Martini that includes a splash of smokey single malt scotch. While it sounds odd, the addition actually gives the cocktail a savory edge akin to olive brine—albeit a bit more of a barbequed meat flavor than salt.