In the ‘90s, the Martini lost its way. Up until that point, it was easy to identify a Martini, because there was really only one cocktail bearing that title—albeit with a few variations such as Perfect and 50/50. But in the ‘90s, the Martini, like Courtney Love, got a makeover. It emerged shiny and fruity, with hundreds of iterations. It was no longer a drink. It was a menu header. Now that the bartending world has regained its sanity, it’s time to celebrate the real deal Martini and call out the imposters. Here’s how to tell if a Martini on a menu is fake or real.
It contains fruit: FAKE
The only exception to this rule is a swath of lemon zest. But anything else—from a single blueberry to a full pour of pineapple juice—means the drink is not a real Martini. French Martini, we’re looking at you.
It has more that four ingredients: FAKE
A Martini has, at most, four ingredients—including the garnish: gin or vodka, dry vermouth, an olive or lemon zest and, if you insist, a splash of olive juice or perhaps a spritz of scotch. Once the number of ingredients creeps up past a quartet, you know there are some suspicious items entering into the mix.
It’s blue: FAKE
Martinis are not blue.
It’s pink: FAKE
Martinis are not pink.
It is any color other than clear or slightly yellow: FAKE
Martinis are not colorful drinks. They are clear or, if made dirty, they are a pale, foggy yellow color.
There’s a sugared rim: FAKE
If your bartender asks you if you want a Martini and then proceeds to coat the rim of a glass with crystalline sugar, get out of that bar. Martinis are not candy—in fact, they’re the opposite.
It’s opaque: FAKE
If you’re looking at a “Martini” and you can’t even make out the shape of the bar through the drink, then you are not drinking a Martini. Chocolate Martinis and Espresso Martinis certainly have their place in this world, but that place is not as Martinis. They are simply appropriating the name to warn you about the glass shape you are about to receive.
It contains a syrup of any sort: FAKE
No matter if it’s simple, maple or agave, no syrup should ever be present in a Martini. If you see the word syrup on a cocktail menu under a cocktail called a Martini, then you should probably stick to straight liquor.
It is just gin or vodka: FAKE
If you order a glass of chilled vodka or gin, without any dry vermouth, then you are not getting a Dry Martini. You are getting a glass of chilled vodka or gin. It’s not just the fruity neon drinks that are the offenders here.
It is made with gin (or vodka), dry vermouth and an appropriate garnish: REAL
Hooray! You found a real deal Martini. The joy of a Martini is its simple, booze-forward recipe, and while you can, technically, swap out the dry vermouth for sherry, or add a splash or two of brine, or garnish with a pickled ramp, a true Martini should be a celebration of simplicity, balance and alcohol.