The Martini is beautiful in its simplicity. But because it is such a simple cocktail—really just gin or vodka and vermouth—any change in preparation can alter the outcome drastically. Even switching between a lemon twist or an olive garnish can totally transform the drink. In this case, we’re swapping the traditional (sticklers might even say required) dry vermouth for sweet vermouth.
There is no definitive origin story for the Sweet Martini. It resembles another classic, the Martinez, but omits the maraschino liqueur. So it’s possible bartenders who didn’t have the cherry liqueur in stock started making these out of necessity. What is certain is that if you are a dry Martini fan, you are in store for something quite different here.
Where a traditional Martini is simple and clean, the Sweet Martini has the slight spice and herbal flavors inherent in sweet vermouth. Of course, it is notably sweeter, too. While you’d probably drink a Martini before dinner or during the early part of a meal, you’ll want to save your Sweet Martinis for after dinner. If you find scotch or port to be too heavy, this could be your new go-to digestif.
Because it’s sweeter, you’ll want to pick a gin that tips towards the citrusy end of the spectrum as opposed to the junipery side. Notes of orange peel or lemon zest will play better with the sweet vermouth than it will with piney, juniper-heavy ones.