The martini is an icon—a celebrity in its own right—seen for decades delicately balanced in the hands of the famous, the wealthy, the powerful. James Bond wouldn’t be caught dead drinking water. It was martinis or nothing for 007. A Mad Men lunch was not complete without the martini. In fact, it was only martinis.
Served up in the signature sultry stemmed glass, the martini is unmistakable. But it is also elusive with an unknown history and too many origin stories to pin down the drink’s exact past. The velvety, cold concoction is said to be a descendant of the Martinez (or maybe it evolved from the Manhattan), and it first appeared on the scene in the 1880s, or was it the 1910s? Wherever or whenever it came from, today’s typical martini is far removed from the mother-tini, making the cocktail itself even harder to pin down—so complex, yet so simple; sophisticated, but not stuffy; classic, but never boring. Like a liquid enigma, the bold yet delicate martini is trendy and still defies all trends.
The myriad of options is what makes the drink so intricate. In its simplest form, the martini is made up of gin, vermouth, maybe a dash of bitters and a garnish. But the martini is the most customizable of classic cocktails with potentially thousands of different ways to serve it. Vodka or gin. Shaken or stirred. Olives or with a twist. From different ratios and countless techniques to endless flourishes and an array of garnish choices, it’s all based on personal preference, just like potato or pot-ah-to. Boxers or briefs.
However you take your martini, your order says a lot about you. British statesman Winston Churchill, for instance, enjoyed a martini extremely dry, most likely with a garnish of stoicism. Author Ernest Hemingway preferred his icy cold with Spanish cocktail onions. Makes sense. The four-term, Depression-era president Franklin Delano Roosevelt took his martini dirty, adorned with a lemon twist and an olive (maybe he called it the New Deal-tini).
With help from a handful of master bartenders, including “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff and Speed Rack National champion Eryn Reece, here is what your martini order says about you:
1. If you take your ‘tini down the classic route—two parts dry gin, one part dry vermouth and an optional but recommended dash of orange bitters—say no more. You’re a traditionalist. You may be old school, but you’re bold.
2. If a Gibson martini is your go-to—at the core, a classic martini, but a pickled cocktail onion makes the drink—you’ve got a style and a flair about you. You’re either a classy New Yorker up with the trends or a 70-year-old at a steakhouse. There is no in between.
3. If a vodka martini is your poison, then you’re either as complex as a vodkatini can be or you’re a beginner to the martini and vodkas make for sturdy training wheels. But disclaimer: Just chilled vodka does not a martini make.
4. There is a fine line when it comes to brine, and this drink can go from delightful to disgusting really quickly. Customizable with gin or vodka, a touch of vermouth and defiled with olive juice, if you like your martini dirty, you’re hip, swanky, stylish… hungry? You probably also like saying the name: Dirtyyy martiniii. Pout, wink.
5. If you take your martini with more olives than liquor, this is your pre-dinner cocktail, and dear god, can they just call your name for a table, already?!
6. If the Vesper martini is your order, you’ve done your research, and by research, I mean you’ve watched Casino Royale. With this best-of-both-worlds gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc cocktail, you either want to impress your friends with this request or you really are an international super spy. Queue theme song.
7. An equal parts gin-vermouth marriage, if the 50/50, or Perfect, martini is for you, you’re a class act. An elevated drinker, you’ve had a million martinis at this point and want to enjoy a softer drink and experience the nuances of the vermouth and how it plays with the botanicals of the gin. Well, la-di-da.
8. While they may be spurned by purists, fauxtinis like Cosmopolitans, Appletinis, or Lemondrops could be more your bag, and you either a.) take real-life advice from Carrie Bradshaw, b.) a curse has trapped in 1996, c.) you just like the glass, or d.) all of the above.
9. If an alterna’tini like the Espresso Martini is your thing, it’s probably been a long week, but it’s only 7 p.m. on a Friday, and you’re desperate to keep the night going. To order this glorified vodka Red Bull during peak hours, you might also have a vendetta against your bartender. Either way, go home.
At the end of the day—whether it’s vodka or gin, shaken or stirred, bittered or brined, olived or twisted—however you like your martini, it should be just that. Yours.