Dry Martini (the Little Black Dress of Cocktails)

The Dry Martini is the classic cocktail equivalent of the little black dress – simple, elegant, and always in style. Its blend of gin, vermouth, and an olive or lemon twist will never go out of fashion.

The dry martini is crisp and palate-cleansing and the perfect accompaniment to salty appetizers or nearly any meal. So next time you’re looking to impress with a timeless and sophisticated drink, consider stirring up a batch of dry martinis!

a martini with three blue cheese olives and jigger on a black background.
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What is a dry martini?

In cocktails, “dry” refers to the proportion of spirit in the drink. In martinis, a dry martini has a higher ratio of gin to dry vermouth, usually around 5 to 1 or higher. An “extra-dry” martini has just a drop or two or even only a vermouth rinse.

In the other direction, a “wet” martini has relatively more vermouth, from ratios of 2 to 1 to the reverse martini, where more vermouth is used than gin. Finally, just to be confusing, the “perfect martini” is made with equal amounts of dry and sweet vermouth. It’s not just a very good martini!

Ingredients

By definition, a dry martini is a gin martini. You can make a dry martini with vodka if you don’t like gin, but then it’s a dry vodka martini.

Vermouth is a fortified wine like sherry and port. The most common vermouth you’ll see in cocktails are dry vermouth like in this martini or the sweet red vermouth that’s in the Manhattan cocktail and classic Negroni. However, there are lots of variations, and, just like wine, each vermouth has a slightly different flavor.

The standard garnish for a martini is either a green olive (or three) or a lemon twist. Garnish your martini with a cocktail onion, and that’s a Gibson. Or use Hendricks as your gin, and garnish with a slice of cucumber.

a tall martini garnished with a cucumber accordion.

Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations and substitutions

Try other dry martini variations including:

  • dry vodka martini: substitute vodka for gin in your preferred ratio.
  • dirty martini: add a splash of olive brine for a dirty gin martini.
  • Vesper martini: split the base between gin and vodka and sub Lillet for the vermouth.
  • add a splash of Cointreau or other triple sec.
  • use Empress 1908 gin for a purple Empress gin martini.

Recipe tips and tricks

Martini taste test

The best way to know whether you like a dry martini or a wet martini is to do a taste test and compare. Make them all at the same time, and leave off the garnish.

For an easy set of mini-martinis that won’t give you a headache the next morning, make:

  • extra-dry: rinse a small glass with dry vermouth then add 1.5 ounces of a London dry gin.
  • dry (5 to 1): 1.25 ounces gin plus 0.25 ounce (a half tablespoon) vermouth.
  • wet (2 to 1): 1 ounce gin plus 0.5 ounce vermouth.
  • 50/50 (1 to 1): 1.25 ounces each of gin and vermouth.
  • reverse (1 to 2): 1 ounce of gin plus 2 ounces of vermouth.
5 mini martini glasses on a tray.

Making a dry martini

A martini is one of the simplest cocktails to make. Simply combine your gin and dry vermouth in a cocktail shaker or large cup with ice and stir for about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with the garnish of your choice.

Tip from the wise quacker: The general teaching is that cocktails with citrus juices should be shaken, but cocktails with only alcohols should be stirred.

The point of stirring the your drink with ice is two-fold. The obvious is that it chills the cocktail. The second reason is to dilute it. Adding water to your martini brings down the bite of the alcohol and actually increases the flavor. That’s why, when making a big batch freezer martini (see below), you add water.

Tip from the wise quacker: The general teaching is that cocktails with citrus juices should be shaken, but cocktails with only alcohols should be stirred.

Make ahead: big batch freezer martini

You can make many cocktails in large batches and keep them in the freezer for whenever the mood strikes. And because you dilute it when you make it and because a freezer martini is already cold, there’s no additional stirring involved.

A dry martini makes the best big batch martini because the higher amount of gin prevents it from turning into a gin slushie. To make a 5 to 1 freezer martini, take a 750 milliliter bottle of your favorite gin and pour 250 milliliters into another clean container. You’re making room to add the water and vermouth.

To your 500 milliliters of gin, add 100 milliliters of dry vermouth and 150 milliliters of water. Seal, invert once or twice, and put in the freezer for the next time you want a dry martini. This will make about six to eight cocktails.

What to serve with a dry martini

Some of the best accompaniments to your dry martini are:

  • Any salty appetizer like nuts, cheese and crackers, or charcuterie plates. Try making these gougeres or this kale and cheese quick bread.
  • Meals where wine pairing might be challenging, like sushi or this rainbow poke bowl or other Asian foods.
  • Nothing. Drink a dry martini on its own!

Truthfully, the only time a dry martini wouldn’t work is as a dessert cocktail. If you’re looking for a cocktail to accompany dessert, I’d recommend a creamy espresso martini.

Recipe FAQs

What is the best gin for a martini?

Our favorite gins that are widely available include Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Uncle Val’s, and Hendricks.

Does vermouth go bad?

Also like other wines, vermouth does go off quicker than spirits. Store your vermouth and other fortified wines in the refrigerator, and they’ll keep for a month or two.

Is an espresso martini a real martini?

Some popular cocktails, like the espresso martini or the pornstar martini, have just been miscalled martinis, even though they have neither gin nor vermouth. The pornstar martini is much closer in relation to sour cocktails than the martini.

Check out the Ugly Duckling Bakery beverage archives for other delicious cocktails like:

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.

Love cocktails and want to explore more? Read all about classic cocktails and bartender basics or join this year’s 52 weeks of cocktails challenge!

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.

Recipe

Dry Martini Recipe

5 from 9 votes
Category: Drinks
Cuisine: Unspecified
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 175kcal
The dry martini is a classic cocktail. With a ratio of gin to dry vermouth of 5 to 1 or more, the dry martini is crisp and clean and perfect as a pre-dinner drink with appetizers or simple sipping anytime.
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2Β½ ounces London dry gin e.g. Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire
  • Β½ ounce dry vermouth e.g. Dolin dry
  • olives, lemon twist, cocktail onions, cucumber slice, etc. for garnish

Instructions

  • Add the gin and vermouth to a cocktail shaker or large cup with about one cup of ice and stir for at least 30 seconds.
    2Β½ ounces London dry gin, Β½ ounce dry vermouth
  • Strain into a chilled glass, garnish with your chosen garnish, and serve immediately.
    olives, lemon twist, cocktail onions, cucumber slice, etc.

Notes

These amounts make a dry martini with a ratio of 5 parts gin to 1 part dry vermouth. Please adjust based on your preferences.
Nutritional estimates include only the cocktail components of the dry martini and not your choice of garnish.

Nutrition

Calories: 175kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 0.01g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 1mg | Iron: 0.03mg
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14 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    And this is my excuse to make a dry martini at home and save some dollars on getting one at a restaurant!

  2. 5 stars
    This was such a cool and crisp cocktail, that does not disappoint! Such an easy way to wind down after a long day; delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    I love a good dry martini but haven’t made one from scratch before! I can’t wait to make this recipe for a cocktail night I’m hosting with a few friends this week!

  4. 5 stars
    This is my absolute favorite cocktail. I prefer mine with Bombay Sapphire, extra cold, with 3 green olives. πŸ™‚

  5. 5 stars
    You’re so right that a Martini is made with Gin. And. Vermouth. Thank you for that!
    And one thing (well, among several) that really bugs me is when people call any drink that’s served in a conical class (like the one for your Dry Martini) a Martini. It is not. Do not serve me vodka and pear juice in a conical glass and call it a Pear Martini. Because it isn’t.

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