THE COMPULSORY GUIDE TO MARTINIS… WITH BALLS
At Iron Balls, we are no strangers to martinis, and it has come to our attention that it is time to share a bit of what we know to help our distinguished readers understand how to choose the Martini that suits their palates most accordingly. Martinis, as most of you know, are a very spirit heavy concoction composed of gin or vodka paired with vermouth, such as Antica Formula or Dolin, and a variety of garnishes.
Martinis are rumored to have been invented in San Francisco around 1860, under the moniker “Martinez”. What we know for sure, is that martini cocktails have been around for a very long time and aren’t falling out of fashion anytime soon.
History aside, this guide is not to say which is best, but to help you decide which is best for you. Drink what you like, and remember, you always have options if you have balls.
The first martini I would like to discuss also happens to be the most popular. The iconic Dry Martini is definitely a go-to cocktail for a gentleman or lady any time of the day.
The typical composition is 6cl gin and 1cl dry vermouth such as Noilly Prat Extra Dry. We recommend stirring this cocktail in a mixing glass full of large clear cubes of ice, then straining into a chilled cocktail glass (FYI ‘martini glass’ is actually professionally referred to as a ‘cocktail glass’). When stirring a cocktail, we recommend doing so for at least 40 seconds. Don’t worry about over-stirring, as long as you use a full mixing glass of ice, you won’t suffer too much dilution. Typically, Dry Martinis are garnished with a lemon twist, a green olive, or both. Olives, as a matter of tradition, should not be served in even numbers. The appropriate amount on a cocktail pick is one, three or five, depending on user preference.
This cocktail could also be ordered as a Martini Straight Up or a Dry Martini up, hence the glass. Martini on the Rocks I will get to shortly.
Next up, we have the infamous Dirty Martini, which simply is a Dry Martini with the addition of olive brine (the salty solution found in jarred green olives we use for garnish).
This cocktail can be done with gin or vodka, and is typically stirred, although guests will sometimes request it shaken. Depending on how “dirty” you like it, we will use between 5 to 15ml of brine, and garnish with 3 or 5 olives (depending on how much you like your guest).
Dirty Martinis are sometimes seen as a guilty pleasure, as the saltiness can mask the nuances of a fine spirit. They are actually very tasty though, and if you like them, then you should go for it with no shame.
As we are on the subject of garnishes, the next martini I would like to discuss is the Gibson. This cocktail got its own name by simply changing the garnish to a pickled onion. Don’t feel constrained by onions though, you can play around with any pickle. Try pickled shallots or even pickled jalapeños. Have fun this one.
Another iconic martini is the Ian Fleming inspired Vesper Martini. This cocktail is typically gin heavy, followed by vodka and Lillet Blanc, portions being 5cl gin, 2cl vodka and 1.5cl Lillet, and can be shaken or stirred.
Here at Iron Balls, we have a variant called the Iron Reign, in which we use 5cl Iron Balls Gin, 2cl Iron Balls Vodka and 2cl La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Blanc, stirred in a mixing glass with and orange peel and ice before being strained into a chilled champagne coupe or cocktail glass and garnished with a lemon peel. This is a fantastic cocktail to enjoy before dinner or as a late-night tipple.
While the unconventional Wet Martini is rarely seen these days, it can be a lovely cocktail to sip if you enjoy the taste of fine vermouth. As the name suggests, you merely add more vermouth, whether you prefer a dry or sweet one is dependent upon your palate. We recommend you use a premium vermouth as it will heavily affects your cocktail. Try something cool like Ransom Dry if you can get your hands on it.
The next cocktail on our list is somewhat of a dark horse: the misunderstood Burnt Martini.
This cocktail is basically a Dry Martini with the addition of a peaty Islay Scotch. Whisky from this Irish island are typically very smoky, and the smallest amount can add amazing depth to your cocktail. I like using Arran Machrie Moor or Laphroaig Select. If you error on the side of caution, you can try 3ml in your mixing glass and taste it before adding ice. If it’s not smoky enough, you can increase to your taste. I would say max 7ml but remember it’s easier to add more than to take away.
I usually garnish these with olives and serve them with salty snacks such as charcuterie or a smoked fatty fish.
Although our next contender came into fashion relatively recently and fell out of fashion a few decades later, the Vodka Martini is still an enjoyable cocktail. This cocktail was originally stirred, then in the 90’s was shaken like everything else but now, with the combination of more complex pure rye vodkas such as Iron Balls, and boutique vermouths, it should definitely be stirred. Iron Balls Vodka is a distinctive vodka with a lovely earthiness that would be lost upon shaking, we recommend stirring it with your favorite vermouth and garnishing with a lemon twist. And to keep your vermouth fresh and vibrant, it is a good idea to refrigerate it after opening. Remember vermouth is a fortified wine and has a shelf life; refrigeration will extend it considerably.
At times, you will still find people requesting a Shaken Martini, and again, I must say, at Iron Balls, as premium spirits makers, we never shake martinis. Certain brands of premium vodka such as Belvedere, Stoli, or Grey Goose can be shaken, and you can even omit the vermouth completely. This creates an icy cold, cloudy cocktail that is basically just chilled vodka. Certain manufactures pride themselves on making a more neutral vodka, here at Iron Balls, we do not.
Once in a while, you will hear someone request a Perfect Martini. ‘Perfect’ just means it is incorporating both dry and sweet vermouth and is much more commonly used for Manhattans than for Martinis. Still a nice and enjoyable cocktail, I like to use orange peel and a dash of Peychaud’s bitter in my Perfect Martini.
ON THE ROCKS
‘Martini on the Rocks’ can be used for any of the above cocktails by simply exchanging the glassware from a cocktail glass to a tumbler or old-fashioned glass with ice. I like to use one large clear ice block and chill the glass first. This cocktail is good for a slow drinker or when enjoying a breezy afternoon on the deck and can be especially impressive if you hand cut a crystal-clear ice block. Remember to simply mix your cocktail then strain over new ice before garnishing.
Hopefully, this summary of martinis has helped you find the ideal martini for you. Since we launched Iron Balls in 2015, we have been constantly working on the best ways to help people enjoy our spirits. We love to hear your feedback and we love to hear how you best enjoy Iron Balls. Thanks for enjoying our products and never stop trying new ways to use it.
Iron Balls Global Brand Ambassador