January 29, 2019 | POSTED IN

The History of the Martini in Three Cocktails


Drink a couple of martinis a day, keep your sense of humor and never, ever retire

                        George Burns

Sidewinder Spirits Company hosted the next chapter in its ‘Lore of the Cocktail’ series. This time, the History of the Martini in Three Cocktails. And though the creator of the first Martini was never named, we were able to place its origins in the 1870s by following the trend towards dryer-styled cocktails that began with the arrivals of dry gin and dry vermouth into the United States following the civil war.

The first cocktail sampled was a Gin Cocktail from the early 1800s. Jerry Thomas, who wrote the first bartender’s manual, published a recipe using Boker’s bitters and an Old Tom gin. Both of these can be purchased through specialty stores. Old Tom is slightly sweet, and the bitters helps balance this sweetness. Gum syrup was used to improve the mouthfeel of the drink -early gins could be a bit harsh.

The Gin Cocktail Jerry Thomas – 1862

  • 2 oz gin (Old Tom style)
  • 1 tsp gum syrup
  • ½ tsp Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 dashes Boker’s Bitters
  • Lemon peel

Add ingredients to an ice-filled glass. Stir (not shake) and strain into a coupe.

The next cocktail in the evolutionary path towards the Martini was the Martinez, a drink first crafted in the 1860s. There are competing stories as to its origins, but we give the nod to Jerry Thomas, who claims to have crafted it while working at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco. He called it the Martinez because he developed it for passengers on their way to Martinez by ferry.

The Martinez introduced the combination of vermouth and gin – using Old Tom style gin and Italian sweet vermouth. It retains the maraschino liqueur and Boker’s bitters from Gin Cocktail.

The Martinez Jerry Thomas – 1862

  • 2oz sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz Old Tom gin
  • ¼ oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1 dash Boker’s bitters
  • Lemon garnish

Add ingredients to an ice-filled glass. Stir (not shake) and strain into a coupe.

Now for the Martini. The ingredients for this cocktail only became available in the 1870s. Dry gin was first distilled in the United States in 1870, and Gilby’s and Beefeater soon followed with their versions of ‘London’ dry within a few years. Also, dry French vermouth was increasing in popularity and was becoming available in the States. But as to when the first Martini was created, or how it got its name, remain mysteries. Newspaper articles refer to Martinis in the 1870s, but the earliest recipe we could find was from 1896 by Thomas Stuart. We should note that in his book, Fancy Drinks and How to Make Them, Stuart has recipes for both the Martinez and the Martini, so these were always considered different cocktails.

The Martini Thomas Stuart – 1896

  • 2 oz dry gin (Plymouth Gin)
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters

Add ingredients to an ice-filled glass. Stir (not shake) and strain into a coupe.

The class didn’t sample Stuart’s recipe for the Martini, choosing instead the recipe for the world’s greatest Martini created in 1953 for the Lower Montgomery Olive or Onion Society in San Francisco. The story behind this recipe, and its relationship to James Bond, was detailed in an earlier blog post. Cresta Blanca no longer makes a vermouth, so we substituted Sidewinder Stem and Crown dry vermouth in its place.

The World’s Greatest Martini Lower Montgomery Olive or Onion Society – September 29, 1953

  • 3 oz London Dry Gin (Booth’s House of Lords)
  • 1 oz Cresta Blanca White Vermouth
  • Lemon twist

Add ingredients to an ice-filled glass. Stir (not shake) and strain into a martini glass.

So how did this iconic cocktail get its name, or what was the origin of the martini glass? Answers to these questions are for another time – and another Martini.