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How Much Vermouth in a Martini?

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What is the proper ratio of gin to vermouth for a dry martini? That's about as subjective as life gets. First, understand that "dry" does not mean vermouth is absent altogether: It simply indicates the use of a dry vermouth rather than a sweet one.

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Among a younger generation of cocktail enthusiasts, the Fifty-Fifty dry martini, with equal parts gin and vermouth (and a dash of orange bitters), is gaining popularity. Of course, be sure to use a good-quality dry vermouth, such as Noilly Prat or Dolin. Also, keep that vermouth in the fridge once you've opened it, and get rid of it after a month (it's a fortified wine and will spoil over time; buy small bottles if necessary). A high-quality traditional gin, such as Plymouth or Tanqueray, also is a must.

What if the Fifty-Fifty isn't to your taste? Play around with different ratios. Robert Hess of DrinkBoy.com suggests sampling a cold glass of straight gin, then an 8-to-1 gin-to-vermouth ratio, then a 2-to-1 ratio and finally a cold glass of straight vermouth as a baseline. You'll be able to see which point along the spectrum best suits you.

Over time, for instance, I've learned that when I use Plymouth gin, I like either Noilly Prat or Dolin dry vermouth, but I use different ratios for each. With Plymouth and Noilly Prat, I go with 4 to 1. With Plymouth and Dolin, I go with 3 to 1. I use a dash of orange bitters in both cases.

And what about the garnish? The olive certainly is iconic, and it makes a nice garnish for the mid-century, gin-heavy, very-dry martini. But for a martini with more vermouth, try a twist of lemon peel instead.

-- Jason Wilson


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