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Martinis—The Perfect Ending to a Busy Day!

When it’s five o’clock, what is your favorite cocktail? Mine is a Ketel One martini with blue-cheesed stuffed olives. Do you drink martinis? Like them up? Dirty? Extra dirty? Filthy? Dry? Wet? Do you want to order a martini in a restaurant but are confused by all the terminology? And just why is this cocktail called a martini?

The classic martini, one of the most iconic cocktails, is made with gin and vermouth. Food historians believe the martini was named after Martini & Rossi®, a wine-producer famous for their vermouth.

Some people love gin martinis; others prefer vodka. What sets gin apart? All gins are infused with botanicals like herbs, bark, citrus, roots, and seeds. The only ingredient that gin must include to be considered gin is juniper berries, which give it a piney, almost medicinal flavor. If you are considering purchasing gin, enthusiasts believe the best brands of gin are Beefeater’s® and Tanqueray®.

Vermouth is a fortified wine that is also flavored with botanicals—herbs, spices, flowers, and seeds—the ingredients vary according to the producer. If you want to buy vermouth to make martinis, top shelf brands of vermouth are Dolin® and Noilly Prat®. The classic martini cocktail is made from two products that are infused with botanicals.

Martinis are also made with vodka. In the movie Goldfinger, James Bond preferred his vodka martini “shaken, not stirred.” Just the way I like it. When made with vodka, a martini is often called a “Kangaroo cocktail.” Would James Bond drink something with a name like Kangaroo?

Vodka is a clear, colorless, unaged liquor. Its name comes from the Russian word “zhiznennaia voda” or “water of life”. Vodka can be made with everything from potatoes to beets, but some consider vodka made with grains like barley, wheat, rye, or corn to be superior. Vodka connoisseurs believe Belvedere®, Grey Goose®, and Chopin® are among the top brands. I prefer Ketel One®.

When we think of vodka, we associate it with Russia. I will never forget when we hosted two Russians during the 1990s. They were visiting America to learn the grocery business. The last night of their visit, they pulled out a bottle of Russian vodka and announced, “We need five people to drink with us.” With all the chaos in the world, I think of them often and hope they are well.

Shaken, not stirred? Some believe certain alcoholic beverages, particularly gin, should never be shaken as this bruises the gin and might affect the flavor of its botanticals. If you order your martini shaken, like Bond, it is put into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes and “shaken” for 10 seconds. If you order your martini stirred, it is placed in a mixing glass with ice cubes and stirred for 30 seconds. If you prefer ice crystals floating on top, order your martini shaken.

Up? If you order your martini “up”, it will be served without ice. This is redundant because most martinis are served without ice.

Dirty? If you order your martini “dirty,” the bartender will add the brine from olives to your drink, usually the same quantity as dry vermouth. Of course, you can order your drink “extra dirty” or “filthy,” meaning your martini will be heavy on olive brine.

Dry? Dry martinis will have a low ratio of vermouth to vodka. Wet martinis will be heavy on vermouth.


Following is my recipe for making the perfect martini at home:

  • 2 ½ ounces gin or vodka

  • ½ ounce dry vermouth

  • Ice cubes

  • Lemon peel twist or olives for garnish


Yield: 1 martini

Prep Time: 5 Mins

Cook Time: 5 Mins

Total Time: 10 Mins

Options for preparation:

For stirred: Place martini glass in the freezer to chill. Place gin or vodka and dry vermouth into a mixing glass. Fill the glass with ice cubes and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into the chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel twist or olives.

For shaken: Place martini glass in the freezer to chill. Place gin or vodka and dry vermouth into a cocktail shaker. Add ice cubes, place the lid on the shaker, and shake for 10 seconds. If you want ice crystals floating on top, strain directly into chilled glass. If you don’t want ice crystals, strain through a fine mesh strainer.

To make a lemon peel twist: Using a peeler, carve a 2- to 3-inch long strip about ¼-inch thick wide that is more peel than pith. Squeeze it over the martini to expel essential oils into the drink and place the twist in the chilled glass.

To make blue cheese stuffed olives: You can purchase blue cheese stuffed olives at the store, but store-bought can never compare to hand made.

30 large green pitted olives, pimientos removed

4 ounces blue cheese

3 ounces cream cheese, softened.

Place blue cheese and cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a hand electric mixer, beat until smooth. Transfer the blue cheese mixture to a piping bag and pipe into the pitted olives.

If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a Ziploc® bag. Fold the bag into a triangle, fill it with the blue cheese mixture, cut the end off with scissors, and secure the tip with duct tape.

Tips on storing vermouth: Since vermouth is a wine, it should be refrigerated after opening or it will turn to vinegar.

Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment.

Contact her at and explore her website,

Copyright 2024 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates

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