Like all royalty, the king of cocktails has lineage. The British claim the Martini was named after a late-nineteenth century firearm of the same name, famous for its kick. The Martini & Rossi Vermouth company takes credit for its name, since vermouth is the defining ingredient in the Martini, and they did market a bottled dry martini around the world in the 1890s.
Martini di Arma di Taggia, the principal bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City at the turn of the century, is also given credit for the Martini. Mr. Di Taggia played an important role in the evolution of the drink when he married dry gin with dry vermouth (and orange bitters) for the first time, but there is more to the story. There was a cocktail in the 1850s called the Fancy Gin Cocktail that paired Old Tom Gin and orange curaçao. At the time the Fancy Gin became popular, Martini & Rossi Vermouth was not readily available in this country, the Martini and Henry rifle was still on the drawing board, and Martini di Arma di Taggia was just a small boy.
When vermouth became widely available by the 1870s, the use of curaçao as a sweetener in cocktails waned, and vermouth became the sweetener of choice, used in almost the same applications married with a base liquor and bitters. Vermouth wasn't even produced commercially until the late eighteenth century in Europe, and it was a relatively new product for the United States; the first shipments arrived in the 1850s. In his 1887 Bartender's Guide, Jerry Thomas refers to vermouth several times without designating Italian or French (sweet or dry). This wasn't an omission: French vermouth didn't become widely available until the late 1890s.
2-1/2 ounces gin
Splash of blended scotch
Lemon twist, for garnish
Stir both ingredients with ice to chill and garnish with the lemon twist.
Audrey Saunders makes a version of the Smoky Martini called the Dreamy Dorini Smoky Martini, for Dori, a whiskey-drinking woman. The recipe calls for vodka and a splash of Laphroaig scotch, the smokiest of the Islay scotches, and here is the secret: Season the ice with Pernod.
The Craft of the Cocktail
Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master Bartender
by Dale DeGroff
Hardcover, 240 pages
Recipe reprinted by permission.
Visit the Global Gourmet's Cocktail Recipes page.
Modified August 2007
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