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Martini History (Knowledge Base Article)

Updated: Apr 7

Today, the word “martini” is often associated with sophistication, elegance, and refinement.

Three martini glasses with olive garnish
Martini history legend holds that the cocktail was invented during the 19th century

While the cocktail is portrayed as the drink of choice for many of our favorite contemporary heroes including "007" and Mad Men characters, its roots go back to the 19th century and the California Gold Rush.


As with many alcoholic drinks, the history of the martini isn’t completely clear. According to NPR writer April Fulton, “Many historians follow the martini back to a miner who struck gold in California during the Gold Rush. The story goes that a miner walked into a bar and asked for a special drink to celebrate his new fortune.”


Legend has it that the bartender who made the special drink for the night’s occasion threw together ingredients that were on-hand which included gin, fortified wine, and a few other things to kick the flavor up a notch. The cocktail would be called the “Martinez”, named after the town in which the drink was invented.


It wasn’t until later that the cocktail started being garnished with olives. Fulton’s article mentions that the olive garnish may have come about when a Frenchman returned to Paris after being in Syria and brought the tradition with him.


While the ratio of spirit and vermouth in martinis has changed over time, today’s dry martini is recognized as having a 3:1 ratio of gin to vermouth with vodka frequently being used in the place of gin.


Martini History - Vodka Martinis


After the American prohibition ended, tastes and preferences changed to prefer lighter spirits which paved the way for vodka martinis to begin appearing on the menu at bars around the nation. The vodka martini was then brought mainstream by the famous secret agent character known by his triple-digit code number that appeared in American cinemas in the 1960s and beyond.


Martini Cocktail History - Shaken vs. Stirred

Bartender holding a cocktail shaker.
Martini History - Shaken vs. Stirred

The debate around whether a martini should be shaken or stirred is another element of cocktail history brought about by popular culture. The famous line “shaken, not stirred” is a phrase that first appeared in Fleming’s Diamonds Are Forever novel from 1956.


Many early martini recipes call for the cocktail to be stirred so that “the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other,” a result not achieved by shaking a concoction vigorously.


If you wish to have your martini shaken when ordering at a bar, you will do well to request this method specifically, as stirring is more common than shaking.


Enjoy Your Own Martini Made with JT Meleck Vodka


If you’re looking to try a new martini, check out our French Martini recipe made with JT Meleck Vodka!


Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/06/18/193198710/martini-s-muddled-history-may-have-international-ties

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