The martini is one of the world’s most popular cocktails and has been around since the 1880s. The martini’s exact origins often are debated, but many give credit for its invention to a California bartender named Harry Johnson sometime in the 1880s.
Legend suggests Johnson created the drink while working at a saloon in Martinez, California, and created the concoction to help gold miners celebrate lucky gold strikes. Johnson allegedly combined vermouth, sloe gin, and some bitters with either an olive garnish or a twist of lemon to create the world’s first martini.
First Official Martini Recipe Published in 1888
Even if Johnson might not have invented the martini, he was the first to share its original recipe when he included it in his 1888 bartender’s manual. Harry Johnson’s 1900 Bartenders Manual also includes the recipe for the Bradford A La Martini.
The original martini recipe calls for a large bar glass in which to mix the cocktail. It starts with shaved ice filling three-fourths of the bar glass with three or four dashes of orange bitters, a lemon peel, half a wine glass of gin, and half a wine glass of vermouth. Combine the ingredients in the large bar glass and stir to mix the drink, followed by pouring it into a cocktail glass.
Evolution of the Classic Martini
The original recipe is the classic martini, which is distinguished by its equal parts of gin and vermouth. The martini has evolved over the years, though, and hundreds of similar yet distinctly different cocktails are served under the guise of being a martini.
A good example is the Manhattan, which is a close relative to the martini but uses whiskey instead of gin to mix with the vermouth. Some suggest that the Manhattan might be the father of the martini. Eventually, the vodka martini emerged as a popular variant that might have occurred out of necessity due to a shortage of gin. Gin and vodka are very different, but both are clear and pack a good amount of alcohol.
The classic martini also is distinguished by the iconic V-shaped cocktail glass in which the classic martini often is served. The champagne flute is the inspiration for the V-shaped cocktail glass, which is wider at the top and much shallower than the champagne glass. The open top enables the cocktail to breathe and release its unique aroma.
Classic Espresso Martini Emerges
A newer variant of the classic martini came about during the 1990s with the inclusion of Kahlua and espresso. The classic espresso martini uses equal amounts of espresso and Kahlua instead of vermouth and vodka. The vodka is equal to the combined amount of Kahlua and expresso and is garnished with three coffee beans.
The classic espresso martini is a modern take on Irish coffee and originally helped visitors to New York City overcome the lingering effects of jet lag. The rise in popularity of gourmet coffee houses also aided the rise of the classic espresso martini. The combination of the vodka martini and espresso certainly has proven to be a popular and enduring cocktail drink.
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