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Mixing With Vermouth

Mixing drinks with vermouth requires the proper terminology, so a bartender knows how much vermouth to add to the drinks, even when confronted with multiple orders at the same time . (© wavebreakmediamicro/123RF photo)

Vermouth based cocktails have a secret language of their own.

Cocktails like the Manhattan, Rob Roy and Martini have long established traditions, that tell bartenders which vermouth, and how much of it a guest wants.

Unless requested otherwise, by default, a Martini is always prepared dry. The Manhattan and Rob Roy are always prepared sweet.

Martini, Manhattan, Rob Roy

When Ordered Dry – The cocktail is made with dry white vermouth only.

When Ordered Sweet – The cocktail is made with sweet red vermouth only.

When Ordered Perfect – The cocktail is made with a 50/50 mix of red and white vermouth.

So if you order a Martini, it will be prepared dry. A Perfect Martini is made with red and white vermouth. A sweet Martini is made with red vermouth.

Both the Manhattan and Rob Roy are prepared sweet, with red vermouth only. A Perfect Manhattan or Rob Roy, is made with a 50/50 mix of red and white vermouth. A Dry Manhattan or Rob Roy, is prepared using white vermouth only.

If the whole – dry – perfect – sweet – thing sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. The cocktail variations of dry, perfect and sweet are listed on each recipe page.

Martinis & Faux Martinis

Guests often order what they didn’t intend, because they’re unaware of the terminology for what they want. So when a guest orders a Martini, it’s a good idea to clarify what they ‘really’ want by asking these four questions: Gin or vodka?  Straight up (no ice) or on the rocks (with ice)? Dry or extra dry? With an olive or lemon twist?

All the other cocktails with the word ‘Martini’ in the name aren’t really Martinis at all, because they don’t contain vermouth. So drinks like Chocolate Martini, Espresso Martini, Lemon Drop Martini and French Martini are named for the glass they’re served in, not because they contain vermouth like a Martini.

What happened was, the cocktail fell out of favor in late 1960s, as young adults turned to other indulgences. Cocktails were for old people. In the 1980s, the word Martini became fashionable. Suddenly every new drink was marketed as a Martini, with flavors like chocolate, lemon, coffee, vanilla, and grapefruit. By the mid 1990s, the “Cocktail Renaissance” was in full swing, making craft bartending and cocktails popular again.

The Dry Martini

As mentioned earlier, a Martini is prepared dry by default. However, the phrase ‘Dry Martini’ has evolved to mean something else over the years. For example, a regular Martini has a 4-1 ratio of gin to dry white vermouth. The Dry Martini has a 12-1 ratio.

The trend to use less vermouth in Martinis has been going on for a long time. In 1880 a Martini had a 1-1 gin to vermouth ratio. By 1930 it was 2-1. By 1984 it was 3-1. By 2005 it was 4-1. Now the Dry Martini is 12-1, and it’s still too ‘wet’ for some folks.

Now most bartenders make ‘Extra Dry’ and Dry Martinis out of straight London Dry Gin. They hand the guest an atomizer filled with vermouth, so they can mist their own level of wetness, which minimizes returns, because the guest made the call.


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