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Gin vs. Vodka Martinis? Maybe Both...

June 18, 2019

Gin vs. Vodka Martinis? Maybe Both...

It's National Martini Day!
June 19th

If any cocktail embodies the essence of “cool” (and who is cooler than James Bond?), it’s the Martini.

Perhaps the popularity of the martini has more to do with the marketing of gin by liquor companies during the 1950s, and vodka in the 1970s. Product placement in movies and celebrity endorsements played an important role. When Ernest Hemingway, Marlene Dietrich, David Niven and Humphrey Bogart were seen drinking martinis in public or on screen, everyone wanted to drink them as well. But perhaps no real or fictional character has done as much for the classic martini as James Bond.

Competing stories surrounding the martini's origin come from both the East and West Coast of the US. Its West Coast origins involve stories of gold miners going to the bar after striking it rich. It is believed the Martini descended from the Martinez, a cocktail invented during the Gold Rush, that used Old Tom gin and sweet vermouth. On the East Coast, however, its rumored origin takes place in the heart of New York City at the Knickerbocker Hotel, which was opened by John Jacob Astor IV in 1906, in Times Square. Oil tycoon and millionaire John D. Rockefeller was supposedly served an eponymous cocktail by then-bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia. Made with gin, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, citrus bitters, orange bitters, and garnished with a lemon twist, the original Martini recipe is still served at the new bar inside the recently reopened and landmarked Knickerbocker Hotel today.

The Martini is a cocktail that is near perfect in its simplicity. Today, the martini can be seen as a modern form of art with never-ending craft cocktail possibilities. The addition of flavor-enhanced vodkas and gins (citron, currant, tangerine to name a few) and other flavorings from the bar, allows for the creation of literally hundreds of versions of the martini. That there is a debate about vodka versus gin martinis speaks volumes about just how versatile and nuanced martinis are, even with so few ingredients. The differences between the two are quite evident. With vodka, the softness and earthiness of the grains really come through in the favor. With gin, the primary flavor comes from the botanicals it is made with, which in most cases is juniper but can also include other fruits or spices.

The modern definition of a classic martini is gin (or vodka), a splash of dry vermouth (French or Italian white) and an olive or lemon twist garnish. The standard Gin Martini (2:1 gin to vermouth) can also be made with varying amounts of dry vermouth. These include dry (less vermouth, typically 4:1 gin to vermouth), wet (typically 4:3), 50/50 (equal parts gin and vermouth), reverse (1:2 gin to vermouth), and perfect 2:1:1 gin to both sweet and dry vermouths). If you add OJ to that last one, it’s called a Bronx.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to shaken or stirred. It’s up to the imbiber. The dilution and temperature should remain the same either way. What changes is the mouth feel. Do you want icy shards and tiny air bubbles in your cocktail? Shaken is your style. Want a silky, smooth mouth feel? Try it stirred. Presentation is everything. The classic Martini is served chilled in a tall-stemmed triangular-shaped glass. There is one cardinal rule to any elegant martini. It has to be cold. The cocktail should remain cold from start to finish. So, chill your glasses, chill your vodka or gin and your shaker, and serve right away.

–Martini Recipes–

1. PlumpJack Wine & Spirits
3201 Fillmore Street (in the Marina)

Martini Reserve:

Add ingredients into a mixing glass, add ice, stir until chilled, then strain over coupe or martini glass. Garnish with your choice of lemon twist, olive, or cocktail onion.

*Balanced and flavorful martini, the Seedlip Spice 94 tones down a bit of the overproof gin yet highlighting the oak and botanicals from the gin. While the vermouth rounds everything together for a smooth round finish.

2. Wildhawk
3464 19th Street (in the Mission)

House Martini:

Stored in a Blast Chiller and served as cold as liquor can be! Garnish with your choice of Lemon Twist or Castelvetrano Olives. We offer an array of Gins for the House Martini as well as a rotating Vodka option, because we believe that everyone should be able to drink whatever they like.

3. Balboa Cafe
3199 Fillmore Street (in the Marina)

The Signature Espressotini

  • 2oz Stoli Vanilla Vodka
  • 1oz Kaluha
  • 2oz Nitro cold brewed Espresso (three bean proprietary blend)

*Pour over ice in a pint glass, shake for ten seconds for optimum froth, and pour into a pre-chilled Martini glass. Then relax and enjoy the Marina in all it’s glory!

4. White Rabbit
3138 Fillmore Street (in the Marina)

The Vesper Martini:

Keeping it classy like Jim Morrison’s killer hairdo. Combine ingredients into a glass. Only stirred, never shaken. Garnish with a lemon twist.

5. Forgery
1525 Mission Street (in SOMA)

The 21st Century Martini:

Add all ingredients to a cocktail mixer and stir. Garnish with lemon peel and olives. To be served in a martini glass with Sidecar.




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