I’ll take a Hendricks martini, bone, dry but extra dirty, shaken then stirred, up and with a twist and two olives.”
When you first hear someone order a martini, you would swear they were speaking a foreign language. You hear English words, but have no idea what the hell they just said.
Ordering the cocktail is a bold choice and the martini ordering lingo alone can add a significant amount of stress your first order.
A first timer’s thought process often goes like this, “Alright self, time to step up and get a martini. Okay, I think I want it dirty. Wait, what makes it dirty? Did I want it dry? Shit, what does dry even mean? Do I want this thing up? Or is it straight up? Maybe down? Does ordering a martini down even exist? I mean, I know I’m down for this martini. Screw this, bartender, I’ll take a beer.”
Martini ordering doesn’t have to be hard, in fact, after your first time it’s pretty easy. In this guide, I’ll show you how to order a martini like a pro.
We’ll start with the basic like what a martini even is in the first place, move on to some common martini ordering lingo like dirty, dry, wet, up, olive or twist, and finish with some of the best martini drinks to start with.
How to Order a Martini Like a Pro
Before we dive into things, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page…
What is a Martini?
So, what is a martini? As complicated as the cocktail seems (and can get) a classic martini is gin, vermouth and an olive.
To make one, a bartender would pour gin and vermouth over ice and stir gently. Then, they would strain the mixture and pour it into a martini glass. To finish, they would add an olive on a skewer.
That’s a martini, nothing more, nothing less.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about martini ordering, but if you’re just looking for a simple first martini order, start with, “I’ll take a Bombay Sapphire Martini, stirred with an olive.”
If you say that confidently, chances are the bartender won’t ask you too many questions. Now, if you want to know what the hell you just ordered, keep reading.
Dry, Dirty, Shaken and Stirred: The Martini Ordering Lingo
Put simply, the amount of vermouth added is what makes a martini dry or wet.
The drier the martini, the less vermouth it has. As you’d expect, the wetter the martini, the more vermouth it has. Vermouth adds a sweet taste to the cocktail, so the wetter your martini, the sweeter it will be.
There are three basic calls here: dry, wet or nothing.
Ask for your martini dry and you’ll get a drizzle of vermouth. If you say extra dry, or bone dry, you may get a drop or two. The less vermouth you ask for, the more bite your martini will have.
Bone dry is how Winston Churchill drank his martinis. If you request a Churchill Martini, you’ll get a nice chilled glass of gin.
Ordering your martini wet will get you extra vermouth. This will be considerably sweeter than a dry martini.
If you don’t specify wet or dry, you’ll get the standard five parts gin to one part vermouth. A standard martini will have a little bit of a bite, but not too much.
When I order martinis, I prefer the standard 5:1 ratio. To me, this ratio gives the martini a nice balance: it’s not too bitter or too sugary and you can taste the alcohol without it being overpowering.
A Note on Vermouth
Vermouth is a type of fortified wine that’s flavored with herbs.
It’s predominantly produced in France and Italy and comes in sweet and dry forms. As with most wines, you can find vermouth in both red and white varieties.
Martinis are made chiefly with dry white vermouth.
A dirty martini has olive juice or brine added to it.
When the olive brine is added, it makes the cocktail look hazy (or dirty). Many people swear by the dirty martini as the brine adds a nice salty kick to the drink.
While this kick tastes good, the olive brine also masks the taste of the alcohol. Because of this, dirty martinis are looked at as the intro or the rookie martini.
So, if you want to order like a pro, skip the dirty martini.
Anyone who has seen a 007 movie knows that James Bond likes his martinis “shaken not stirred”.
In a shaken martini, the gin, vermouth and ice are added to a cocktail shaker and as you might have guessed, rigorously shaken. The mixture is then strained and poured into a martini glass.
A stirred martini is gin and vermouth poured over ice, stirred, and, as before, strained into a martini glass.
Certain martinis should be shaken and certain should be stirred.
My recommendation is a shaken martini for anything with a juice added, such as a dirty martini, and stirred for anything that’s just spirits, such as the standard martini.
The Garnish: Olive, Twist or Gibson
As you’re starting to see, when ordering a martini, you have quite a few choices to make.
Your garnish puts the final touches on the flavor of your cocktail, and is an important part of knowing how to order a martini like a pro.
Johnny Carson famously said, “Happiness is finding two olives in your martini when you are hungry.”
Serious martini drinkers go as far as to claim that an olive is what makes the martini a martini. The olive gives the cocktail a subtle salty kick, but not nearly as much kick as the dirty martini has.
Don’t eat the olive until after you’ve finished your martini. Doing so will inevitably make you look like a rookie.
With a Twist
If you ask for your martini “with a twist” you’ll get a thin twisted lemon peel as your garnish. The lemon twist gives the martini a nice kick of citrus
As a man, I would never order a martini with a twist. A spiraled lemon peel is almost as bad as the little umbrellas accompanying the drinks you wouldn’t be caught dead ordering (like a sex on the beach).
The two most common martini garnishes are with a twist or an olive.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can order a Gibson martini.
A Gibson comes garnished with a few pearl onions on a skewer. Instead of a briny or citrusy flavor, the onions have a subtle earthy taste.
Martini Up or Down
When you order a drink at the bar, you often need to say if you want it “up”, “neat”, “on the rocks”, etc.
This is perhaps the one part of a martini that’s easier to order than other drinks. A martini by definition comes “up”. Ordering it any other way would be really weird.
“Up” means you want your drink chilled and poured into a cocktail glass. These are both hallmarks of a martini.
A lot of the confusion comes when people throw “straight up” into the mix. Sadly, “straight up” and “up” are two entirely different things. The term “straight up” is typically used with liquor, like whiskey, and means the same thing as neat.
For example, if you order a whiskey straight up you would get a glass of whiskey without anything added to it. When ordering a martini, try to forget that the term straight up exists.
Something else to note, while grammatically neat and dirty are opposites, they are not opposites in terms of martinis. A dirty martini comes with olive juice or brine, whereas ordering a neat martini would just be confusing. The bartender would likely ask for clarification as you technically just asked for a warm shot of martini liquor.
Lastly, down doesn’t exist. I’m happy your down for a martini, but don’t order your martini down. The bartender will give you nothing but a puzzled expression.
So You Hate Gin? How to Order a Vodka Martini
If you know how to order a martini, you basically know how to order a vodka martini.
A standard martini comes with gin, and while serious martini drinkers may look down on vodka martinis, many prefer the liquor’s taste.
To order a vodka martini, start with the type of vodka you want. Technically, you could just say that you want a vodka martini, but then you leave it up to the bartender to decide the vodka. Pick one you like.
After you specify the type of vodka, the order is essentially the same. As an example, you could say, “I’ll take an Absolut martini, stirred with a twist.” I like Absolut, but you can replace that with any vodka that you like.
If you want to try a vodka martini, start with a Gibson. Like I said above, the pearl onions pair really well with the vodka.
To order a Gibson martini, just replace the word martini with Gibson: “I’ll take an Absolut Gibson”.
Best Martinis for Your First Order
Simplicity is key in your first order.
First, if you keep things simple, the bartender won’t ask too many questions. Second, this will give you a more unadulterated first taste of a martini.
So, for your first martini, I would recommend a standard martini (gin not vodka), stirred and with an olive. As with the vodka martini, specify a gin that you like when ordering. Some good gins to try with your first martini are Tanqueray, Bombay or Hendricks.
If you need more martini ordering inspiration, check out this article on the martini preferences of some iconic figures like Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and FDR.
Gibson, twist, dirty, shaken or stirred.
Knowing how to order a martini like a pro has a lot to do with knowing the martini ordering lingo.
The terms that strike fear into first timer’s hearts will be the same ones that make you look like a pro at the bar. So put on your best clothes, find a nice bar and order your first martini with confidence!