Martini Adornment, or Twist vs. Olive(s).

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.
The barman says, “Olive or Twist?”

Way back at the start of this blog I made a brief comment about Twist vs. Olive in a post entitled, appropriately enough, “Olives or Twist“.  It was one of my first posts and very short.  The time has come to elaborate a bit on this important question.

First of all let me point out that olives or twists are each more more than simply an ‘adornment’, despite the provocative title I’ve chosen above.  Either adds a bit of flavor nuance, aesthetic balance, and beauty to the Martini.  And in the case of the olive some additional texture.

I’ve previously pointed out that Vermouth turns chilled Gin into a Martini (Does Vermouth Matter? ). The twist or olive takes the Martini to the next level of elegance.

Reading through the (limited) literature there appears to be a friendly verbal war on this subject.  There are supports on both sides of the argument that adamantly defend their positions.  Olives are traditional cry the one side.  Twists are more elegant counter the other side.  Olives provide a hint of salt that brings out the flavors.  Twists add a bright festive color to the Martini.  Olives are a delicious and provide a small snack.  I have to agree with that last point.

If you haven’t already decided which is for you, try a Martini both ways.  Though not at the same time.   Ultimately the question of a twist or olive is one of personal taste, it’s up to you.

Personally I go with a twist; I prefer an herbal emphasis in my gin and the citrus seems to complement that better than olives.  If you prefer a more floral gin (Nolets) I think a twist would also better compliment that profile.

If your preference is a twist, there are several choices yet to be made.  Lemon or Lime?  Think or wide?  Curlicue, spiral, or bit of peel.

Lemon vs lime is also a matter of personal taste.  Lemon is traditional but I find the Lime to be just a bit less tart and a bit sweeter.  Also Lemons are ubiquitous, there is always a lemon or two at the bar.  Limes are more rare, which may be another reason why I like that option when available.

The ‘thin vs wide’ decision is typically not yours, unless you are making your own Martini at home or office. But when you’re ordering at a bar or lounge the barkeep will provide you with his or her standard offering.  You can ask for the twist to be created per your specifications and desires of course.  And, of course, your results with that request may vary.

The professional mixologist has a number of tools from which to create a twist.  First and most common is the knife.  But she could also use a vegetable peeler or channel knife, which may also be referred to as a Citrus Stripper.

Personally I like the channel knife.  It takes a bit of practice but will (eventually) produce beautiful long clean spirals of thin citrus peel.   With practice a sharp paring knife will also make nice clean spirals, though not as thin as with the channel knife.  If you are making your own twist do try and minimize any pith left after cutting it from the Lemon.

Let’s also take a look at what a twist is not.  It is not a wedge.  Yes, I have had my Martini served with a wedge of lemon thrown in as a ‘twist’.  That is clearly the work of a beer slinger and not a professional barkeep.  I did not order a second Martini and left that establishment asap.

Closely related is the “stripped wedge”.  This is when the bartender takes a pre-cut wedge from his collection and then rips the lemon meat out of the rind and then puts the remaining triangular piece of rind in the Martini.  This is not a proper twist.  While it  may sort of look like a twist I have two problems with it.  First, and most importantly, this stripped wedge will certainly have way too much pith which could add bitterness to the Martini.  Second, it’s just lazy.

(You can find additional Martini making annoyances at “Martini Making Pet Peeves“.)

If you chooses olives, then the first decision is how many?  One, Three, Two?  I read somewhere that, at least according to one ‘expert’, three olives is the proper number.  Furthermore you never serve a martini with two, or four, as this considered bad luck.

Personally I think that’s nonsense.  However, there is something aesthetically pleasing about a martini stem with an odd number of olives; one or three neatly skewered on a mini-scimitar laying alluringly in the Martini stem.  If you want more than 3 olives in your Martini, then go for it.  It’s almost lunch that way.  But serve them on the a side plate so as not to detract from the visual appeal of the Martini.

Another decision regarding olives it what type.  The traditional Martini olive is the large green Spanish olive stuffed with pimento.  Acceptable olive variations include olive size; large vs. colossal, Spanish vs Greek vs California , stuffed vs un-stuffed, or even un-pitted.

Another acceptable olive would be a pickled onion, which is really just a white olive that masquerades as an onion.  Technically that makes your cocktail a Gibson, not a Martini.  But I digress.

Unacceptable olive variations include black olives, grey olives, micro-olives (you’ve seen them) and olives stuffed with blue cheese, garlic, jalapeno, Gorgonzola, anchovies, wasabi, chicken gizzards, or anything other than pimento.  These are NOT to be used in a Martini.  Especially blue cheese!  Any cretin who puts blue cheese stuffed olives in a martini should be shot, hung, quartered, and shot again.  But hey, that’s just me.

Now if I could find Spanish olives stuffed with caviar, I might go for that.


The above Dickens joke, and so many more, can be found on the Martin Jokes page.

Random Martini Quote of the Day

“I don’t get cast as the guy who steps off a yacht in a white linen suite with a Martini”.
Martin Freeman (aka Bilbo Baggins







Looking for more outstanding “Martini Quotes”?  I believe we have the best collection of Martini quotes anywhere!   If you haven’t checked it out recently you should!   Click the link: Martini Quotes.

If you’re looking for something a bit more humorous, check out a fine selections of Martin Jokes.

If you like these posts and want to be notified by email when they come in,
please subscribe to the blog…. over on the left column.     😉

Does Vermouth Matter?

Vermouth Ad 1

Of course it does.   Vermouth transforms chilled gin into a Martini!  Therefore it is indeed a magical liquid!

But what type of Vermouth?  Will just any do?  Is there a difference?

I’ve already written about the importance of keeping your chosen Vermouth chilled (Vermouth Storage?) and how much to add (How Dry Can You Go?).   This article discusses the impact of different Vermouths.

First of all lets get the sweet vs. dry Vermouth settled.  The original “traditional” martini calls for dry Vermouth.  All of my previous reviews and comments on Martinis have used dry Vermouth.  If you use sweet Vermouth then you’re making a ‘Sweet Martini’.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s your preference.

So, does it really matter which dry Vermouth?

I set up a little Martini taste test with a couple of popular and readily available Dry Vermouths:  Martini & Rossi (15% ABV), Noilly Prat (18% ABV), and Dolin (17.5% ABV).   The Martinis were prepared with New Amsterdam Gin.  This was chosen because it is pretty neutral with mild juniper and slightly on the sweet side. The proportions were 2 1/2 oz. Gin and 1/2 oz. Vermouth. For simplicity and consistency there was no garnish.

I then wrangled up a small team of amateur tasters to sample each of these Martinis.  I emphasize “Amateur”.  Initially some of the team were a bit dubious about the whole process, but eventually we all had a good time.  The team, self dubbed the “The Taste Buds“, tried each Vermouth in identical chilled Martinis and then by a few also tried the Vermouths neat at room temperature.

Martini Tasting Notes:
Dolin Noilly Prat Martini & Rossi
Color Clear Very pale yellow Almost clear, tinge of Yellow
W1 Sweet Sweet+ Sweet-, Tart, Earthy, Spicy
W2 Dry, Spicy (Ginger?) Spicy-, more Bold
C Fruity, Floral Dryer, less Fruity Citrus, Sweet
L “Meh”, Fruity, Tangy “Punched in Face” Smooth, Sweet
R Similar to “NP” Similar to “D” Harsher

Each taster offered honest comments as they saw fit.  Some were comparative, some were impressions, some tried to discern individual flavors or aromas.  There isn’t any consistency, nor should there be.  The bottom line is, by unanimous agreement, that the different Vermouths affected the taste of the Martinis.

I asked each ‘Taste Bud’ to choose a first and second favorite Vermouth with 2 points awarded to a first choice and 1 point awarded to the second choice.  The ‘winner’ was Dolin, Matini & Rossi came in 2nd, and NP finished last.  For what it’s worth, I was the only who liked the Noilly Prat the best!

Only Vermouth Tasting Notes (room temp):
Dolin:  Spicy Aroma, Floral, Sweet, Earthy Front End, Little Spicy, Little Earthy, No aftertaste
Noilly Prat: Musty Aroma (port?), Lots of Grape, Bold, Spicy, Earthy, Bitter Finish, Neutral
Martini & Rossi:  Musty Aroma, Bitter Grape, Earthy, Citrusy, “most like white wine”
I made no attempt to attribute these comments to the tasters.

As a side comment, I personally sampled these Vermouths well chilled.  The only difference I noted from the room temperature tastings were that the chilled samples were less pungent.  As expected.

First, each of the sample Vermouths were individually different.  More so than I expected.  While they are all fortified wines with definite grape flavor, the method of fortification varies as does the underlying wine base.

Second, while the Vermouths were indeed different, everyone agreed that their impact on the overall taste of the Martini was minimal.  Discernible, yes, but the biggest impact to the taste of the Martini is, as it should be, the Gin!

Third, while minimal, the review team were unanimous in the opinion that the choice of Vermouth does change the taste of the Martini.  So, YES, your choice of Vermouth does matter.

Final though: 
It is definitely worth exploring different Vermouths, especially if you have a favorite Gin.  You might just find one that perfectly compliments your chosen Gin.

National Martini Day!

June 19, 2017 is National Martini Day!!

Yes, another National Martini Day has come around.  Always a wonderful time to celebrate with a favorite Martini!

If you’re looking for the Perfect Martini recipe, you can find it here:  “The Perfect Martini Process”

For a laugh or two while enjoying your martini, check out our Martini Jokes page:  “Martini Jokes”

Random Martini Quote of the Day

“I should learn to crochet something I’ll actually use … like a martini.”
Maxine (John Wagner)



Looking for more outstanding “Martini Quotes”?  I believe we have the best collection of Martini quotes anywhere!   If you haven’t checked it out recently you should!   Click the link: Martini Quotes.

If you like these posts and want to be notified by email when they come in,
please subscribe to the blog…. over on the left column.     😉

The Perfect Gin Explained

I often get asked “What is the best gin?”

Apparently some people seem to think I should know.  I’m still researching that myself and until I try all the Gins I don’t think I can really give a valid assessment.   But it’s a valid question and deserves a little thought.   So I started with a bit of research on the internet (aka Google search) to see what other people were thinking.  Here are the “10 Best Gins” as determined by three different websites:
1 Williams Chase
2 Martin Millers
3 Monkey 47
4 Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Blackfriars Gin
5 Bloom
6 Beefeater 24
7 Hendrick’s
8 Hayman’s 1850 Reserve Gin
9 Tanqueray No. 10
10 Caorunn Gin
1 Tanqueray 10
2 Langley’s No. 8 Gin
3 Filliers Pine Tree Blossom Gin
4 Daffy’s Premium Gin
5 Brooklyn Gin
6 Gin No. 209
7 Blackwoods Gin
8 Jinzu Gin
9 Eden Mill Love
10 Gin Mare
Anchor Old Tom Gin
Aviation Gin
Barr Hill
Caorunn Gin
Monkey 47 Gin
Sipsmith VJOP
Botanist Islay Dry Gin
Uncle Val’s Restorative Gin
Watershed Four Peel Gin
…..(Gayot did not rank these, just listed them as top 10.)

Notice the consistency there?  Neither did I.  In these 3 different “Top 10 Gins” there are 27 different Gins.   But I didn’t stop there!  At the end of this post are two more “Top 10 Gins” lists for further amusement.   A total of 44 different gins in 5 top 10 lists.  There is NO single gin listed on more than two lists.

There are many familiar Gins on these lists and I have tried many, and clearly not all (yet), of them.   I really like Monkey 47 and that would be on my Top 10 list and it’s on two of the lists above.   Tanqueray No. 10 is also on two of these lists but that is not one I would put on my list.  Then there is Barr Hill which I personally think is terrible (the only flavor other than juniper is honey…. just too sweet for me).

It’s worth mentioning that these lists do not specify whether these are the best gins for Martinis, Gin & Tonics, Gimlets, Negronis, or neat!  That is important.  Personally I would not ever order Hendrick’s in a Martini but I would in a G&T.   Clearly different Gin flavor profiles will work differently in a G&T vs a Singapore Sling.

What can we conclude by this?  What is the “Perfect Gin”?  My best answer is, like the Perfect Martini, the Perfect Gin is that one which most appeals to you.  You’re really going to have to try them.   Perhaps many of them.

Let’s go back to the original question that I get: “What is the best gin?”  My first reply is:  “For a Martini?  Gin and Tonic?”   Then I follow up asking whether thy like their Gin on the citrus, floral, or herbal side?   If their eyes do not glaze over at this point then we can move on and really start a discussion of flavors, profiles, and cocktail options.

A couple of final comments.   I think it is noteworthy that these 5 top 10 lists are so different.  There has been an explosion of gins in the last few years!  New distilleries entering the market and old distilleries now adding Gins to their lines.  There are now barrel aged gins, small batch gins, and reserve gins.  It’s not surprising that different people(s) would rate the gins so differently.

Finally, the few gins that did appear twice in the lists are:  Caorunn, Gin Mare, Hendrick’s, Martin Millers, Monkey 47, and Tanqueray No. 10.  If you’re looking to start exploring Gins, I would suggest you start with these.
1 Hendrick’s
2 Anchor Distilling Company “Genevieve” Genever Style
3 G’Vine Nouaison Gin
4 Bombay Sapphire Gin
5 Leopold Bros. Small Batch American Gin
6 Blue Ribbon London Dry Gin
7 Plymouth Gin
8 Martin Miller’s London Dry Gin
9 Tanqueray Gin
10 Gordon’s London Dry Gin
1 No. 209 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve Gin
2 Elephant Gin
3 Dictador Premium Columbian Aged Treasure Gin
4 Citadelle Gin
5 Cruxland Gin
6 Glendalough Gin
7 Rutte Celery Gin
8 Gin Mare
9 Blue Bottle Dry Gin
10 Hernӧ Blackcurrant Gin

The Perfect Martini Process, V2.0


I wrote The Perfect Martini Process, V1.0 back in November of 2015, though it didn’t have the “V1.0” notation back then.  Since then, I’ve been thinking that it really needed an update to make it more readable, logically organized, and visually appealing.

So I’ve created “V2.0”.   The information and process hasn’t significantly changed, but has been tweaked – just a bit.  So here we go!

TAPS Martini


Since this blog has existed, I’ve advocated and supported the concept that your Perfect Martini is just that, yours.  My Perfect Martini is mine.  And the two may not be identical.   What is important is that we find that which works for each of us.

Having said that, in fairness, I thought it time to share what I believe works best for me.  Interestingly over the course of the last years researching for this blog and writing about Martinis and Martini Preparation my taste has ‘evolved’.  My preference has moved a bit drier and I’m garnishing with a twist much more often.  Lime if available.

Note that the title of this post is Martini Process, not recipe.   The recipe is important, of course, and will be presented in it’s place.  But the components of the recipe can be thrown together in many ways, each of which may result in a different tasting experience.

The  components in a chocolate cake can be assembled and cooked in many ways but I strongly suspect that the results of many of those permutations would be far from palatable.    The process is critical.

Advanced Preparation:

The entire Martini Making process starts with advanced preparation. And by ‘advance’ I mean several hours ahead of time.   If you want that Martini immediately upon your arrival at home after a long day at the office, then this should be done in the morning before you leave.   Or, better yet, the night before.

Put your favorite bottle of Gin and your Martini stem in the freezer and the vermouth in the refrigerator, if it isn’t already.  Vermouth should always be stored in the fridge.  See Vermouth Storage? if you want to know more about that.

IF you use a massive (heavy) shaker, that should go in the freezer too.

You may have a collection of gins and can’t (or don’t want) to put all the bottles in the freezer.  What I do is transfer enough gin for a couple martinis from the lager bottles into smaller glass containers and put them in the freezer.   Properly marked, of course.  ( I buy smaller bottles of the same brand of gin for use in the freezer.  Sapphire goes in to Sapphire, Aviation into Aviation, etc. )

If you’re making Martinis for a group and you have lots of stems with little freezer space, at least make room for them in the fridge.

Immediate Pre-Processing:

Make the twist.
I always prepare the twist before the martini so that the martini doesn’t wait, and get warm, if the twist is crafted at the end of the process.  No, the twist will not wilt or dry out in the 90 seconds or so that it takes you to make the Martini!  It will be just fine waiting for its grand entry at the end of the process.

This goes for olives too, if you prefer them; spear them before starting the martini.

The Recipe:

3 ounces of your favorite Gin,
(That’s 6 tablespoons or 3/8 cup if you don’t have a jigger.)
1/2 ounce of Dry Vermouth, and
(Or fill the cap from the Vermouth bottle,)
a lemon or lime twist.

Final Processing:

Making the Martini proper.  Fill the shaker with about a cup of cold ice.   (See Cold Ice Please! for comments and description of “Cold Ice”).  Take the Vermouth and put that in the shaker with the cold ice.  Swirl or shake the Vermouth and ice briefly and then drain the Vermouth.  Keep the ice, of course.

Next put your Gin into the shaker.  Shake the shaker vigorously for about 10 seconds.   10 seconds is all you need as the liquids have already been chilled.  Any more than 10 seconds and your just working your biceps, triceps, and delts.

At this point I’m reminded of the following quote from ‘The Thin Man’:
“See, in mixing the important thing is the rhythm. Always have a rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan, you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time. But a Martini, you always shake to waltz time.”  Nick Charles

Does shaking to 3/4 time really help?  I have no clue, but it sure makes the process more fun.

Now, quickly remove the Martini stem from the freezer and strain the Martini from the shaker into the Stem.  Take the twist and lightly run the rind around the edge of the stem, squeeze a bit of the oils into the liquid, and drop it gently into the Martini.

That’s it, you’re done.  Now on to the best part.


Finally take the Martini out to the porch, sit comfortably, look at the sunset over the beach or the pool, and enjoy the Perfect Martini.

Enjoying a Martini at Sunset overlooking the ocean.

Summer Evening Martini