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What’s the Difference between Martini and Martinez?


In 2019, a Nielsen report disclosed that Margaritas and Martinis were the preferred nighttime caps. Martini was the most popular cocktail from midnight to 6 am. With such patronage, it is no wonder that Martini became the #2 best-selling cocktail in the United States. Martinis became popular in the 1950s and 1960s when drinking during the day was the norm. Now, we reserve the cocktails for the evening hours. What most people do not know is that there would be no Martini if Martinez did not exist. Some think the only difference between the two cocktails is their composition. However, there are more variations, as detailed below.

The Origin of the Two Cocktails

Many theories have been shared regarding how the Martinez and Martini cocktails got their names. According to Tennessean, the story of the Martinez dates back to the mid-1800s during the California Gold Rush. As the theory goes, one gold miner had struck it rich therefore went from Sierra Nevada to Martinez to celebrate. He hoped to indulge in a bottle of Champagne, but the bar the miner walked into did not have any. So the bartender made a special drink from dry white wine and gin. The miner loved the taste so much that he got the recipe from the bartender and took it with him to San Francisco. While in San Franscisco, he went to Occidental Hotel and had the bartender prepare the same drink. However, the bartender at Occidental Hotel replaced white wine with vermouth. The bartender decided to name the cocktail “Martinez” because the recipe was inspired by the miner from Martinez. As for the Martini, there are also several theories regarding its origin. According to SMCP, Martini originates from Martini & Rossi, the Italian vermouth from which the cocktail is made. Customers found Martini & Rossi a mouthful hence ordered a gin and Martini cocktail. Another theory is that since the kick one gets from the drink is as powerful as the Martini-Henry rifle's powerful recoil, it was named after the rifle. Others believe that since Martinez preceded the Martini, Martini was only but a short form of Martinez. One more theory has it that in the early 20th century, one bartender named Martini di Arma di Taggia concocted his cocktail using orange bitters, Noilly Prat vermouth, and London dry gin. As a result, the cocktail was named after the bartender.

The Ingredients

Martinez is the father of the Martini. It is appropriately so because it has been praised for being the drink that became the Martini and then the dry Martini. For the Martini to be named so, there has to be a relationship between both drinks. If we are to go by the first written recipe of the Martinez courtesy of Jerry Thomas, a bartender fondly remembered as the forefather of the Martini, you are supposed to use Old Tom gin. The recipe published in 1887 calls for 30 ml of Old Tom gin, 60ml of sweet vermouth, two tablespoons of maraschino, two drops of orange bitters, and a lemon peel. Take a glass large enough to contain the ingredients and freeze it. Pour all the ingredients except the lemon peel into a mixing glass with ice. Mix the ingredients gently and then transfer them into the chilled glass by filtering them first. Squeeze the lemon peel over your drink and enjoy your Martinez. However, you find that the original recipe requires the preparation of the cocktail in a shaker and not a mixing glass. The change is because some experts opine a shaker would ruin the balance of the vermouth when shaken. There are also other variations of the Martinez, with some mixing sweet and dry vermouth. A traditional martini has only two ingredients: dry vermouth and gin served ice cold and garnished with a green olive or lemon. The ratio of dry vermouth and gin was 1:1, but the amounts have been changed to suit personal preferences. Such changes resulted in the invention of a “dry” Martini which has less dry vermouth, and a “dirty” Martini that has a dash of olive brine. Other variations are “Kangaroo,” in which you replace gin with vodka; with “Gibson,” you swap the green olive with a cocktail onion.

What about the Manhattan?

The variations of Martinez result from the decision of whether to use sweet or dry vermouth or the ratio of vermouth and gin. It is confusing because such changes led to the creation of various Martini cocktails. To make it more bewildering, there is the Manhattan. Wine Enthusiast once referred to the Martinez as a Genever-based Manhattan. Legend has it that the Manhattan was invented before the Martinez. As the story goes, the Manhattan was invented in the 1880s at the Manhattan Club during a party thrown by Winston Churchill’s mother. Dr. Iain Marshal spent the entire night making up the cocktail and it was named after the club. Whether the story is true or not, the relationship between a Manhattan and the Martinez cannot be ignored. Even one recipe book dating back to 1884 refers to the Martinez recipe as a Manhattan that substitutes gin for whiskey. Indeed, the only difference is the substitute, seeing that the recipe for a Manhattan requires two ounces of rye whiskey, an ounce of dry vermouth, two dashes of Angostura bitters, a dash of orange bitters, and a lemon twist for garnishing. Vine Pair describes the difference, saying that both the Manhattan and the Martini are cocktails that showcase centerpiece booze. The cocktails use different styles of vermouth to bring out the distinctive qualities of the respective boozes - gin for Martini and whiskey for Manhattan.

Lily Wordsmith

Written by Lily Wordsmith

Lily Wordsmith is a freelance writer who has had a love affair with the written word for decades. You can find her writing blog posts and articles while sitting under a tree at the local park watching her kids play, or typing away on her tablet in line at the DMV. In addition to her freelance career, she is pursuing ebook writing with an ever-growing repertoire of witty ebooks to her name. Her diversity is boundless, and she has written about everything from astrobotany to zookeepers. Her real passions are her family, baking desserts and all things luxe.

Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith

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