Friday, 9 March 2012

"The Martinez? ...what Jerry Thomas said it was."

The title of this piece is an answer to a question originally posed by Dan Priseman of Bitters&Twisted, European Brand Ambassador for Four Roses Bourbon;

To quote directly from Dan's article;

"On the surface of it, the question of ‘what’s a Martinez’ seems pretty self-explanatory; after all, you can walk into any good bar, order one and be pretty confident about what you’ll get in your glass. The chances are you’ll get a lot of sweet vermouth, a little bit of gin, a splash of maraschino and a dash or two of bitters. Occasionally there might be a bit more gin and a little less vermouth, or you might get Boker’s bitters or orange bitters; you might even get a splash of curacao instead of maraschino, but all in all you’re likely to receive a sweet vermouth and gin cocktail, with a splash of liqueur and a dose of bitters."

I have long suspected the lines between the Manhattan, Martinez and Martini are blurred, with the latter evolving (as we know it today) from the former two drinks but only by name, gaining popularity because of the Martini brand who I believe created it, and coupled with a switch toward drier drinks. You see, I believe the Martinez and Martini were originally one and the same, differing only due to ratios of gin and vermouth. This also means that the Martini started off as a sweet drink, with its dry variant following in later years.

Call me crazy, but this article covers my thoughts on that belief. Not revelatory as the two have been linked many times before, long before I entered the drinks industry in 2001, but still the debate rumbles on even though there is an abundance of information which makes a link seem obvious. Of course there will be conflicting detail but this is an attempt to tidy it up somewhat.

As I (am pedantic and) have been working on a more extensive piece covering the as yet un-named family of drinks, arguably the favourite of bartenders the world over (those consisting of spirit, vermouth, bitters and dashes of liqueur if applicable), I first wanted to get this down in print so as to be able to explain my reasoning for claiming the Manhattan and Martinez are the grandfather and grandmother of all that have followed. To name but a few of these libations; Turf, Jumbo, Hearst, Marguerite, Brown University, Zabriskie, Monahan, Rosemary, Rob Roy, Kangaroo, Sherman, McKinley's Delight, Palmetto, Honolulu, Lone Tree, Harvard, Brooklyn, Narrangansett, Bradford, Hanky Panky, Dia de los Muertos (see recipe at bottom of article)...

A lot of these drinks have distinct similarities with their only difference being a sole ingredient or ratio change, which in the late 1800s was enough for a beverage to earn itself a new name. I won't be covering this in too much depth within this article but it is something I'd like you to keep in mind as this article moves on.

Anyway, I digress. Back on topic I know some of you will possibly need a little convincing of my belief so please read on.

The Martinez & The Manhattan

O.H Byron's 'Modern Bartender's Guide' (1884);

...and Jerry Thomas' 'Bartender's Guide, How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks' (1887);

...are the earliest known references to the Martinez (and Manhattan) recipes in print that have been uncovered up to this day. As you will see in Byron's book the only difference between the Manhattan and Martinez is the base spirit, so it is also worth noting the Manhattan recipe in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas' book calls for;

...which is virtually identical to the Martinez save for a couple extra dashes of bitters (to stand up to whiskey versus gin?), the additional option of curaçao instead of maraschino (pairing orange with whiskey?) and straining into a claret glass. At this stage it would be hard for anyone to argue that the Martinez and Manhattan are not closely linked.

The only unanswered question is the choice of vermouth which is commonly accepted to have been sweet (or Italian) as over 90%, possibly as much as 95%, of the vermouth imported into the United States during the 1800s was as such.

The prominence of dry (or French) vermouth would occur in later years with a trend shifting toward drier cocktails coming into play toward the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, again around the same time when books started listing recipes with the Dry or Sweet prefix clearly defining a style, or preference if you must. The Martinez would largely remain unchanged in print until some thirty-eight years later, when Robert Vermeire's 'Cocktails and How to Mix Them' replaced the original sweet vermouth with dry vermouth. This takes us nicely onto...

The Martini

The importance of first, or earliest known, references to a cocktail recipe should not be over-stated or under-stated. They serve only to provide an insight into what was accepted at that time, with drinks and their names constantly evolving as you'll see throughout this post but also in the current drinks world. The Cosmopolitan being a perfect example of a modern evolving drink.

Unless a cocktail were to come with a signed affidavit (could anyone really be bothered after a skinful?) we can only apply our knowledge and common sense to what we consider as fact and sadly this was never provided with the creation of the Martini. I can think of no other cocktail that has spawned as many variants or has had as many words devoted to it. So where did the Martini come from?

Following our earlier lead taken by the Martinez and Manhattan, our first clear references to a Martini in print comes courtesy of Harry Johnson's 'New & Improved Bartender's Manual' (1888);

...which was also accompanied with this curiously labelled image of the Martine, not the Martinez or Martini;

As there is no Martinez recipe to be found in Johnson's tome it should be assumed that this was a simple mis-spelling of Martini. Either that or a deliberate attempt to confuddle our brains in later years.

UPDATED [11am, 10th March 2012] - After Craig Harper's comment at the bottom of this article I quickly revisited my references which has brought a couple of queries to my attention. The first is a curious quirk regarding the drink on the left of this Martine picture, which Lowell Edmunds believes to be a mixing glass in his excellent book 'Martini, Straight Up: The Classic American Cocktail,' though I have been wondering if this was a Frappe (served over crushed ice) of sorts. Was the Martini also served Frappe style? There are references. More on this later.

After Harry Johnson, the next known Martini reference is brought to us by Henry J.Wehmann in his '...Bartenders Guide' (1891);

Martini Cocktail

(Use large bar glass)
Fill the glass with ice
2 or 3 dashes Gum Syrup
2 or 3 dashes Bitters
1 dash of Curaçao
1/2 wine glassful of Old Tom Gin
1/2 wine glassful of vermouth

Stir well with a spoon, strain into cocktail glass, squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top, and serve

Now, I won't be the only one that's noticed these Martini recipes are identical to the Martinez from Byron and Thomas, with the sole change relating to the gin and vermouth ratio, now equal parts as opposed to two parts vermouth to one part gin. To recap;

The common denominators for the Martinez;

Two parts sweet vermouth
One part Old Tom gin or whiskey
Dashes of bitters
Dashes of maraschino or curaçao
Gum syrup optional

And the Martini;

Equal parts sweet vermouth and Old Tom gin
Dashes of bitters
Dashes of maraschino or curaçao
Gum syrup optional

From this it would be fair to conclude that the Martini was originally a drink calling for sweet vermouth, and equal parts gin. Would that ratio change be enough to warrant a new name? In short yes as there are numerous examples of this, but what if we had another consideration. Let's say a company called Martini that produced an ingredient found within the drink...

Martini & Rossi Vermouth

Originally founded in Turin, The Martini & Rossi company began exporting their sweet vermouth to New York around 1867 and quickly grew to be a market leader, sending more vermouth to the United States than any other company. This tells us that Martini & Rossi had been doing business in the US twenty-one years prior to the first mention of the Martini in 1888.

With Martini's dry vermouth not making an appearance stateside until it was launched on New Year's day 1900 (after originally launching in 1890 in selected worldwide countries) and the Martini having showed up in print twelve years earlier (1888), I think the previous conclusion that the Martini started life as a sweet drink holds a lot of weight. I would also guess that the Dry Martini was likely created sometime in the early 1890s when you factor in the release date of Martini Dry and the timeline of the original Martini as above. The Dry Martini is a branded variant of a branded cocktail if you must.

In 1894 the Oxford English Dictionary credited the Martini company with the creation of the Martini Cocktail. This is a claim that is regularly debunked but from all the sources I've stumbled across what is being falsified is the Oxford English Dictionary's claim that the Martini company had created the Dry Martini. As I understand it this isn't necessarily their claim, the Martini the Oxford English Dictionary are referring to is the sweet variant of 1888. Also consider that up to 1894 there had been no mention of a Dry Martini (which I'm aware of), or of a Martini specifying French (dry) vermouth which it would most likely have to, though there is every possibility that the Dry Martini did appear between 1888-1894.

This is stengthened by the knowledge that Martini & Rossi began placing various newspaper advertisements detailing the Dry Martini Cocktail toward the end of the nineteenth century and at the start of the twentieth ("It's not a Martini unless you use Martini"), with the first printed recipe making an appearance in 1903/4 which we'll come back to shortly.

With the Dry Martini holding this specific designation it is clear that it was separating itself from something else. That something being the 1888 Martini. Or Sweet Martini as we'd call it nowadays.

Of course, dry vermouth had been around in the US prior to the introduction of Martini's bottling, by way of Noilly from France. This is where the correlation between sweet-Italian and dry-French stems from, but would anyone seriously claim that Noilly was the original vermouth used in a Martini Cocktail which, to me anyway, clearly began life with sweet vermouth? Unless of course you believe the Martini di Arma di Taggia story from 1911. A story which seems to have a strong link to what would now be a competitor to Martini in the dry vermouth stakes, Noilly. I would actually hang my hat on the Martini di Arma di Taggia story having come from Noilly after the swift success of Martini's marketing. If you're still not convinced, note the 1903 date, and ask how it could have been created almost a decade later?

The Dry Martini

In the 1890s there was a shift from sweet and/or sugary drinks to their drier counterparts, most notably recognised in the switch from Old Tom gin to London Dry. Olives also start making a regular appearance in this decade, and the obligatory dashes of curaçao and maraschino, often called for in Jerry Thomas' Fancy or Improved cocktails, would also be seen less and less with many drinks being simplified to a degree. It's apparent there's an increase in 2-3 ingredient cocktails versus those containing 5-6 which seemed all to common in the decade or so previously.

This dumbing down is recognised in the first recorded mention of a Dry Martini which appeared in Frank P. Newman's 'American Bar: Recettes des Boissons Anglaises et Américaines' (1904);

Written in French this roughly translates to;

Take the glass mixture No. 1, put a few pieces of ice:
3 dashes Angostura (or orange bitters)
Finish with gin and dry vermouth, quantities equal, stir, strain into the glass no. 5, serve with a twist of lemon, a cherry or an olive, to the taste of the consumer.

In the same book a recipe can also be found for a Martini which reads;

Take the glass mixture No. 1, put a few pieces of ice:
3 dashes Angostura (or orange bitters)
Finish with gin and Turin vermouth, quantities equal, stir, strain into the glass no. 5, server with a twist of lemon, a cherry or an olive, to the taste of the consumer.

The Turin vermouth being called for in this Martini would obviously be sweet vermouth, but most importantly it had now been joined by a sibling which utilised dry.

UPDATED [11am, 10th March 2012] - When Craig Harper made mention of the 1903 Dry Martini that he and Jeff Masson uncovered I realised I needed to revisit a book I (do not readily own at this moment in time but) had used as a reference point when piecing together this article. 'Daly's Bartender's Encyclopedia' by Tom Daly (1903) makes reference to the word Martini five times. The first two are in the Index, the third under a listing for Cocktail Frappe where it suggests, "Manhattan and Martini cocktail should be made the same way, except using orange bitters," the fourth links to a Bottle of Martini Cocktail and the fifth to a Martini Cocktail that shares similarities to the 1888 Martini (equal parts Old Tom gin and vermouth with bitters, curiously no liqueur though).

It wasn't until I revisited this that I noticed a couple of important things. Firstly the Bottle of Martini Cocktail;

Use bar shaker for mixing

1 pony glass of orange bitters
1/2 pony glass of maraschino
Half fill the shaker with fine ice.
1-3 bottle of French vermuth
2-3 bottle of Tom gin
Mix well with spoon, strain into a full quart bottle, cork and label.
Always use a dark-colored bottle when mixing cocktails for a party.
This is supposed to be a very dry cocktail.
Ice should always be used in making bottled cocktails.

I have bolded the relevant line from this recipe, I'm still not sure how I missed this first time around. Is this the first reference to a Dry Martini? Also interesting that the ratio of gin to vermouth has changed from equal parts to a two-to-one preference. Other than that it is identical to the 1888 Martini.

The second important element of this book are the references to Frappe Cocktails. Recalling the mystery beverage to the left of the 1888 Martine picture, and considering the third mention of Martini in Daly's book under Cocktail Frappe, it's apparent that at some point the Martini wasn't just served straight up, but may have also been offered Frappe style.

For what it's worth the recipe for the Martini Cocktail;

Use a mixing glass

Half fill with fine ice.
2 dashes of orange bitters
1/2 wine glass of Tom gin
1/2 wine glass of vermuth
Spoon well and strain into a cocktail glass; put in an olive, and serve. this 1903 guide still cites a 50/50 ratio, inclusion of bitters, and Old Tom as the gin of choice associated with the Martini. I also wonder if we can assume that the vermouth was optional at this point, typically served sweet but also available as a dry option as per the Bottle of Martini Cocktail? Definitely something to stew over.

For the most part, in the years following the 1903 and 1904 references the Dry Martini would remain as equal parts gin and vermouth (as first called for in its original guise in 1888) in a selection of notable books such as Jack's Manual (1908), the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) and the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book (1937).

There we have a simplified explanation of the evolution of the Manhattan, to the Martinez, to the Martini, and finally to the Dry Martini. The relation between the Martinez and the Martini takes further interest when it is noted that few, if any, books reference a recipe for each. If they were so different, why does no book list both? The increase of Martinez recipes calling for Dry Vermouth also correlates with a time where the preference was away from sweeter recipes. It also intrigues me that many Martinez recipes call for French vermouth, as if separating itself from the Martini which was by now largely associated with the Italian brand.

There's just one more matter I'd like to address and it relates to a recipe printed seven years prior to Tom Daly's Martini, eight years to Frank P. Newman's Dry Martini.

Marguerite Cocktail

1896 saw a reference that is now commonly linked to the Martini for obvious reasons, the Marguerite Cocktail from 'Stuart's Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them' by Thomas Stuart;

1 dash of orange bitters
2/3 Plymouth gin
1/3 French vermouth

There's no doubting the relevance of this drink and that it may well have influenced later variants of the Dry Martini but I believe this was a stand-alone drink for a few reasons, predominantly the call for French vermouth and the fact it is quite a large deviation away from the 1888 Martini. It is only a Martini by association as proven by the Martini recipes above.

It makes more sense that the 1888 Martini would evolve into the 1903/4 Dry Martini, and then for a whole variety of reasons we'd see a selection of variants of the 1903/4 Dry Martini, most often calling for little-to-no bitters (I've covered the rise, fall, and rise of bitters in a previous blogpost) and a decrease in the usage of vermouth, which is understandable given factors such as Prohibition in the United States and that both vermouth producing nations, France and Italy, were involved in the World Wars around this same period with production of their bottlings being affected.

Bartender's Ketchup

I'll leave you with this final thought. Was vermouth the St. Germain of its day? The bottle you'd reach for if all else failed? I ask as this is the Gin Cocktail from 1862 as per Jerry Thomas...

Fair to say we've come full circle and it's the addition of vermouth to the Gin Cocktail that gave rise to the Martinez?

Many thanks to Craig Harper, Angus Winchester, Dan Priseman, Jared Brown, Anastasia Miller, Wayne Collins, Dave Wondrich, Jeff Masson, Tristan Stephenson, Gary Regan, and everyone else that chimed in to the many discussions we've been having offering their thoughts, knowledge, book collections and common sense, ultimately leading to this prose.

This piece, in essence, captures where my thought process leads regarding these drinks but I do look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments, insights and of any evidence regarding this topic. Should there be anything amiss, or any question you'd like to raise, then please ask away. Just don't bring up the Turf Cocktail (this image came courtesy of Dave Wondrich and was found in George Winter's 'How to Mix Drinks: The Bar Keeper's Handbook' from 1884);

...that's a conversation for another day. All I will say is that I believe it's the lack of fancy dashes (by way of maraschino, curaçao or similar) that separate it from the Martinez. It's a confusing business, enough to drive you to drink. I suggest one of my own as created in March 2011;
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

60ml / 2oz Tapatio Reposado
30ml / 1oz Byrrh
3 Dashes Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Spanish Bitters
1 Dash Luxardo Maraschino

Method: Add all ingredients to mixing glass fill with cubed ice and stir for 15-20 seconds
Glass: Frozen vintage cocktail
Garnish: Aromatise inside of glass, rim and stem with fresh grapefruit zest and discard
Ice: N/A



Adam Elmegirab
Bar Consultant / Compounder
Evo-lution / Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters

Web: /
Facebook: Adam Elmegirab / Evo-lution Bar Consultancy / Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Bitters
Twitter: @AdamsBitters


  1. Good article sir,

    thought I'd share some of Jeff Massons and my findings from the work we did on the Martini a few years ago, as you'd expect Jeff did all the clever research and I just did the standing up in front of people showing off bit.

    First mention of a Dry Martini is 1903 in a wee paper booklet called "Fancy Drinks-How to Make Them". The Martini is 50/50 and at end of recipe states that 'if Dry Martini is desired, use French Vermouth"

    1922 and Harry McElhone's ABC of Cocktails breaks new ground, as it now list the Martini as 2/1 gin to dry vermouth, no need to prefix "martini" with "dry", as before, possibly indicating "dry' is now the norm. He shakes the bad boy too.

    1948 Mr Embury and in 1951 Mr Townsend both use the word "dry" to now mean ratio of french vermouth used, rather than just the type, as the drink now shifts towards ever smaller proportions of vermouth to gin and dryness.

    As for Martini Vermouths part in all this (declaration of interest here as I work with Bacardi Martini) we did bring a Dry version of our Vermouth into the USA from 1900 (though it was actually developed by request for the Cuban market and the widespread use of dry vermouth in drinks there) and I have seen an advert from 1906 talk about making "Martini's, dry or otherwise" which I think probably points to when the dry drink really began to break through, even though the bar books would still make you think sweet was by far the most called for, and I guess this makes sense as advertising in USA would be a bit quicker off the mark than the lengthy and costly process of bringing out a book of recipes. As a brand we talk about Martini's only being so if you use Martini & Rossi Vermouth from 1900 I believe (I will post a bottle from period on your twitter that does so) but this is a decade after emergence of the name in recipe books, and a few years after several newspaper quotes saying the same in1890's, so I think still a good possibility that the use of name may have spread organically from bartenders and guests, which we have then (delightedly I'm sure!) followed up with advertising.

    anyway, hope this adds a little to yours above



    1. Thanks for reading and throwing some more info into the works, much appreciated Craig. Good to piece a timeline together and clear up any blurring that we've previously had between the Martinez and Martini.

  2. Brilliant research! It's very interesting and useful for me.

    Could you tell me, is the first photo from original Byron's book? I've been investigating the Martinez story for a week, sure, I've read your post and, today, while I was surfing through old books I ran into absolutely the same page in 'Stuart's Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them' by Stuart, Thomas (1904, NY, USA) -

    Actually I want to indulge using oude genever in the Martinez :) And I'm looking for some information about Byron's choice of gin - more likely it was, though, Old Tom, but as for Gin Manhattan Holland Gin seems better choice 8)