Skip to content

There’s a lot of discussion, and some dissension, about the origin of the Martinez cocktail. It’s made with gin and vermouth, and is served up (without ice), so there are certain similarities for sure. Plus the name, which has led people to speculate that the cocktail was invented in Martinez, California.

The main difference is the vermouth; a Martini uses dry vermouth, often referred to as French vermouth, and the Martinez uses red (sweet) vermouth, which came from Torino, Italy. While it seems there’s a lot going on if you get into the nitty-gritty, or overthink it. The way I look at it is that it’s one of those very simple cocktails that you can make if you have a few key ingredients on hand. And I’m fine with that.

I’m going to admit something right now: My kitchen is a mess. I’m working on a bunch of projects, and there are recipes everywhere. As I sit at my kitchen counter writing this, I am counting eight stacks of recipes that I’m working on. I know, every time I write a book I say, “This time, I’m going to be super organized.” So far, that hasn’t happened.

On the plus side, losing a recipe gives me another chance to test it again, which is nice when the recipe happens to be for a cocktail.

I stirred up what I remembered from my Martinez testing and took a sip. Even though it’s only 2:31 pm I was tempted to finish it. I won’t tell you how it ended, but I will tell you one thing: Thank God it’s Friday…

Martinez Cocktail

This recipe is a classic although it seems no one is quite sure of its origins. Many recipes say to use Old Tom gin, which is a little sweeter than most gins, which I couldn't find in Paris. (Although to be honest, when I need a cocktail, I don't want to spend too much time tracking down a bottle of liquor.) They likely have it at La Maison du Whisky.) So I stuck with the bottle of Beefeater I had on hand, and it worked just fine.
Servings 1 cocktail
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces red (sweet) vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • orange (or lemon) zest, for garnish
  • Add the gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino and orange bitters to a mixing glass.
  • Fill the glass partially with ice and stir the drink vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a strip of orange zest over the top, drop it in, and serve.


46 comments

    • RuthL

    A very timely post! I don’t keep red vermouth on hand, but this looks like an excellent reason to change my ways.

    • semifreddo

    sounds like two thirds of a Negroni. Having been there it’s doubtful this was from Martinez, CA !

      • sean

      Please don’t be snide, I’m from Martinez and it is absolutely from here. Martinez has a large and long-standing Italian population, probably the origin of sweet (Italian vermouth). It’s a pre-prohibition cocktail, which is why Old Tom Gin was used. People are more likely to question the origin of the martini, which is also rumored to be invented here, with a couple stories circulating.

        • Ahulani

        I love Martinez the town. Now for the cocktail….

    • Sharon

    Years ago we tried to tell a Dutch barkeep how to make an American dry martini, but all he had was sweet vermouth so that’s what he used. Unfortunately, our palates were not prepared for the taste, so it got a big thumbs down. Maybe I could try it again, knowing what it’s supposed to be…

      • Breezytootz

      Was the Italian vermouth refrigerated?

    • Carla

    I’ll have to try this since my cocktail to go to is a Negroni and has been for the past 25 years at least. Yesterday I tried Campari and Sweet Vermouth with club soda since I was too lazy to look for the gin. I now know that’s an Americano, and though not as good as a Negroni, pretty good too.

    • Karin

    Sounds perfect for tonight, simple and just down my alley, all the ingredients are in my fridge….heaven for a Friday night.

    • Bebe

    Leave it to Sauveur to dig deep. The Martinez was apparently the drink that put Old Tom Gin “over the top”. Featured in a bartender’s book in 1884!!! Said to be a cross between a Martini and a Manhattan. Whatever. Interesting reading:

    https://www.saveur.com/martinez-its-not-manhattan-its-not-martini-its-classic

    (I am currently in paper hell – not recipes, just papers. Nice to have such good company, David.)

    • Jane

    David, I’ve been a fan of your recipes for years but have never subscribed to your blog. Yesterday I deleted several “essential”news links and editorials because the negative news has lately become unbearable for me, then I added you. This morning your gorgeous photos and breezy commentary greeted me instead. What a lift! I am heading to the kitchen right now to make your apricot bread, which I’ll try this afternoon with a Martinez and a toast to you! Thank you.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Whew! Sounds like you need a drink as much (or more?) thank I do! ;)

    • Alexa Wing

    I have learned that your cocktail recommendations are always good because I am still making the pith helmet recipe that you posted many years ago. I’m going to try this one too, except with the local Canadian Dillons Rose gin, which is also a little sweet.

    • fenella

    aka the poor (or creative) person’s Pimms! If you want to make it more than a cocktail, add fizzy water, Orangina or, if you need a fast blast, prosecco.

    • Karen

    I love a Martinez — please do try one with the style of gin known as Old Tom, which may be more what was available when this drink was popularized. Much tastier even!
    (See David Wondrich’s illuminating “Imbibe” book for the recipe.)

    • Joan Munger

    A bit off topic but, has anyone ever heard of Pickles gin? Was introduced to it years ago. I’m not a gin fancier, but could make an exception for Pickles which did not have the typical juniper flavor. Does anyone know if it’s still being made?

      • Mick

      Pickering’s?

        • Joan Munger

        Definitely Pickles. Someone thought it was Enlish, but looked for it on a trip to London with no luck. Seems to have disappeared. On line searches are no help.

      • Caro

      Surely if it doesn’t have juniper it isn’t gin?

    • Linda

    Red vermouth recommendations, anyone?

      • Karen

      My vote is for Antica Formula by Carpano. I also like Dolin and Noilly Prat.

        • Sheryl

        Antica is fabulous for drinking straight up or on the rocks, or in very vermouth-heavy cocktails. Dolin is simpler but I like it better for most cocktails because it doesn’t over-dominate the flavor of the drink.

      • Prathi

      Cocchi Vermouth di Torino (as opposed to Cochi Rosa) is my favorite for Negronis and Manhattans. It’s not as *red* or as sweet as a traditional red vermouth, but I like it that way.

    • Alyce Morgan

    We drink few cocktails, but enjoy fixing one for special guests. This one makes the list! Thanks. P. S. I have a magnet on my fridge that reads, “Sexy women have messy kitchens.” Enjoy your stacks of recipes.

    • Nan

    I love the glass in the picture – is it of a particular brand?

    Btw there’s a lovely French Gin made from pink peppercorns from Audemus. It makes a killer negroni and I suspect it would do equally well in a Martinez.
    https://www.audemus-spirits.com/

    • Kathy

    David, love your blog and books. I’m enjoying a (Beefeaters) Martinez’s right now. Thanks for introducing yet another way to enjoy gin! I love Manhattans so this is a qualified substitute when needed! I also recommend Cantico Antica Formula sweet vermouth. Slainté!

    • Karen

    Another Martinez cocktail fan here! I think I’ll have one tonight :)

    • Kathy

    BTW I love your mixing glass. Where can I find one like it?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I got it at West Elm. I just noticed they’re on sale right now, but not sure how long they will have them in stock. (Although I bought mine there over a year ago.)

    • natacha

    Looks fabulous! And such perfect timing!

    thanks for sharing David!

    • Patsy Lavinia

    Looks fabulous so I decided to make one this evening. I think I could do without the cherry liqueur…it was a bit sweet for me. I will try again.

    • Paige C

    The Martinez and the Hanky Panky are my favorite cocktails. So glad to see The Martinez getting some love!

    • Maria Purwin

    I reread your blog on Spritz, and Campari, which is my all time favorite summer drink. My grandfather, who immigrated to the USA from Italy when he was 12, always had a bottle of Campari, along with Fernet,and Cynar. As a teenager, I never understood his affinity for bitter aperitivos and digestivos, but I truly love them now. He also professed that a morning shot of Crown Royal in the coldest, wintery, Western New York days could stave off the cold, and keep the flu at bay to boot. Salute, nono Luigino! You were the best!

    • Bricktop

    I like the 50/50 proportion of gin to vermouth. That’s the way I like my dry martinis too. Far better (IMO) than those poseur drinkers who put a pipette’s drop of vermouth in their gin.

    • Greg glosser

    Hummmmm, born and raised in Orinda, lived in Berkeley for years, now on my ranch north of Sacramento I will try it. But from Martinez, PLEASE!

    • Sandra Myers

    Sounds good to me!! I’ll share this with my son and daughter-in-law who like good interesting cocktails!

    • David Kellett

    I may try this at the weekend. I had Rob Roy Coctails this weekend. They also can use the sweet red vermouth. I thought it was a bit sweet to be honest so I tried with the dry white vermouth and it was ok but seemed to still be a bit “sticky”. The other ingredient is Scotch Whiskey by the way.

    • Natalie Ellis

    Wow. I love this, I’ve tried to mix anything except Volka with juice or Gin Tonic but this cocktail looks really good. It seems like I have some of interesting things to try this weekend.

    • Stephen Pepper

    When I don’t have ginevre (Dutch gin, like the original) I add a splash of simple syrup to New Amsterdam for a nicely balanced Martinez.

    • geraldine

    In reading your instructions – accompanied by enticing photos – on the Martinez cocktail I read too fast and in #2 thought you said ..and drink vigorously for 15-20sec ..

    • Karen

    A really tasty cocktail. Thank you!

    • Jim

    I find the use of Old Tom Gin or simple syrup a bit too sweet in this drink. Instead, I opt for a Navy Strength gin (which will be at least 57%). The Navy Strength has the benefit of adding more mouthfeel and just a touch more sweetness than a British or American Dry.

    • Karin Pereira

    OMG the Tom’s gin makes all the difference and is wonderful just on its own. LOVE

    • Nancy

    Since I had the red vermouth on hand for making your French Manhattan, which has shot to the top of my cocktail hit list, I decided to give this one a try. Delicious! I used dry gin, as you did, and garnished with a lemon twist, and the drink turned out just right for my taste.

A

Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!

15987

Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...