The creation of a perfect martini is no great mystery.

Once the process to produce one is learned, a perfect martini can be made over and over with ease, but only if the procedure and ingredients listed below are not varied, not even slightly. The simplicity of this vodka martini recipe will surprise some, for there is little of the common ritual of making a martini, as you shall see below.


ingredientsPotato vodka. There is an excellent and inexpensive brand that I recommend for a perfect martini. It is Monopolowa, made by J.A. Baczewska, a legendary Polish distiller now operating out of Austria. By far, most of the vodkas sold commercially are made from grain. Only a few are made from potatoes, and even fewer are made from beets. There is a Czech vodka made from beets that is available in liquor stores, but I do not recommend it because it has a tendency to cause depression. It makes quite a bit of difference what vodka you use in your martini, as it will affect your state of mind. Potato vodka is very stimulating and good for the constitution. Store the vodka in the freezer; no ice will be used in the making of the perfect martini, so the vodka must be cold as Antarctica.

Dry vermouth. The best dry vermouth is, of course, Martini & Rossi. Many think the martini is an American invention named after this vermouth, but this is untrue. In fact, it was invented by a German composer, J.P. Schwartzendorf (1741-1816) who’s nickname was Martini. I defer to Bull Cook and Authentic Recipes and Practices by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter for this information. The original martini, believe it or not, was made with the uncommon liquor Genievre, white wine and cinnamon.

In any case, for a perfect martini, refrain from using any other brand of vermouth or you will be disappointed. Store your vermouth in the icebox so that it is always cold. You will be using a lot of vermouth in your perfect martini, so make sure you keep a full bottle on hand.

Olives. I recommend a standard olive with pimento, as the brine in which it is stored is an important ingredient, as a perfect martini is also a “dirty” martini. They are also to be refrigerated, even if you haven’t opened the bottle yet.

Lime. The perfect martini is made with lime juice, not lemon. The lime must be cut fresh and in the shape of a quarter hemisphere. This crucial refinement was pointed out to me by a famous boozer called Pale Old. Commonly, limes at bars and restaurants are cut latitudinally, which makes them impossible to squeeze without finger contamination. This must be avoided when attempting a perfect martini.

Bitters. For some time I used Angostura bitters, but have since switched to Peychaud’s, which is made in New Orleans and is the key ingredient of the sazerac. Store the bitters in the icebox as well.


A perfect martini is blended in a martini glass. No shaker, strainer or ice will be used. You may find this outrageous, you may be even now trembling with misbegotten rage, but bear with me.

The glass must be dirty and dry, i.e. having already had a semi-perfect martini previously prepared in it and left to dry in the upright position. I say semi-perfect martini, because automatically your first martini will not be a perfect martini, because of the aforementioned failure of your glassware to meet the requirements. A perplexing conundrum, isn’t it? Unfortunately I can’t help you here, short of you coming to my home to borrow one of my exquisitely dirty and dry martini glasses. Be aware that I guard them jealously.

I discovered the state of the glassware was a crucial factor in making a perfect martini after many years of research. I speculate that the superiority of the dry, dirty martini glass is attributable to the absence of residual cleaning solutions usually present on a clean glass. On a dirty glass there will be residual dried-on brine, bitters and saliva, and these crystalline substances seem to be a major component of a perfect martini, producing unusual smoothness. The glass used must be a traditional large (six ounce) martini glass. The form of this glass is characterized by an inverted perfect squat cone with ornamental glasswork where the cone meets the stem and the stem meets the base. They are commonly available at liquor stores. I do not recommend using any other glass that is fancier or more expensive. When buying your glass, also look for one that is slightly off center. This will aid in the desiccation of residuals on the glass for the next martini.


Pour in Martini & Rossi dry vermouth until the glass is one third full. This is the same proportion used in the early martini recipes of the ‘20s and ‘30s. There is no ice to melt in the perfect martini, so the vermouth is the only major dilution of the vodka. Quickly follow the vermouth with a splash of olive brine, a squeeze of lime and three dashes of bitters. If the bottle of bitters is a new one, it may take up to five dashes, as less of the liquid is dispelled when the bottle is full to the point above the bottom of the neck. With some alacrity, add the potato vodka to within a centimeter of the rim.

At this point a special piece of equipment is required to make the perfect martini. It is a battery driven beverage mixer. These may still be available in dime stores. The smaller version is recommended, as the stir head completely submerges. It was quite traumatic for me when I realized James Bond’s “shaken, not stirred” preference was contrary to the findings for my own empirical studies of a perfect martini. “Stirred, not shaken” shall be the motto of a perfect martini maker.

Once the perfect martini is stirred, my feeling is that it is best not to add anything to it. I would not argue, at least not vehemently, against an olive, but a toothpick is verboten, as it tends to contaminate the liquid. After successfully creating a series of perfect martinis, you may wish to experiment with imperfect yet adventurous additives: With no small success I have employed grape leaves, capers, octopuses, onions, garlic and other botanicals.


Imbibing the perfect martini can be done in several ways. I recommend several small sips in rapid succession with pauses of moderate and increasing duration. Do not smoke anything right then because, as in sex, it is better to wait until afterwards. You will know when to have another martini by setting the glass out to dry. When the glass is dry, it is time for another. This rule of thumb is for readers in the Colorado area, as the arid climate will dry the glass rapidly. Readers in humid climes will need to have a second dry dirty martini glass already prepared.

For those inclined to investigate other outstanding martinis, look for Luis Bunuel’s hallucinogenic martini recipe.

—Joel Haertling