See, despite its inherent simplicity and lazerbeam focus, we think of the martini like a trick a BMX biker does on a half-pipe, or maybe a figure skating move. For these athletes, it’s all about rotation in mid-air, some other manipulation of the body while in mid-air, and some kind of specialized landing or finishing move. For a martini, it’s all about what booze you use, your ratio of booze to dilution, and what other little flavors or flourishes you want in there (or don’t want in there).
And just like the triple axel in figure skating or the 360 tail whip in BMX, martini moves come with their own lingo. For example, we could walk up to a bar and order a stirred, 50/50 dirty vodka martini, and someone else could request an upside down, shaken gin martini with a twist.
So returning to the question: what is a vodka martini, and how do you make one, we can’t give you a single recipe that will suffice, but we can offer some tips that will help you find your perfect vodka martini.
Tip #1: Choose your vodka carefully. As we discuss in this and other episodes, vodka has a reputation for being neutral and flavorless, but this is a myth. You can almost always detect some influence of the distillate base when tasting a vodka, so consider which bases appeal most to you. Vodka can (and is) made from just about anything under the sun. It also helps to learn about how your vodka is treated during the manufacturing process, including filtration and resting techniques, which can affect things like mouthfeel and ethanol burn.
Tip #2: Be honest about what you want. If you want cold vodka without anything in it, just sip it on the rocks. That’s not a martini, and there’s no shame in that. Traditionally, Martinis always have some sort of flavor additive – whether it’s something like vermouth or bitters, or something a little dirtier like olive brine. So if you have strong feelings about either the amount or type of flavor additives in your martini, just specify. Your bartender should be able to replicate any ratio of ingredients you stipulate…as long as you come out and say it.
Tip #3: Dilution matters intensely. There’s a reason why gin martini purists always stir their drinks. It allows for extremely controlled dilution, which can preserve the relationship between juniper, citrus, and bitters. But then again, there might be a reason why it’s popular to shake a vodka martini (especially a dirty one that contains lactic acid from olive brine). See, shaking increases dilution and introduces a ton of air into the drink, which can result in a creamier, thicker mouthfeel that rounds out the profile. So if you’re really dedicated to ordering or creating your perfect vodka martini, make sure you also put some thought into how you want it prepared.
After entrepreneurial ventures in the vitamin, sleep supplement, and energy drink space, Ricky Miller realized his true passion was in beverage marketing. He knew that he wanted to build a luxury brand and to sell a product that people could immediately experience and benefit from in the moment. For him, vodka was the way to go. He knew that he wanted to create a “Western Style” vodka, something that even non-traditional sippers could enjoy.
When he was trying to build the brand story for his vodka, Ricky looked to Italy, but was told that vodka and Italy are a bit of a non sequitur. However, he realized that Italy and luxury goods (cars, clothing, art) are virtually synonymous and identified it as an opportunity rather than a problem. He settled on Italian wheat as his distillate base and then set about designing the process that would put his product head-and-shoulders above the competition.