How to Make the Perfect Vodka Martini

Karen Frazier
toasting with vodka martinis

The vodka martini is a simple variation of the classic martini, which is made with gin and dry vermouth. Making the perfect vodka martini is a matter of taste, since it only contains two simple ingredients plus a garnish. Therefore, learning how to make a vodka martini the right way depends largely on the tastes of the individual drinking it.

How to Make a Classic Vodka Martini

This is the classic recipe for a vodka martini. You can change or adapt it based on your own personal taste by adding more or less dry vermouth.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces high quality vodka
  • 1 bar spoon extra dry vermouth
  • Ice
  • Spanish olive for garnish

Instructions

  1. Chill a martini glass.
  2. In a mixing glass, combine the vodka and vermouth.
  3. Add the ice and stir for a good minute or two.
  4. Strain into the chilled martini glass.
  5. Garnish with a Spanish olive.

Vodka Martinis Are Stirred, Not Shaken

James Bond had it wrong. Shaking a classic martini - whether it's made from vodka or gin - aerates this spirited cocktail too much, causes excess ice melt, and creates a martini of the wrong texture. You want your martini to have a silky texture that can only come from stirring. It's always best to stir cocktails made from pure spirits such as a martini (that is, with no fruit juices or simple syrup added) instead of shaking. Use a cocktail shaker (sometimes wrongly called a martini shaker) for cocktails that incorporate fruit juices and syrups with alcohol, but not for drinks that are made from pure spirits as a vodka martini is.

How to Make a Vodka Martini for Individual Tastes

Of course, some people prefer a very dry vodka martini, while some prefer a martini that is quite wet. What determines the wetness or dryness of a martini is the amount of dry vermouth you use.

Vermouth Wash for a Very Dry Martini

For people who prefer a very dry martini, use an extra dry vermouth wash the glass. To do this:

  1. Pour a small amount of extra dry vermouth in the chilled martini glass.
  2. Swirl it to coat the glass.
  3. Dump out the excess vermouth.
  4. Stir the vodka with ice in a mixing glass and strain into the washed glass.

Flavor Ice With Vermouth for a Dry Martini

You can also create a dry martini and limit vermouth by flavoring the ice with the vermouth before adding vodka. To do this:

  1. Add ½ ounce of extra dry vermouth to ice in a mixing glass.
  2. Stir the vermouth with the ice for one minute to flavor the ice.
  3. Strain the vermouth out of the ice and discard the vermouth, keeping the ice.
  4. Add the vodka to the saved ice in the mixing glass and stir for one to two minutes.
  5. Strain into your chilled martini glass and garnish.

Create a Wet Martini

A wet vodka martini is equal parts vodka and dry vermouth, made using the classic method above. To make this:

  • Reduce vodka to 1½ ounces.
  • Add 1½ ounces of dry vermouth.
  • Stir in the mixing glass with ice, strain, and garnish.

Find Your Perfect Formula

You can also find your perfect formula by experimenting with how much extra dry vermouth you add. Adapt the amount of vodka and vermouth depending on individual tastes, reducing the amount of vodka to accommodate the amount of vermouth you add so the drink is 3 to 3½ ounces total volume.

Best Vodka for a Vodka Martini

Determining the best vodka for your martini is, again, a matter of taste. Use an unflavored vodka of the best quality you can afford. While vodka is considered "tasteless," different vodkas have subtle flavor differences. The key is finding a well-distilled vodka that is smooth and not harsh that has flavor notes you enjoy. Some good brands for a vodka martini include the following:

  • Grey Goose is a French vodka distilled from winter wheat. It's a very smooth vodka that makes silky martinis.
  • Belvedere vodka from Poland is distilled from rye. It's a smooth vodka that makes a polished martini.
  • Chopin potato vodka is a potato vodka from Poland that's good for people who are extra gluten-sensitive. It's got good flavor and makes a tasty martini.

Choosing a Vermouth

Vodka martinis derive much of their flavor from the vermouth you choose, particularly if you like a wet martini. Choose the best quality vermouth you can afford. Some good brands of vermouth include the following:

  • Dolin dry vermouth is herbal, aromatic, and grassy with a light body.
  • Noilly Prat extra dry vermouth is a French vermouth that's as advertised: very dry. It's also aromatic. It's perfect if you like a super dry yet aromatic vodka martini.

Optional Vodka Martini Add-Ins

Some people like to add a few dashes of cocktail bitters to liven up a vodka martini. The bitters don't impart bitter flavors. Rather, they add additional aromatics and help bring the cocktail ingredients together. Try one or two dashes of orange or cardamom bitters or just a dash or two of Angostura or Peychaud's bitters for an interesting take on a vodka martini.

Garnishes for Your Vodka Martini

The traditional vodka martini garnish is, of course, the unstuffed Spanish olive. Other garnishes that will work include:

  • Lemon twist
  • Stuffed olives

Vodka Martini Versus the Gin Martini

Vodka and gin are similar spirits, but vodka is cleaner in taste and far less aromatic since gin is essentially botanically aromatized vodka. The only difference between making a classic gin and a classic vodka martini is the spirit you use: replace the gin with vodka.

Vodka Martini Variation: The Vesper

If you can't decide on a vodka martini or a gin martini, there's good news. With a vesper, which was 007's martini of choice, you don't need to choose.

Vesper martini

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Chill a cocktail glass.
  2. In a mixing glass, combine the gin, vodka, and Lillet blanc apéritif.
  3. Add the ice. Stir for one to two minutes.
  4. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the twist.

Dirty Vodka Martini

You can also make a dirty martini from vodka. To make it, you'll need to add a bit of olive brine.

Dirty vodka martinis

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 1 bar spoon dry vermouth
  • 1 ounce olive brine
  • Ice
  • Spanish olives for garnish

Instructions

  1. Chill a cocktail glass.
  2. In a mixing glass, combine the vodka, vermouth, and olive brine.
  3. Add the ice and stir for one to two minutes.
  4. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass.
  5. Garnish with Spanish olives.

Make Your Style of Vodka Martini

How you make a vodka martini definitely depends on personal taste. Do you like your martini dry, or do you prefer it wet? What do you like for garnishes? What type of vodka do you like? By answering these questions and experimenting, you'll soon be making the perfect vodka martini for your tastes.

How to Make the Perfect Vodka Martini