The Martini Cocktail: Deconstructing a Classic. Part 1: Introduction

To better understand Manhattan, Martinez and Martini in their historical context, we have to start at the very beginning: With vermouth and the first cocktails that were mixed with it – the Vermouth Cocktail, the Manhattan Cocktail and the Martinez Cocktail. So let’s start the exciting journey to the Martini Cocktail, which will reveal some surprising things, with a general introduction before we look at the individual drinks in detail.

Due to its size, this paper on the Martini Cocktail is published in several parts, as follows:


A total of 46 different publications from the period between 1869 and 1917 were considered for this series of contributions. The year and author or, in the case of anonymously published books, the title are given as the source. The exact sources can be found in our articles on historical bar books, most of which can be viewed digitally on the internet.


With old recipes, there is always the question of how to convert the quantities. For example, a “jigger” may contain a different volume depending on the time of publication, the place and the author. Here we have assumed the following:

  • 1 jigger = 1 wine-glass = 60 ml
  • 1 pony = 1 liqueur-glass = 30 ml


Due to the large number of recipes, it is essential to group them for the sake of a better overview. This is done according to two divisions that are based on historical designations. First of all, it is considered whether the pure base spirit is used or whether additional flavouring agents are used:

  • plain = without flavouring agent
  • fancy = with flavouring (e.g. curaçao, maraschino or absinthe).

On the other hand, a distinction is made according to the sugar content::

  • sweet = with sugar (syrup)
  • dry = without sugar(syrup) and with Italian (sweet) vermouth
  • extra dry = without sugar(syrup) and with French (dry) vermouth.


When comparing historical recipes, it is less important to find differences than to determine what the different versions have in common. So you have to decide which ingredients you want to ignore because they are mentioned too rarely, and how to weight the information. At the end of the day, it will be a question of the percentage of ingredients mentioned. We will want to talk about an ingredient being mentioned statistically in every recipe (100% of the cases), every second recipe (50% of the cases), every third recipe (33.3% of the cases). But since we are working with average values, we have to put the separation in the middle:

Eine Zutat wird

  • always used (in “every” recipe)
    with a share between 95% and 100%
  • Predominantly used (in “almost every” recipe)
    with a proportion between 66.7% and < 95%
  • very often used (in “every second” recipe)
    used between 40% and < 66.7% of the time
  • frequently used (in “every third” recipe)
    used between 28.6% and < 40% of the time
  • sometimes used (in “every fourth to fifth” recipe)
    used between 18.2% and < 28.6% of the time
  • occasionally used (in “every sixth to seventh” prescription)
    in a proportion between 13.3% and < 18.2
  • rarely used: (in “every eighth to ninth” prescription)
    in a proportion between 10.5% and < 13.3
  • Very rarely used: in a proportion < 10.5%


From the analysis of the recipes, a statistical frequency is given about how often an ingredient is used. Although a descriptive rating is always given, in addition, as a quintessence, a formulation in concise form is also given in conclusion. In this formulation, only ingredients that are used “sometimes” or more frequently (i.e. in more than 18.2% or in every fifth recipe or more frequently) are taken into account. This is to ensure that the focus is on what basically constitutes a recipe. The less frequent varieties are excluded. If ingredients or groups of ingredients are optional, they are enclosed in round brackets. Groups of ingredients that can be used alternatively are separated by a comma and given in descending frequency. For clarification, an example is given:

Sweet Fancy Manhattan Cocktail = Italian vermouth + whiskey + bitters + sugar syrup + curaçao, absinthe, maraschino (+ garnish: lemon zest).

This formulation means: Basically, a Sweet Fancy Manhattan Cocktail consists of the following ingredients: Italian vermouth, whiskey, bitters, sugar syrup. In addition, there is another group of ingredients, the flavouring agents. Here, curaçao, absinthe or maraschino are possible alternatives, with curaçao being used most often and maraschino least often. A lemon zest is used as a garnish. However, since this is not always the case, but only optional, this garnish is in round brackets.

After this general introduction, our journey to the Martini Cocktail begins in the next part of this series of posts with the Vermouth Cocktail.

explicit capitulum


Hi, I'm Armin and in my spare time I want to promote bar culture as a blogger, freelance journalist and Bildungstrinker (you want to know what the latter is? Then check out "About us"). My focus is on researching the history of mixed drinks. If I have ever left out a source you know of, and you think it should be considered, I look forward to hearing about it from you to learn something new. English is not my first language, but I hope that the translated texts are easy to understand. If there is any incomprehensibility, please let me know so that I can improve it.

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