Meet the Martinez, a Sweet Martini Variation for Manhattan Fans
Two ways to make the gin-and-sweet-vermouth classic.
I am not the sort of person who believes there are two types of people in the world.1 But if I were, I would divide humanity — or at the very least the segment of it that I am concerned with in this newsletter, cocktail enthusiasts — into two essential categories.
On the one hand, there would be Manhattan people, who gravitate toward drinks with whiskey or other aged spirits, who prefer the soothing warmth of sweet vermouth, who enjoy a drink with a bold, spicy character. Manhattan people are gregarious and gentle. They amuse themselves and their friends with exaggerated tales of fate and fortune. They have hardy laughs. They wear comfortable sweaters. Martini people like options.
On the other hand, there would be Martini people. Martini people prefer their drinks bright and bracing, recoil at the idea of anything sweet, appreciate the pointed herbal character of dry vermouth, and find the chilly sneer of nearly freezing gin to be an enjoyable conversational companion. Martini might deliver a fact-heavy monologue on an obscure topic at a moment’s notice, or they might say nothing for a while — until quietly wrecking someone or something with a cutting remark. Martini people like rules. Martini people wear black.
Obviously, this is a caricature, an exaggeration, a jest. Some Manhattan people also deliver monologues. I have heard that at least one Martini person is gentle.
Among the reasons that I don’t believe there are two types of people is that many people — including myself — manage to enjoy both Martinis and Manhattans. It’s not a binary. It’s a spectrum.
And to the extent that people might lean one way or the other, that can change over time: I once thought of myself as a staunch Manhattan partisan. These days, if I had to choose — well, first I would protest the choice. But eventually, if hard pressed, I would probably situate myself ever-so-slightly in the Martini camp. (Mostly for the monologues.)
The real reason to deny the binary, though, is that there are cocktails that effectively split the difference — like this week’s drink, the Martinez, which is effectively a sweet Martini for Manhattan people.
With just four easy-to-acquire ingredients, the Martinez is a fairly simple drink. But it’s rooted in lesser-known gin styles that provide opportunities to survey the field outside of traditional London dry. And even with just four ingredients, it’s a drink that can take radically different forms depending on how you structure it.
So for this week, we’re going to look at the history of the Martinez and some less-common gin options, plus two very different ways of making the drink, one quite warm and sweet, and another that’s much more dry, with a distinctive bitter backbone. The goal is to show that there’s a Martinez for both types of people — Manhattan folks and Martini aficionados — and everyone in between.