The History of the Classic Martini
The oldest printed martini recipe I could find is in the 1888 edition of Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartender’s Manual. His original 1882 edition does not provide a recipe for the Martini. The original martini recipe appears between the late 1880s and 1890s and is essentially a pre-prohibition style Manhattan with Old Tom Gin instead of whiskey. Harry Johnson’s recipe is half Old Tom Gin, half sweet vermouth, a dash of orange liqueur, two dashes of Boker’s (cardamom) bitters, and two dashes of gum syrup. If you look at my original pre-prohibition style Manhattan recipe, they are almost the same, save for the Old Tom Gin. But the recipe begins to change over the next decade until it settles on the more generally accepted 2 oz Old Tom, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters with an expressed lemon peel. By 1900 George Kappeler is making it this way. Waldorf-Astoria is making it this way (they decide to be edgy and add a Spanish olive to theirs). Even Harry Johnson updated his recipe to this with his updated 1900 edition. In Britain, Harry Johnson’s original 1888 martini recipe lived on as the Martinez, as seen in Farrow & Jacksons’ 1912 Recipes of American Drinks and the 1934 Savoy cocktail book.
I used George Kappeler’s recipe and not Harry Johnson’s. Even though the 1888 Harry Johnson recipe is older, the George Kappeler one is the first time we see the generally accepted canon sweet martini recipe used. I also feel the George Kappeler version of the original/sweet martini is the best form compared to others. As far as names, I’m using the Savoy Name for this cocktail as I feel Savoy had the most straightforward and understandable names for the three styles of martini. To George Kappeler and Harry Johnson, it was just a martini as the dry and medium variations had not yet been made.
This was the only version of the martini until the 1910s, when the dry variation of the martini was invented and started to get very popular. This martini becomes known as a sweet martini, and a medium sweet version that combines the two is also made. The sweet martini is still in public knowledge but nowhere near as popular as the dry martini. Most switch the two and think the dry martini is the original, and the sweet martini is a more recent variation of the dry martini.
The Most Important Part
The most important part of the original sweet martini is you have to use old tom gin. There is no point if you don’t have old tom gin, and dry gin is not a substitute. Prepare this like a regular martini with a lemon peel and no olive, or add olive and discard the expressed lemon peel if you want to make it as they did at the Waldorf. And if you don’t have old tom gin, make something else.
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