Martini (Medium) – Classic Recipe & History

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Martini Medium
Martini Medium

The Medium Martini, Also Known As The Perfect Martini.

The last of the three main martinis, the medium martini, is perfect and combines the flavors of both the sweet and dry 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 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. This was the standard martini until the 1910s, when the martini’s dry variation was invented and became very popular. The original martini becomes known as a sweet martini, and a medium sweet version that combines the two is also made.

Now while most bartenders from the 1910s through to prohibition know of the sweet and dry martini (Not all, though, even books like Hoffman house from 1912 and Jack’s Manual from 1916 only have the sweet martini), not all seemed to do medium martinis. Hugo Ensslin’s 1917 book Recipes for Mixed Drinks only list the sweet and dry versions. It’s not till the mid-1920s that you start to see the medium martini recipe being printed—beginning in 1925, books like L’art du Shaker by Dominique Bristol first published a martini named the medium martini. The recipe for the medium martini is precisely the same regardless of the book. 1/2 dry gin, 1/4 dry vermouth, 1/4 sweet vermouth, and most do not have a garnish for this drink. The exception to this is the Waldorf-Astoria’s recipe which has an expressed lemon peel and Spanish olive like the dry martini.

I chose to go with the Waldorf-Astoria recipe because I like the lemon oil and olive as a garnish. I think it makes the drink better. If you ignore the garnish, the recipe for this cocktail is the same from 1920 to the 1970s (I don’t own a cocktail recipe book from the 1980s). Somewhere after the 1970s, this started to be called a perfect martini. I can’t find exactly when or by who, but the name perfect martini is standard today for a medium martini. For all 3 of my martini recipes, I chose to go with the Savoy naming structure for martinis because it is the most straightforward and concise.

Recipe Resources


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Martini (Medium)

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Course: DrinksCuisine: American






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Learn how to make a classic medium/perfect martini


  • 2/3 oz Dry Vermouth

  • 2/3 oz Sweet Vermouth

  • 1.5 oz Dry Gin


  • Add Ice To Mixing Glass. Combine all ingredients in the mixing glass.
  • Stir the ingredients for 15 – 20 seconds to properly chill and dilute the drink.
  • Strain into glass, express an lemon peel over the top, and garnish with an Spanish olive



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